Without prejudice, on Saturday 11th February a football match took place in North West Lancashire, only for it to be marred by the behaviour of a bunch of Eighties throwbacks. We’ve seen these fat middle aged bullies before in the vicinity of Bolton Wanderers, known for their regimented and hierarchical structure, codenames and distinctive bad clobber, swanning around picking on people half their size and age for no good reason.
With the game being a crucial local derby, this mob of indiscriminate thugs where always likely to be highly active and used a pincer movement to pick out their targets and assault them and spoil their afternoon. What is even more concerning is that many of the known faces were actually carrying out such acts in collusion and were paid to manhandle the customers they were supposed to be looking after. The Bolton Stewards left their calling card on the Wigan support on Saturday without recrimination, seemingly happy to pick people out, funnily enough nearly all scrawny teenagers and provoke them enough to ensure that their green jacketed mates could join in, rough them up and get them thrown out of the ground to be handed over to that other bastion of equal rights for football fans, the Greater Manchester Police.
Me I always thought the job of a steward was to protect your paying customers, keep them safe and ensure people are sat in the right seats – oh and search people on the way in to ensure they don’t bring in any weapons or anything illegal which could cause distress – but more on that later.
Here at TNS we have eyewitness reports telling us that many people were thrown out for nothing at all – crimes such as “swearing”, “refusing to sit down”, “standing in the aisle” or simply “singing and being boisterous”. Fair enough at a night at the opera, such behaviour may receive a ticking off but at a football match? I’m probably a bit of a dinosaur here but that’s the whole purpose of it isn’t it? All part of the atmosphere. And of course I’m sure the 20,000 Bolton Wanderers fans in the stadium were also indulging in this behaviour but I didn’t see them get carted out by the dozen?
Some of those standing in the aisles had nowhere to sit, they were not stood in the aisle for no reason. The stewards were directing them to full areas when there were empty seats at the end and then challenging them for having nowhere to sit? Is this someone doing their job or someone looking to create problems where there are none?
It is the job of the steward to find people to their seats not to leave them in the aisle and then wrestle them to the ground (especially when one of them was clearly wearing a neck brace) and (allegedly) spit at them.
Many were thrown out before the flare, stewards directed fans to areas which were already full before literally throwing them out for failing to sit down! Stewards attempted to split up one family with children who were looking for their seats and seemed incapable of understanding the parents didn’t want their children sitting alone. Children, who had come for a family day out at the football had their day spoiled by green jacketed bullies acting the big man.
One steward in particular, a bloke in his Fifties was marching up and down the steps all the time and you could tell he didn’t know what he was looking for but it looked like he was determined to pick someone, anybody out. In the main, it will come as no surprise to learn that his targets were small, slightly built kids and when he tried to drag them out the other lads were pulling the Wigan kids back, this led to other stewards coming up the steps to help him which further escalated the trouble. I’m sorry but stewards are not the law, it is a basic human right not to be assaulted and I am proud of the way Wigan Athletic fans reacted in the face of such bullying.
Amongst those thrown out were a girl and a thirteen year old lad – again funny how they didn’t seem so keen to pick on grown men isn’t it? Well no it’s not funny actually it’s criminal, and a very, very serious infringement of human rights by a bunch of jumped up individuals who seemed to think they were above the law because it’s “only football fans”.
Some of those football fans were still at school or at the age were they might be trying to find a career, in case you haven’t noticed, it’s hard enough to find a job as it is without having a criminal record. A criminal record gained in most cases for trying to protect yourself for something as simple as trying to sit down and watch a football match.
Put simply, it was the behaviour of Bolton Wanderers stewards which was an absolute disgrace on Saturday not Wigan Athletic fans.
Sure, ban the people involved with throwing a flare – that is just stupid and someone is going to have to take the rap for that but don’t tar everyone else with the same brush as many of those thrown out on Saturday and subsequently arrested were otherwise perfectly law abiding citizens treated like criminals by people who seemed to get kicks out of agitating and threatening people for trivial reasons. The Mongoose Cuckoo Boys 1988 or the Bolton Wanderers stewards 2012 – see much difference, thought not?
If there is a positive response to this, I can only suggest we start a co-ordinated campaign to get an apology off Bolton Wanderers Football Club and seek evidence of the CCTV for the behaviour of their stewards last Saturday. Sadly I fear we are up against it, as they will undoubtedly only release the CCTV that they wish to and many of the people ejected and subsequently charged will be told that as football fans pleading guilty is the only option. Actually standing up for yourself and injustice is a costly and futile process if you’ve been to a football match and had even so much as a thimble full of beer.
This is wrong from top to bottom and what is also wrong is the attitude of Wigan Athletic Football Club. I’m sorry but you have got this horribly wrong. It does not take 17 people to throw a flare and 17 people did not throw a flare and even if they did to make a snap reaction like that and ban 17 fans, many of whom are apparently the bunch of young lads who travel home and away and are often the only ones who make any noise. Well what a complete over-reaction!
In the morning, you’re advertising cheap season tickets and in the afternoon you’re releasing statements which translate into a hooligan story plastered all over the local and national press. Absolutely woeful. A double whammy that – ban the people who do make the noise and then put a story out to scare off any people who might be contemplating coming along and replacing them. What was wrong with a quiet word and let the courts do their thing?
Or you could really stick your neck out and SPEAK to the fans and get their side of the story, wouldn’t that be radical. If the eyewitness reports above are accurate then, as a football club Wigan Athletic should be publicly writing to Bolton Wanderers demanding an apology for the treatment of our fans last week. Standing up for the fans instead of sentencing them without trial.
What happened to waiting for the facts to become evident? What happened to innocent until proven guilty? Why not deal with it in house without the need to drag the club through the mud even more than it has been. Nobody is defending the flares – whether you perceive it as a bit of fun, creating an atmosphere, something more malicious – an attempt to throw it at someone, or pure and simply a breach of the law. It was a stupid thing to do and someone
deserves to and will get punished for it but the club itself has made the whole situation ten times worse by reacting in the way it has and also allowed the local press (who also strangely don’t seem interested in reporting the REAL story) to have a field day.
A very sorry week in the history of Wigan Athletic, a massive wedge driven between fans and club with all manner of talk of protests and an explosion of negative publicity that the biggest flare in the world couldn’t eclipse.
Here at TNS, we’d love to speak to you if you have eyewitness accounts of the Bolton stewarding behaviour. So please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or post your eye witness accounts on the forum here. We are happy to do the job of Wigan Athletic and the local press despite their reticence to stick up for Wigan Athletic fans. It’s only a shame that with a bit more common sense much of this could have been avoided.
The average football fan demonstrates almost perfect behaviour compared to 20 years ago yet are still treated like scum despite paying through the nose for it by over-zealous jobsworth.
We’ve had enough. On a personal note, I’d never walk away from Wigan Athletic due to them being bottom of the league but unless they realise that many of us have sacrificed tens of thousands of pounds and decades of times supporting our club and start actually sticking up for us when we get rough treatment instead of piling it on, then I feel the end is nigh….. #modernfootballis*****
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