Date:Friday November 6 2009
Sunderland supporters unfairly banned by their club from entering the Stadium of Light have come together to launch a petition appealing to chairman Niall Quinn to overturn the club`s decision. The fans have joined forces following an incident which occurred at Central Station on Saturday 8th August 2009 (see below).
Sunderland season ticket holders who were present at the incident last week received letters from the club informing them they are no longer welcome at the Stadium of Light because of a policy decision to ban anyone accused of violent conduct at football.
This is despite the fact that not one person has been charged with any offence and Sunderland`s own safety officer, Paul Weir, admitted to fans that many will see no further action from Northumbria Police.
A spokesperson for the group, who does not want to be named while the criminal investigation is ongoing, said:
'Please listen Niall: ever since you came to our club you have shown a level of respect and understanding towards fans that is unmatched by any player or chairman in this country. Many of us caught up in the Central Station incident have repeatedly protested our innocence - we are teachers and civil servants, medics and office workers, all of us committed Sunderland fans. We are not hooligans. We understand that we have a fight on our hands to clear our names with Northumbria Police, but we neither expect nor wish to fight Sunderland Football Club as well.'
'When you took over as Chairman you asked the fans to put the past actions of the club behind us and back what you were trying to do, and we did. Now we ask you in that same spirit, give us the chance to clear our names before you turn your back on us. We have supported the team through the bad times and the Club has no right to find us guilty until proven innocent and to ban us, without refund or right of appeal, now that things are starting to go well on the field. Whoever is in charge, Sunderland Football Club belongs first and foremost to us, the fans, and we urge all Sunderland supporters to go to www.fsf.org.uk and sign our petition - next time, it could be you. The petition respectfully requests our Chairman, Niall Quinn, to overturn this unfair club policy and reinstate all fans pending the result of proper legal action.'
Dr Malcolm Clarke, Chair of the Football Supporters` Federation, and a Stoke City fan, added:
'The Sunderland fans behind this petition, a group of supporters who post on the Ready To Go Message Board, approached The Football Supporters` Federation last week when news of the bans broke and asked for our help in protesting against the decision. We are seeing more and more clubs treating fans in this way, receive similar complaints from supporters up and down the country and are delighted that these Sunderland supporters are prepared to take a stand. We will help them in whatever ways we can. I have little doubt that the protest will attract the support and solidarity of fans the length and breadth of the country, many of whom suffer exactly the same problems at their own clubs.'
'The FSF`s ticketing group are currently looking into whether or not Sunderland`s policy contradicts their Season Ticket Terms and Conditions - we believe it might - and we will be taking this matter up separately with the club. In the meantime, we sincerely hope Mr Quinn will listen to his team`s supporters on this issue. Sunderland`s Chairman has an excellent reputation as a man who truly values his team`s supporters, and if he can`t see that this policy is deplorable then we might as well all just give up and go home.'
The petition will go live on the FSF`s website, www.fsf.org.uk , at 11am on Thursday 5th November. As well as adding their signature to the petition, fans will have the opportunity to write a comment and, once email verification is completed, a message will automatically be emailed to the club.
The incident in question took place in Newcastle Central Station and involved Black Cats supporters returning from pre-season friendly against Heart of Midlothian FC in Edinburgh on the evening of Saturday 8 August 2009. Visit http://www.fsf.org.uk/sunderlandfans/ Four fans were hospitalised, some with serious head injuries, while many more received minor injuries as supporters returning from a pre-season friendly were met by Northumbria Police. No police officers were injured in the incident. Despite a three month investigation involving more than 40 supporters no fans have to date been charged with any crime.
Date:Friday November 6 2009
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