Officials at Emley AFC are taking decisive action over a “worrying trend” of unacceptable behaviour among so-called fans at some away grounds.
While Emley have had no reported incidents at the Fantastic Media Welfare Ground, the club wants to nip any problems in the bud.
A small group of teenagers – believed to be aged 14-16 and claiming to be Penistone fans – caused trouble at the Penistone Church v Emley ‘derby’ match two weeks ago, spoiling the game for genuine supporters.
Penistone Church carried out an investigation and the youths involved were identified. One “sickening incident” involving a young Emley fan being attacked was captured on video and three teenagers, all under 16, have been banned indefinitely by Emley.
In a statement, Emley described what happened at Penistone as part of a “worrying trend” and added: “In recent seasons club officials have seen, and had reported to us, a number of incidents at a relatively small but increasing number of away fixtures. We’ve also seen reports of issues at other grounds not involving Emley.
“All the incidents are restricted to other grounds and we’re incredibly proud to say that on all occasions Emley supporters have behaved admirably in the face of severe provocation.
“But we will not be complacent and the club are taking a number of steps to make sure we do not see unacceptable behaviour at Emley or, if it were to happen, we are well placed to deal with it quickly and decisively.”
As a result Emley are now seeking more volunteer stewards for home matches as they see a visible presence as a “huge deterrent.”
Volunteer stewards are paid expenses and, as with all club volunteers, there’s free entry to all home games, free food and drink at all first team home games and discounted club merchandise. Full training will be given.
Anyone wanting more information should e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The club is also introducing an anonymous ‘report by text’ scheme for any supporters who want to report problems in the ground.
The club is also reviewing its ground rules and may introduce a ‘no unaccompanied under-16s’ rule at games deemed to pose a higher risk. Officials are keen to stress that the vast majority of young people are well-behaved, genuine supporters.
The club has also written to the Northern Counties East League to explore how general information and concerns and a list of banned individuals can be shared among clubs.
Emley chairman Andrew Painten said the measures were all preventative. He said stewards were a deterrent in the same way as bobbies on the beat.
No volunteers had yet come forward and the club hadn’t ruled out hiring a stewarding company for certain matches but that “might be a sledgehammer to crack a nut at the current time.”
Mr Painten said there had been instances at other away grounds but Emley fans had never got involved.
“I am really proud of our fans,” he said. “In these situations our supporters just remove themselves before things get out of hand. No one wants to see this kind of behaviour at a football ground.”