Liverpool fan's SOS distress signal

SOS.JPG

FSF affiliate and Liverpool fans’ union The Spirit of Shankly (SOS) is probably one of the best known supporters’ groups in the UK and they’ve even taken to breaking national news stories.

They also seem to be one of the most active groups and as anyone who’s ever been involved in a bit of direct activism can tell you, it’s not something the authorities take kindly to.

With that in mind it wasn’t a total surprise when SOS called us to say that two of their members, including spokesman James McKenna, had been arrested before their home game with Arsenal back on Sunday 13th December 2009.

SOS arranged a peaceful protest as part of their ‘Not Welcome Here’ campaign to let Liverpool owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett know they aren’t welcome at the club following a stream of broken promises surrounding the potential new stadium, team investment and club debt.

The idea was to stop the pair getting into Anfield for the game with the Gunners and raise awareness generally by handing out flyers and publicising their aims to Liverpool’s wider fan base. Of course in the digital age this can be done via Youtube too – see SOS in action here.

As the link shows there were plenty of fans involved in the demonstration, although it was SOS spokesman James McKenna who was picked out and arrested along with one other SOS member. Is it a coincidence that one of the more prominent members was singled out? We’ll let you make your own mind up on that.

Why the police have to get so heavily involved in a dispute between owners and supporters isn’t exactly clear to us anyway – no one’s suggesting this was going to turn into a riot.

Yet for chanting “Yanks Out!” James was charged with a Section 5 Public Order offence, in layman’s terms this means racism. “The copper who arrested me was whispering in my ear telling me I was banned and it was all on CCTV,” recalls James. Nice of him to play judge, jury and executioner. Spurious accusations like those aimed at James do nothing to help the fight against real racism either.

In years gone by these charges may have resulted in convictions for all involved and lengthy banning orders. Nowadays though, that’s not always the case, especially if you get yourself a decent legal team. Kavanagh QC isn’t known for knocking around Anfield Road but James knew exactly who he needed.

“Ring up the FSF and ask for Amanda Jacks!” shouted James to his mates as the cops dragged him away, instantly gaining himself legendary status within the FSF. For those who don’t know Amanda is the FSF member who liaises with our solicitor contacts and deals with the vast majority of policing and stewarding complaints brought to our attention.

We’ll be putting signed pictures of Amanda in the FSF shop at this rate!

So we put James in touch with RFB Legal, solicitors who’ve shown time and again they can get results for fans, and accompanied him to court. End result?

All charges were dropped after the barrister appointed by RFB Legal spoke to the prosecution and it didn’t cost James a penny.

Justice was done because James knew of the FSF and was put in touch with the right legal team. But how many fans out there are getting unfair convictions, fines and bans for absolutely trivial offences? Drinking in sight of the pitch or encroachment while celebrating a goal are two which crop up on a regular basis.

Maybe a supporter’s duty solicitor wasn’t up to it? Maybe the police put a fan off by telling them the duty solicitor wouldn’t be in for hours and they’d miss their coach home? “It’s only a caution – accept it and you’ll be home tonight.” This can lead to a ban and cautions are not the easy option. We know this happens. You might get home a few hours earlier but they are an admission of guilt and will stay on your record.

If you find yourself in a spot of bother email the FSF or call 08702 777777. Make sure you join while you’re at it too!

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