I am a supporter of Huddersfield Town FC. I followed the club around the country for a number of years and have racked up somewhere near 500 games on the touchlines. I don’t expect recognition or respect for that, because there’s people who have far, far more notches on their season tickets than mine; people for whom a Saturday afternoon only makes sense when they’re watching Town, and has never been any different. My time like that was relatively short.
Since I moved away, it is easier for me to watch games on television. I don’t particularly like to do it, but I’ve seen Town a number of times on Sky over the last few seasons – though, and it didn’t really twig until recently – mainly away from home. That must suit a lot of fans; away games are harder to get to and generally less rewarding.
It happens that the Terriers’ upcoming home game with Hull City is due to be an early-evening kick off, shown on Sky TV. That is more important a development than you might realise.
It transpires that without a home game on Sky this season, Town were in danger of breaching Football League regulations. This is ludicrous, and ludicrous for a number of reasons.
Firstly, and as I discussed in a post called ‘The Butterfly Effect’ on here, both Bradford City and Town were punished (seemingly) as a result of the Leeds’ pitch invasion at Sheffield Wednesday. Irritating though having to move Town’s home game with Leeds away from its designated slot (and away from planned Sky coverage) one could understand the security concerns that WYP might have had for the game, especially with it being a game that would raise local interest.
The next prospective televised home game was against Cardiff City which was supposed to be on Sky, then off again, as a result of WYP concerns over supporter safety.
The result of this was to leave a bad taste in the mouths of Terriers’ supporters as not only were the club prevented from raising their profile through no fault of their own, but were denied a second appearance fee for appearing on television, on the say so of West Yorkshire Police, but again through no fault of their own. Aside from the financial aspect of this mess (around £80,000 per match), there is more come to light recently.
Huddersfield Town themselves have been in the dubious position of having to bargain with WYP over the staging of a game against Hull City (the numbers – 7 arrests of Huddersfield fans at home matches, 7 arrests of Hull fans at away games – over the last 12 months; both pale in comparison with other clubs in the division) which may well prove the last opportunity for Town to be on Sky at home before the end of the season (and thus their last opportunity to fulfil their televisual obligation to the league – and a possible points penalty) and have had to accede to a number of demands from the force; these have been well-covered and discussed elsewhere.
Briefly, originally only 500 tickets were to be allocated to Hull fans and only then on the strength that they travelled to the game on official supporters coaches (the somewhat quaintly named Tiger Travel). Huddersfield managed to negotiate up to 1,500 tickets for Hull City for a stand that holds three times that amount.
The Hull City supporters groups are up in arms about these conditions, and are contacting the Football Supporters’ Federation about the matter, as well they might, and I can only agree with their case.
Standing on my soapbox in deepest Medway, I can say the following with some certainty. In my 500 games watching Huddersfield, I can count the number of arrests I have witnessed on the fingers of a single hand. That said, I’m a fairly peaceable chap, fairly frequently attending on my own. I wouldn’t really head towards people who are likely to be arrested, but it remains an anecdotal fact that I haven’t seen it.
If, as WYP claim, they have intelligence that there was to be pre-arranged incidents at the Hull City game, why can they not take preventative action? Is it not better to inconvenience the few people who are (evidently) under surveillance and known to the police than the great many who want to watch their team – particularly Hull City fans, who would no doubt turn up in their thousands to cheer on a team performing well in the league and who, because football fans can be people, and have lives away from football, too, might not live at the KC Stadium, but away from the Hull area.
Don’t get me wrong. Just as anyone of sound mind, I want to be able to watch my club without feeling threatened by violence, and anybody of sound mind surely feels the same.
Football fans, as a whole are quite tolerant of the police appearing wherever they go – indeed, I’ve met some cracking coppers while out and about watching Town – h; people who seem to view policing football fans as a little bit like ensuring that a group of people who are congregated together have as pleasant (and safe) a time as possible.
Somewhere within the walls of West Yorkshire Police, that thought seems to be absent. The stances they’ve taken with Huddersfield Town’s home games this season are not as a result of ensuring a group of people have as pleasant a time as possible so much as ensuring a (smaller – always smaller) group of people don’t have the opportunity to prevent that happening.
It doesn’t happen to any other club, so far as I’m aware (please, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong; comment at the bottom here – I would love to know if other clubs (particularly clubs under the jurisdiction of West Yorkshire Police) are similarly hamstrung), so what is it about Huddersfield Town that draws this level of intervention? And why now? Why were none of the three play-off semi-finals of recent years subject to such scrutiny?
The people who are being punished by this police stance are not people who have done anything wrong. They are people who want to attend a football match between their team and another team, and to do it in a way that is convenient to themselves. It seems, to me, that West Yorkshire Police are reading a very modern day version of the Riot Act to Hull City fans; people who have done nothing (certainly not with Huddersfield Town, because the teams haven’t met in West Yorkshire for the best part of a decade) to deserve it.
My sympathies here lie firmly with those Hull City fans who are being pushed out of attending the game; I hope that they see enough good will from their Huddersfield counterparts to know that it is nothing to do with our club that they cannot attend; indeed, though the Tigers (one would assume) are quite likely to leave with three points, it is a regret that more of their fans would not be there to see it happen. As it stands, all the people involved are able to do is to gripe about the situation (see above) or, and the number of people doing this does them a great credit, e-mail the FSF.
In the story of the Tiger Who Came To Tea, the tiger turns up out of the blue and eats Sophie and her mother out of house and home. In reality, West Yorkshire Police would get there first.
You can read a thread of Hull City indignation here.