10 March 2008 :: by
H C Andersen
Leeds United's penultimate match of the season, away against Yeovil Town has been moved to the Friday night on police advice. The game which should have been played on Saturday, April 26th will now be played on Friday, April 25th with a 7.45pm KO. (You can read the transcript of the Yeovil police meeting at which this was decided in the second half of the article!)
There was a time when football was a spectator sport, but that apparently no longer applies if you are Leeds United supporter forced to drag yourself around the lower reaches of football in the arse-end of the Football League. It is seemingly populated by small clubs, from small towns with small police forces - or at least police forces with no cojones.
The whole point of PROFESSIONAL football is that players are paid to play from money derived from the attending fans. If games are moved to make attendance almost impossible by supporters then there really is absolutely no point in that fixture being played under those circumstances. If the games are allowed to be moved by the police for no reason other than they think they cannot cope with visiting fans then:
1. the game should be awarded to the visiting team! After all there are rules about ticket allocations to visiting supporters to ensure fairness. If that is set aside by the police who purposefully try to dissuade fans from visiting by making it as difficult as possible to attend then the rules of the competition are being subverted by an outside influence.
Chief Constables should be called on by the FA and FL to explain why, with million-pound budgets, they are unable to police games that are largely controlled by stewards elsewhere. The FA and FL should fight the police decisions in the courts and stand-up for the rights of ordinary fans not to have their legal enjoyments curtailed for the convenience of the police under the guise of public safety.
3. Why is it that despite paying huge commercial rates football clubs are also required to pay for policing on the day? Why do the police themselves set the level of policing
requirment and why does it seem that police only seem to attend football matches on overtime pay? If all the police are needed in football grounds because they are full of troublemakers then surely the police make a huge saving on policing in the rest of their area on that same day as all the troublemakers are penned in at Old Trafford Anfield, Emirates, Elland Road or St James Park? That's over a quarter of a million people able to be policed in just five places rather than over several thousand squares miles, surely?
The dictatorial move by Yeovil police means that the normal working Leeds fan cannot attend the game. However, the young, single, highly-motivated Leeds fan can travel down during the day and drink all Friday in Yeovil! The away fans will head off home around 10pm and so will be arriving back after a 520 mile nine hour driving marathon in the early hours of the morning. Let's hope that there are no car accidents from tired drivers - but Yeovil police won't care because it won't happen in their backyard, will it?
Leeds United against the might of... Yeovil Town. Five hundred and twenty miles and nine hours driving - congratulations to the Somerset police and the Football League for placing such a tempting fare in front of the faithful travelling fan. Why the Yeovil police felt the need to behave this way when Leeds United have never played there is disappointing. Presumably, they were influenced by the reaction of Bournemouth and their police, who were whining before season began based on events during an afternoon 20 years ago. They insisted on an awkward KO time too - they got what they deserved when they went into administration, perhaps the £90,000 income from several thousand Leeds United away fans may have bought them more time? [continued below - plus secret transcript!]
Makes you wonder what goes through the minds of the average modern day policeman in relation to football matches. Well, we are lucky to have been able to obtain the transcript of the highly charged meeting at which this questionable change of KO occurred!
Picture the scene in the Yeovil police canteen where Constable Merkin sits at the table reading the "Daily Scum" with Sergeant Screwloose thoughtfully slurping from his mug of regulation police tea:
"Here sarge, Leeds United are playing here on Saturday 26th!
Bloody 'ell that's no good, Merkin!
Why sarge... rioting fans?
No Merkin. It's the Superintendent's Lodge night - he's the Grand Dragon this year. And the police dominoes team is playing at the Warsaw Miners Arms - and it's free Cornish Pastie Night too! But I'm not sure we can 'andle 'em anyway after the trouble we 'ad 'ere last week.
Oh, yes the Pendragon Middle School Cider Riot?
'Ow them little flamers got so much cider darn 'em I've no idea. Little 'eathens kicked the crap out of Somerset Constabulary SWAT team
You mean Ned and Alfie the Sheepdog? Well Alfie is a bit arthritic now. So's Ned actually...
