Holte End ejections, fans banned from buying tickets and a walk-out protest.
Aston Villa, the only Premier League club to publicly back safe standing, in the first two home games of the season has taken a worryingly heavy-handed approach of ejecting Villa supporters in L8 of the Holte End for simply doing something that the club wishes to return to the Holte – standing. MOMS was in L7 of the Holte End for the Liverpool game and saw stewards and then the police enter the section of the Holte to remove young Villans who were doing nothing more than supporting their team.
These supporters are not trouble makers or hooligans, they were just doing what most supporters do home and away during a game. Cast your mind back to the League Cup semi-final against Bradford City last season and not one bum touched a seat in the Holte End during the 90 minutes of the second leg. Why wasn’t the entire stand ejected for such behavior? I know personally, in recent years, I’ve spent at least 75% of my time at Villa Park, standing, whether it be in the Holte End or lower North stand. Maybe I’m not welcome by the club any more?
We will go into the full implications of the standing situation at a later date, now we just want to bring your attention to what happened at the Rotherham League Cup game, when supporters were ejected from the game, including a 13-year Villa season ticket holder who also has been blocked from buying further tickets to games. It’s nothing short of an outrage.
In MOMS’ various dealings with the club over the last couple of years, there has been an incredulous lack of empathy for what a football supporter is. If the club want to consider Villa fans simply as ‘consumers’, then legally with the literal duty of care that comes with that, they’re opening up a can of worms.
Standing in all-seater stadiums is a grey area, but it is not illegal and shouldn’t be tackled with such zero tolerance sanctions. What was the club’s marketing hashtag again? #Cometogether?
Below is the statement from the Brigada 1874 in regards of what happened at the Rotherham game on Wednesday night:
Brigada 1874 Statement
Although the title of James’ iconic 1991 hit “Sit Down” is made up of the two favourite words of our hi-viz clad friends at Villa Park you get the impression that they aren’t so familiar with the content of the song.
The “extremes of sweet and sour” that James’ lead singer Tim Booth sings of are ones that are all too familiar with football fans, ecstasy and agony are states of mind that football fans the world over embrace and endure throughout the course of 90 minutes. Though I may be wrong, it is hard to imagine feeling the same spectrum of emotion when ejecting a season ticket holder of 13 years for simply standing up and supporting his team.
What happened on Wednesday night against Rotherham was a disgrace. As expected the ground wasn’t as full as the previous Saturday and this was the same in L8 where about 50 people had turned out. Despite the low numbers the atmosphere was jovial, there was persistent singing and fans were enjoying themselves. This was up until about the 8th minute of the game when we were joined by around 8-10 stewards, including senior stewards who demanded that supporters towards the front of the section sit down, they confiscated the tickets of a number of fans and then departed.
Following a few seconds break the singing started again, moments later the stewards returned, this time accompanied by a couple of police officers. A number of fans at the front of the section were then led away under the concourse by senior stewards and police. A couple of minutes later the stewards and police returned once more to harass people on the next row, they confiscated a number of tickets from these fans but did not eject them. On learning that the fans who had been led away moments earlier had been told to leave the ground the remaining group members left the ground in protest, provoking applause from some supportive fans on the way out.
On leaving we met other members who had arrived late and who also joined the walkout despite failing to see a single ball being kicked in anger. Not being welcome in the ground we decided to walk down to the corner of Trinity Road where the Holte meets the Trinity, we stood there for the remaining 20 minutes or so of the first half and supported the team from outside the ground [see video of protest], where we were able to stand and sing without harassment. In must be remembered that while standing we were blocking no one’s view, there was no danger of us getting vertigo and falling from our feet and no danger of being swept out of the ground by high winds coming in from Aston Hall.
Today, on Saturday 31st August a fan went on-line to check availability for the Hull away fixture, he found that his log in was blocked so he rang the club. On doing so the staff member on the end of the phone informed him that he wasn’t allowed to buy tickets, he asked why and the staff member said he would have to speak to his supervisor, he then asked the fan if he was at the Rotherham game, he replied that he was and was then told that he had been blocked from buying tickets for future Villa matches and that an employee of Aston Villa Football Club would phone him on Monday to discuss the issue further.
We do not know whether this represents a temporary or permanent ban. It is clear to the group that the club have an agenda to make the lives of those in L8 as difficult as possible, last season we had the debacle around the “One Stan Petrov” banner, which prompted the head of media at Aston Villa to appear on a radio talk show berating the group, the group were given no prior notice that we would be the topic of conversation on the phone in. We’ve had stewards try to snatch banners off fans at the Sunderland game and now the club have moved to the pretext of “persistent standing” as a stick with which to beat the group. Away fans persistently stand, fans in areas or the upper Holte and Lower North persistently stand and rightly so! [The whole of the Holte stood throughout the semi-final vs Bradford City – Ed] We stand because we want to support our club and should be free to do so in L8 as other fans are in other sections of the ground.
There has been much talk recently about the trial of safe standing at Villa Park [Villa ironically are the only Premier League team to publicly support the idea – Ed], the current reality is that standing in certain sections of the ground comes with very real risk of being escorted off the premises by police. There have been calls from the club for the “12th Man” to turn Villa Park into a cauldron that visiting teams will find intimidating and difficult to play in, the fans want this to happen and are trying to make it happen, but we can’t do this if we’re sat slumped in our seats beneath the watchful eye of the boys in iridescent orange and yellow.
We shall not be moved, stand up if you love Villa!
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