Following Sunday’s game, I’ve been thinking about violence associated with football games and wondering if there is any way to scale it down.  I want to talk about fan segregation but would like to start by telling a story about my granddad. 

My granddad was in the army during the Boer War and World War 1. He was very anti-German when he went off to fight them in WWI.  By the end of the war, he quite liked the Germans. One thing that had helped to change his viewpoint was that he’d worked in a prisoner of war camp for German soldiers. He’d got to know them as people and the hatred was replaced by respect.

You don’t break down barriers between people by keeping them apart.  Segregating fans of different clubs doesn’t help them to respect each other. Fan segregation is counterproductive and I’m not the only one who thinks that. An article about Cologne fans sitting in the Arsenal end says:

“The authorities went to great lengths to keep different sets of supporters apart and travelling fans were kept away from their hosts inside the stadium by being placed in separate pens behind fences.
The policies did little to stop the growth and spread of hooliganism. In some ways it made the situation worse. An antagonistic “us-and-them” attitude grew; provocative behaviour and chanting on both sides of the divide went unchallenged. Ritualised abuse became part of the game, and the strict division of stadiums created flashpoints where confrontation across the barriers was a normal event.”

Given that the segregation of football fans is now the norm at higher levels of British football, is it possible to get rid of it?  I’m not sure it is or how it could be done but I do have one idea.  I’d like Birmingham City to consider establishing a buffer zone in the lower Gil Merrick stand, between away fans and home fans, and putting trusted fans there rather than a tarpaulin and stewards. 

I love my present seat in the Kop, where I’m seated on the half way line, near pleasant people, close enough to the pitch to see players but high enough to see the whole pitch.  But I’d give that seat up to try to help establish a peace zone between warring factions of fans. And I’d also accept that fans in that zone would be held to a higher standard regarding keeping the rules about not standing, not throwing objects onto the pitch, no racial abuse etc. 

Eventually, I’d like to have a section that functions like the neutral zone at Craven Cottage but with a different name. However, I think that the club would need to work towards this in stages.  First find out how many fans might be willing to move to such an area, and there might not be many as some would consider it risky. I wouldn’t feel at risk because I never feel like fighting and anyone looking for a fight probably wouldn’t pick on an old woman like me. It might be good to have a trial period just with home fans. Then they could offer tickets in the area to away clubs on the understanding that they were sold with special conditions attached.

I don’t know if any of this would work but it might be worth trying. I wonder if anyone else besides me would be willing to be part of the buffer.

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3 thoughts on “Segregation

  1. Steve-0

    Understand the intent here but it’s very different. We’re talking about segregation for 90 minutes from people you will not see again until the following season. You’re not going to form any level of relationship.

    I agree that it would stop many of the wanker signs that happen within close proximity of segregated fans and possibly other taunting tactics, but I’m not sure mixing fans together is a good idea at all. Fans are segregated because history has caused it to happen.

  2. Russ

    A ‘buffer zone’ would always fall foul of the ‘hooligan element’ who would utilise it for their own means, sadly. The idiot who entered the pitch against Villa proved he didn’t care that he’d lose access to the club he ‘loved’ forever, so warning away fans (or home) that there’d be a penalty if they didn’t ‘behave’ would be pointless. Sadly, we’re in a society where Aston Villa fans can slash each other when they argue over leaving a coach, fans of the same club can get into a punch up on the terraces over their own team’s performance, so why would anybody put themselves anywhere near the opposition’s fans?

    99% of all fans are peaceful, law abiding people who just want to watch the football. When my grandad was a youngster, he went to watch Blues and Villa alike. He was just a football fan. There’s too much money at stake now. When you’ve paid £30+ to see the game, you want to be able to see your team win, I guess. If you’re in a neutral zone and your team scores, what odds it’ll irritate the person behind you when you stand up to cheer, if they’ve paid £30+ to see their team lose, only to have you cheering to rub salt into the wound, right in front of them? Back in the day, it was pennies…now it’s much, much more.

    I wish you were right, and maybe the future CAN be brighter, but I definitely wouldn’t be sitting my children IN or NEAR a ‘buffer zone’.


  3. Pete Jones

    I remember being at a WBA match at at Andrews standing next to a WBA fan and applauding a good goal by them and discussing it with him. Probably late sixties. Not sure we could get back to that especially in local derbies.

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