Anyone reading the variety of reports of Newcastle fans’ behaviour in several different publications would feel justified in thinking the worst. I was there and I thought it was important to put a few of the accusations to bed and give some perspective from the point of view of someone that saw it all (or at least most of it).
I travelled down to Bournemouth at the weekend and like the vast majority of travelling Mags was in jubilant spirits for the day. There is something special amongst the fanbase when we’ve made a really long journey that’s hard to put into words unless you’ve experienced it first-hand. It’s something I recommend you all do.
It’s been difficult to read many of the reports in the media from the weekend and I’ve become increasingly annoyed as the accusations have grown, so here’s another perspective on the behaviour of some of our fans.
Let me start with half time. I stupidly decided to go down to the concourse before the end of the first half to buy a few beers. On the very overcrowded concourse there was a buoyant and happy atmosphere with some of the usual signing. We all heard a sound come from the stand but it took until we saw confirmation from the TVs that Newcastle had scored. The concourse erupted into celebrations. Some fans took it slightly too far and banged the metal above the bar.
At this point I was stood right at the front. It was the banging that caused the staff to decide to shut the bar. And that sparked a reaction amongst the fans to try and stop the shutters coming down. Plenty of fans had paid for drinks they hadn’t received, and it seemed pretty unfair that they were going to close the bar for a bit of banging and joyful singing when Newcastle had just scored.
I didn’t see any flares nor any smoke and I’m certain that the shutters weren’t coming down as an automatic reaction to smoke. Anyone that saw the concourse would be shocked if their counters had such technology installed. I certainly didn’t see any staff being pulled over the bar or being assaulted. I’m not saying that neither of those things definitely didn’t happen but I was in a pretty good position to see everything and didn’t notice either.
However, there was at least two instances I saw that were completely out of order. One of our fans, and I use that word begrudgingly, threw something at catering staff behind the bar and it hit them in the face.
Another idiot got behind the bar and looked to steal something. It wasn’t, as has been described, a case of him handing stuff back over the bar to a gleefully accepting crowd.
Both of these instances are despicable behaviour that were widely and loudly criticised by most of those in attendance. There is no defence to this kind of behaviour and instances like this shame our fan base.
Whilst there were a few isolated instances of unacceptable behaviour, to paint the large group of fans on the concourse as a drunken, criminal mob is hugely exaggerated at best and an outright smearing lie at worst.
Roll on 94 minutes and Matt Richie scored a quite beautiful equaliser. Lots of fans, myself included, moved towards the front to celebrate as is natural in such circumstances. It’s not clever to charge towards a small area as a crowd. It is not criminal. It was difficult to see clearly what happened in the melee but that’s exactly what it was. A chaotic mess of jubilant mags who were celebrating wildly in a small space with only a knee-high barrier between us and the playing area perimeter.
Common sense and perspective could and should have been used and fans calmly ushered back. But football fans have often been treated as criminals in the first instance as a matter of course and after recent events, heavy handed policing and stewarding prevailed. It looks likely to have a lasting impact on an unlucky few who ended up over the knee-high barrier. Anyone amongst that celebration knows that it could have been any one of us that ended up on the grass there and that none of us had the remotest criminal intent. I’d speculate that those that did end up on the grass didn’t intend to be there and were forced over.
One of those arrested has since been released without charge after CCTV showed he was pulled over by a steward. He was then detained for more than 20 hours before being released. This is unacceptable. That steward has probably shown more intent out of anyone to get Newcastle fans onto the pitch.
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