Almost 100 Cardiff City supporters walked out of their team’s match at Leeds United’s Elland Road on Saturday in protest at the treatment of fellow fans, according to reports from Cardiff City Supporters’ Club (CCSC). A number of Bluebirds supporters had already been ejected from the away end by stewards for persistent standing before scores of fellow fans said enough is enough and walked out in protest.
The show of solidarity among supporters grew from a sense of unfairness and resentment - unfairness at how they say they were being treated differently from home fans and resentment at the ticket cost, kick-off time, and enforced travel arrangements. Seeing fellow fans singled out and slung out for standing was the straw that broke the camel’s back for many.
Leeds United's officials dispute the numbers and claim “around 35” left Elland Road after six supporters were ejected – Cardiff fans claim 20 were thrown out and almost 100 walked out in protest. CCSC spokesperson Vince Alm says that he counted more than 60 supporters standing outside their coaches and another 28 sitting in the coach listening to the match commentary on the radio. The images below show two different groups of fans outside Elland Road.
Regardless of the exact numbers the strength of feeling among many Bluebirds fans was self-evident. They paid as much as £36 for a ticket and, travelling from Cardiff, had to rise from their bed in the small hours of the morning to make the 1.15pm kick-off. To add to their difficulties fans were also forced to convene at Woolley Edge Services – just outside Wakefield – to pick up their match tickets at 10.45am.
Despite all of this Leeds United’s stewards still managed to act in such a manner that Bluebirds fans felt the only way they could make their disgust known was to walk out on their side. Vince, who acts as a liaison in his role at CCSC between Bluebirds supporters, the club, and police, picks up the tale…
“I was at the back and, just before half-time, I heard about the ejections at the front. I thought ‘Well what about the home fans?’ They seemed to be standing at both ends of the ground but were left untouched by stewards so I thought I’ll keep an eye on the home end for the rest of the first half and have a word at half-time if I thought we were being treated differently.
“Sure enough, stewards weren’t telling them to sit or ejecting anyone so at half-time I went to complain on behalf of the lads ejected, close on 20 by now. The ground rules clearly state you can’t stand at Elland Road but what was occurring in my opinion was discrimination towards the Cardiff section of the ground, all you want is to be treated equally.
“I first spoke to our stewards, and then attempted to have a civil conversation with a woman who was in charge of the area on behalf of Leeds United. I gave up after 30 seconds. For someone whose job was supposedly communication she had no people skills and no idea of what was going on. I then had a chat with some of our fans and said if they chuck one more out for standing we’ll all go. So we spread the word around supporters and informed the authorities,” said Vince.
Five minutes into the second-half Vince says he saw another fan ejected so, as agreed, he called on everyone to leave. Vince says almost 100 did so and started a peaceful demonstration outside Elland Road as the second-half started. The game continued with Leeds grabbing an equaliser 17 minutes from time to earn a 1-1 draw.
“We had around 300 supporters there in total and, on the spur of the moment, for one in every three to decide to walk out in support of their fellow fan was amazing – I was very proud. Of course it’d have been nice if everyone had followed but at £36 a ticket I can understand why many didn’t! In future years we will have to think long and hard about whether we run a coach to this fixture. Last season we had problems with the police at Elland Road and this year it’s Leeds United – is it worth the hassle?”
While Cardiff City fans have, in the past, had a reputation for bad behaviour both supporters’ groups and the club itself have made huge strides in recent years to challenge anti-social behaviour and improve the clubs image. In March 2011 the Bluebirds won the Football League’s Family Club of the Year Award while Vince is also keen to point out that the away fans’ actions were in no way designed to antagonise the home support.
Not an anti-Leeds United protest
“£36 is far too much for a Championship ticket and many Leeds United fans have to fork that out every other week, it isn’t right. Leeds often take a massive away support and I’m sure their fans are as familiar with over-zealous policing and stewarding on their travels as we are too, This is about fans standing together and saying tickets are too much, stewarding is sometimes over the top, and supporters should be offered safe standing areas. And those issues apply to Leeds fans every bit as much as Cardiff,” said Vince.
The FSF asked Leeds United for comment on the issue of fans being ejected, and the subsequent protest, at Saturday’s game. A spokesperson said: “Contrary to reports suggesting otherwise, we can confirm that six Cardiff City supporters were ejected from Elland Road during Sunday’s game. Of these, five were ejected for being verbally abusive towards stewards after being asked to refrain from standing.
“A group of Cardiff supporters, numbering around 35, did leave the stadium at half-time of their own accord at which time they were grouped together by the Police and held in an area designated for the away supporters’ coaches.”
Cardiff City ‘sit in’ at Hull secures supporter’s release
But this isn’t the only incident that saw Cardiff City fans stick together in recent weeks. Back on Saturday 1st October Bluebirds fans staged a reported 400-strong sit in to secure the release of a fellow fan who they say was wrongly arrested during their team’s 2-1 defeat at Hull City.
24-year-old Owain Lacey was dragged out of the stand and arrested towards the end of the match after being accused of swearing at the assistant referee. However, Owain says this was a case of mistaken identity and his fellow fans agreed with hundreds getting off their buses to stage on impromptu sit in. This lead to further negotiations with the police as supporters explained that Owain had done nothing wrong.
Thanks to his fellow fans’ actions, Owain was soon released and no charges were brought. Cardiff supporters praised the force’s willingness to negotiate and described Humberside Police’s decision as a victory for common sense. Owain says the repruscussions of a wrongful conviction could have been grave for him given his job.
“I was worried also as am a youth worker and cannot get any kind of a record because of my job. The Cardiff fans where amazing throughout - I have watched football all over the UK and have never come across such fans. They are loyal, passionate and always look after their own. With Cardiff you always feel welcomed and part of a family,” said Owain.
The Football Supporters' Federation on Facebook.