FSF fans defence earns award nomination

The FSF are very proud to announce that we’ve been jointly nominated, along with Stoke City, for the JUSTICE/Liberty Human Rights Award of 2009. This is for support of football supporters returned to Stoke from Manchester without reason which led to an out-of-court settlement and an apology from the Greater Manchester Police (GMP) for mistreatment.”

This nomination is the culmination of 12 months hard work by our volunteers – well done to all involved, you know who you are!

Congratulations are also in order to Stoke City who backed their supporters when many other clubs would have chosen to turn the other cheek by underwriting fans’ legal costs to the tune of £20,000.

FSF chair Malcolm Clarke will attend tonight’s (Thursday December 10th) award ceremony along with Amanda Jacks, who leads our work around policing and stewarding, and Stoke City chief executive Tony Scholes.

Fellow nominees in the Human Rights Award category are the Aegis Trust & Redress who campaign to gain justice for victims of genocide and the Gurkha Justice Campaign whose work led to retired British Army Gurkhas being accorded settlement rights, education and health care within the UK. Remember Joanna Lumley sticking it to the government?

Our nomination has its roots in events which took place in November 2008 when we heard from Stoke fan Lyndon Edwards who told us of some shocking treatment he’d received at the hands of GMP.

Lyndon had been on his way to Old Trafford to see his team play when, along with around 80 other Stoke fans, he called into a pub en route to the ground. It was a relatively subdued atmosphere until officers from GMP showed up and told everyone present that, like it or lump it, they were going back to Stoke.

Fans were herded on to coaches, deprived of toilet facilities, told to urinate into cups and forced back to Stoke in horrible conditions. There’d be no match, no refund and little in the way of human rights. Resist the order and it was a night in the cells for you, son.

GMP claimed this was perfectly acceptable as Section 27 from the Violent Crime Reduction Act of 2006 entitled them to do so.

Here at the FSF we take up hundreds of complaints every year on behalf of supporters but this one even caught us by surprise. Section 27, what was that? We’d never heard of it, was there more to this?

We spoke to various Stoke fans that had been there and each told us the same thing without fail – there’d not even been a hint of trouble.

So we phoned the pub’s landlord and asked him.

He told us the supporters had been well behaved and he’d be delighted to have them back, in fact, he’d even put on sandwiches for them next time. Hardly sounds like a riot was about to start does it?

In the following weeks we heard from more and more fans, including a group from Plymouth Argyle who’d received some equally shocking treatment at the hands of South Yorkshire Police, all telling us they’d been served with Section 27 orders.

The evidence we heard concerned us so much that we got in touch with civil rights group Liberty, whose solicitors took up the case, and launched the Watching Football Is Not A Crime! campaign.

After a long legal battle, seven months after the initial event, GMP admitted their use of Section 27 had been unlawful, apologised and paid out compensation to many of the Stoke fans present including £2,750 to Lyndon Edwards.

The success of this case shows that supporters do not have to unquestioningly accept this type of treatment – when fans stand together we can make a difference.

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