Yerse, well, we can't have them Yorkshire bastards running rings round Somerset's Finest. Get on the blower to HQ in Taunton an' see what we can do.
-- ten minutes later --
Right Sarge, they say get the game moved. They contacted to the Football League and attempted to have the game moved to the Fifth Dimension. Lord Mawhinney agreed immediately, however, the bods at HQ say that technically its not possible with the current state of human knowledge about dimensions numbered above four! Nor can we have it moved to NeverNeverLand, Narnia or the Star Wars Death Star, for pretty much the same reasons.
Right sarge, bugger indeed. Still we can have it moved to Friday night.
No, if we tried that
we would need the magistrates to grant a special licence - though again Mawhinney and the Football League were OK with it.
OK. Have we still got those surveillance photos of the magistrates' Xmas party? You know with Stipendiary Magistrate Colonel Manson-Burpa, the WD40 and the turkey that needed "stuffing"? That should help. ..
No - he's still on sick leave. Best we can do is 7.45pm. It'll be 520 miles and nine hours of driving at the end of a working week; too late for any trains as well, so how many will make it?
Still it's a bit chancy - we couldn't take that class of nine-year olds on, so what hope have we against the Leeds fans? You know twenty coppers are still on sick leave after that cider-fuelled barney!
Yes and half of them weren't even involved!
Hmm, OK son, 'ere's what we'll do to make sure those Yorkshire bastards don't cause any trouble. Contact the Met and get some of their Hammersmith Division leopard-handlers darn 'ere on the night. Next make sure the Yeovil Town Directors know all away turnstiles are to be welded shut as well as being guarded by the leopards.
What about the legitimate fans with tickets, sarge?
Easy, contact the club and get 'em to send out forged tickets only.
When they turn up we'll arrest 'em for attempting to pass forged tickets - that'll look real nice on the monthly clear-up stats.
Are we allowed to include arrests for crimes that we've actually set-up sarge?
That's what we do normally, why'd y'ask?
Oh, sorry sarge what was I thinking? What about ticketless fans that we can't arrest but who can't get past the leopards and into the ground? Won't they cause trouble?
Nah, spoke to the Met Intelligence Division - I think her name was Doris - and told 'em we have received information that there would be a Brazilian electrician travelling with the Leeds fans. They said they'd send out the Anti-Electrician Terror Squad gun team right away. Then I spoke to the South Wales Police - they'd had experience of dealing with Leeds fans - they gave me a few hints from policing games at Cardiff City.
If any get in the ground you pen the Leeds fans in a small area so as to make them an easy target, surround them with hostile fans armed with coins, lighters, etc. Then allow your fans on the pitch to taunt them after the game.
Bloody hell, sarge, it's gonna be a bit difficult to surround them even if all twenty Yeovil supporters agree. The ol' buggers here are too tight to throw coins at the Leeds fans. I suppose we could let 'em 'ave those old pasties from 'Killer' Meldrew's retirement party last week, they're like concrete now. Inspector Penhaligon's making a patio out of them, apparently.
That'll have to do. Anyways, after the game the SW police did say it's best to let the police dogs off the lease in the coach park to attack the Leeds fans who are trying to get back on their coaches.
Not sure I'm keen on leopards running lose in downtown Yeovil on a Friday night. Council'll not like it. Why they do it then?
Fuck knows - cos they're Welsh? Though they did say it could be embarrassing if any of it gets filmed or the dogs attack say, a president of a supporters club but luckily as you're in charge of the investigation you can quietly forget about it.
Anything else, sarge?
I did mention the leopards and asked if they could lend us any mythical Welsh red dragon police-handlers for the night. They said they would try but it could be difficult as they don't exist, except in the fifth dimension. I said funny you should say that..."
-- the tape ends suddenly with the sound of the mike dropping into a mug of tea --
So now all Leeds fans can rest assured that the moving of the match against Yeovil was done purely for the best possible motives of modern day policing - that of allowing them to avoid dangerous situations like controlling large numbers of citizens exercising their constitutional right to assembly and free speech and also to enable the police to spend the day in air-conditioned comfort playing with their radar gun... unless there's a Brazilian electrician nearby...