November 12, 2009
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The Football Supporters Federation have launched an online petition in response to Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn’s decision to ban a small number of Black Cats supporters involved in an incident at Newcastle Central Train Station on Aug. 9.
For those that don’t know, the incident occurred following a preseason friendly against Heart of Midlothian in Edinburgh. Reaction from Sunderland supporters against the Northumbria police has been fierce, with many independently verified accounts contrasting with the police force’s version of events.
Fans had been instructed at the ground to board a specific additional train that would take them directly back to Sunderland, avoiding the need to alight at Newcastle to switch onto the Metro line.
Apparently there was a mix-up and the train stopped in Newcastle. Supporters on the train were kept on the train until police armed with batons and unmuzzled police dogs were lined up outside the carriages.
A police statement said that they had intelligence reports suggesting these fans were in the vicinity with the express purpose of engaging in organised fights with hooligans from Newcastle—this is despite video evidence showing many fans were passive during the chaos that ensued.
It’s not clear what started the clashes, police claim that Sunderland fans attacked dogs, kicking and punching them to the ground and then stamping on them.
A later Freedom of Information request revealed that no police dogs required veterinary treatment, despite the Northumbria police described attacks on the dogs as “the worst assaults in the Northumbria force’s history.”
Three Sunderland supporters were hospitalised, with one suffering quite serious head injuries . Eye-witnesses described how the man suffered a fit on the scene and footage shows a pool of blood where the man was left to lie untreated for several minutes.
It was a Sunderland supporter that provided aid to the injured man in the first instance, not the Northumbria police. The Metropolitan Police’s best practice apparently states that batons should not be aimed at the head unless there are exceptional circumstances, in other words, if the police officer’s life is at risk.
The Northumbria Police admitted that their officers didn’t sustain any injuries on Aug. 9, so it seems that the action undertaken was unjustified.
So where does Niall Quinn come into this?
So far there have been no prosecutions relating to the incident made by the Northumbria police, around 30 supporters were arrested at the time. Bail terms are set to expire on Nov. 17.
Despite this, the club has moved to ban supporters involved—before charges have been brought. The club has a zero-tolerance stance towards football-related violence.
Normally I would say this policy is absolutely right, hooliganism should not be tolerated within the game.
But this incident is different, the video evidence available combined with the testimonies of eye-witnesses points towards the actions of the Northumbria Police being the main contributing factor. The police were the aggressors in this saga.
Perhaps a small group of fans responded poorly to the situation that they were faced with, but the large cloud of doubt that has fogies the horizon should have been considered by the club and they should have held fire. At least until charges had been brought against individuals.
Even more curiously, the Northumbria Police insist they have not shared details of those arrested with the club. Which begs the question, where are Sunderland getting their information?
In normal circumstances the club may well be right to back the police as they tackle football violence, but the extraordinary circumstances involved in this incident should have forced the club into a different course of action.
Why are the Football Supporters Federation most vocally supporting the Black Cats? Shouldn’t the club be defending its own fans against police aggression?
If football violence is wrong then surely football-related police violence is also wrong, Niall Quinn should keep supporters in the forefront of his thoughts.
At all times.
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