A short piece from our sports sketch writer.
The fixture last week between Liverpool and Tottenham was much looked forward to by both sides as a clash between the Titans of the north and the south. The risk is always high, particularly post-Brexit, when sporting events seek to span the cultural divide which nowadays exists between the north and the south, that bad feeling will raise its ugly head and trouble will flare at the margins. While the football was in the end of a very high standard and there was no violence reported, word has nonetheless reached us of a slew of complaints by some fans about the way they were discriminated against at the ground.
The complaints mainly centred around the issues of spectators who didn’t go to the match to support either team, yet found the ticketing and seating arrangements were divided into home and away groupings, which division required them unfairly to have to identify with one or other of the two groups. There were further issues with people who were born and bred Liverpudlians but who had moved south later in life and now supported Tottenham, but were allegedly subjected to taunts by their fellow fans on account of their northern accents. To add insult to injury one fan alleged she was excluded from what had previously been her “local” pub on account of her wearing a Tottenham scarf.
Similarly, complaints were made about the signage by Liverpool fans who had travelled up from London for the game: classifying them as “Home” fans did not offer due recognition of the considerable sacrifices they had made, often having to travel in trains filled with noisy Tottenham fans, to attend the match. There was a further group who claimed they preferred to decide on the night which team to support. They came equipped with reversible scarves which allowed them to blend in after the match, but they were forced into a difficult choice at the start of the match as to whether they should seat themselves with the home or the away fans.
Further issues arose at half-time for the neutrals as to which toilet facilities they should avail themselves of, at the home or away end. Several said they avoided having to make a difficult decision by using instead the disabled facilities, but experienced some dirty looks from wheelchair users left queuing outside. There were a couple of letters also from Aussie rules football supporters who hadn’t actually attended the match, claiming this was due to the discrimination they feared they might encounter, but as these were anonymous it was not clear if they were genuine complaints.
A spokesperson for the club said afterwards that they had a policy of celebrating diversity and were sympathetic to, and sought to cater for, the needs of football supporters of whatever persuasion and were doing everything they could to create a non-discriminatory environment. In particular they suggested they would reconsider the longstanding request that the discriminatory policy of separating home and away fans be ended and replaced by a policy of mixed seating. However, it remains unclear how the concerns of Liverpool fans with longstanding ownership of season tickets who remain stubbornly unwilling to relocate to a different part of the ground will be addressed. Reports that concerns had been raised by Merseyside Police about the possibility that desegregation might lead to an increase in violence were dismissed by a spokesperson who insisted that the police force “were 100% committed to the anti-discrimination agenda.”