The “fan” who assaulted Chris Kirkland during Friday night’s Championship match against Sheffield Wednesday has been jailed for 16 weeks and banned from attending football matches for five years. Furthermore, Leeds United have promised to issue the “thug” with a lifetime ban which will come into effect after his 5 year ban has expired.

It’s a surprisingly swift conclusion to the drama, no doubt hastened by the media attention this incident has attracted, but have the courts been too lenient? Leeds United certainly think so. 

I’m inclined to agree with them too. A 16 week sentence means he’ll be out in 6-8 weeks, following which he’ll have no problems whatsoever getting into football grounds. The ban is completely unenforceable, and I know this to be true because I know people that are banned from various football grounds and manage to get in without issue.

The trouble is, unless every football club starts ID’ing every single supporter as they pass through the turnstiles, how can a ban possibly be enforced? One face in a crowd of thousands is incredibly difficult to spot, as proven by the fact the individual in question managed to disappear into the crowd on Friday night.

“But he won’t be able to buy tickets” I’m sure the club will respond. Please. Does anyone really believe it’s that difficult to buy tickets for any game at all? Home tickets aren’t even a challenge, you simply have a friend buy them (his name will be printed on them both).

As for away tickets, there’s always a ticket going spare from someone who can’t make it, and contrary to Ken Bates’ claims that you need to be a member or ST holder to get access, you don’t – it’s incredibly rare anyone checks, it’d take them hours to match it all up. Even if you get a bit of a jobsworth steward, they’re not hard to blag. You’ve simply forgotten your card or left it in the carpark a couple of miles away, very few stewards are going to risk upsetting football fans by denying them entry – and who can blame them? We’ve all seen what the thugs are capable of.

The trouble is, while I agree wholeheartedly with the statement from Leeds United, I’m not sure what else anyone could do?

A longer prison term – certainly. But that’s beyond the control of football, that’s a matter for the legal system.

ID checks on every gate as people enter the stadium? Never going to happen, it’d cost a fortune.

Better stewarding is one I’ve heard a lot, but ask yourself this – would you run into a crowd of 5,000 drunken fans who you’d just witnessed patting the offending target on the back? I know I wouldn’t.

The only real option I see – and it won’t be popular, but that’s kind of the point – is banning Leeds United fans from away games. I’m not talking a permanent ban, just long enough to change attitudes and force people to have a rethink about how worthy of worship the idiot’s actions on Friday night were. Let’s say 3-4 games.

By the time that 3-4 games has passed you’re going to have a lot of irritated regulars no longer willing to tolerate the actions of these mindless chavs who have no interest in the football whatsoever and come along solely for the “tear up” or whatever term they label it these days.

Instead of pats on the back all round, the result will more likely be a repeat of the Ipswich Town game a few years back when the majority of our fans chanted “you’re the scum of Elland Road” to the idiots that stormed the pitch to attack opposition fans. I naively thought we’d reached a turning point that day, I was incredibly proud to witness that reaction.

What the Ipswich Town game taught us is that the problem fans really are a minority. The vast majority go for the game, for the highs and lows, simply to enjoy the day out with friends and family – as it should be.

Friday night was no exception, it was a minority of Leeds United fans that were the problem. Same with Sheffield Wednesday. The majority of supporters on both sides wanted to watch a game of football between Yorkshire’s giants, whilst those that committed most of the trouble paid little attention to the game at all. There was a group next to me who indulged in sickening chants throughout the course of the fixture, I don’t think they turned their head towards the pitch once, they were far too busy shouting at the opposition supporters and manager.

The only way this will ever stop is if the majority of supporters are unwillingly to tolerate it. The possibility of an away ban for those that actually care about the football would definitely do the trick. A petty fine and a slap on the wrist will do nothing – it deters no one, The FA have stuck to that course of action for years and it’s solved nothing.

All I know is that I’m sick of this nonsense and if I have to suffer missing a couple of games to change things, so be it. There’s no point blaming the FA, the stewards, the Police, the opposition fans, the minority or whoever else you’ve managed to apply blame to thus far, the supporters are the only people capable of changing things, and at present, people seem happy to dismiss such incidents as an inevitably, “part of football culture.”

Let’s see how many people are willing to dismiss it so casually when we’re all banned from attending games.

Incidentally, there’s an excellent piece on Friday night’s incident and football thuggery in general over on Owl’s Alive which is well worth a read. 

  • MattBB2

    i agree totally games behind closed doors for both clubs involved i think whenever this happens.

  • Bluesman

    The sentence is too short for the twat from Cheltenham. He has disgraced this fine club and is responsible for starting an enquiry into the trouble by the FA. But the rest of the fans who chanted at Jones need to think about their conduct too. What about the little children who witnessed the behaviour. Is there any wonder we can’t get into the premiership and people are not interested in investing in LUFC. This behaviour detracts from our reputation as a football club. This was a disgrace, shame on all of us!

  • awilsaw

    ban away fans stupid.
    stop any fan that smells of booze
    Sure there easy way to pick up booze smell.
    I use a gas sniffer, it smell gas ft away.

  • Woody UK

    No one in their right mind wants to travel the path of the 80s again but I’m intensely against punishing the majority of good fans over the deeds of the mindless minority. CCTV will highlight the offenders who destroyed portions of the Leppings Lane end and who invaded the pitch and LUFC should ban them from buying tickets. LUFC should have a photo record of every offender and pay the cost of supplying LUFC stewards for the turnstiles to monitor cards, tickets and faces. If it’s not enough the thugs and morons spoil one evenings entertainment – you want them to win and also spoil 4 more possible days out. Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion and I’ll respect yours but I’d be well upset if this happens.

    • TSS

      As would I, but that’s the point. Fans would quite rightly be upset, and in future, they won’t be patting people on the back for assaulting an innocent man. It’d be more like Ipswich.

      Fans get named and banned every time this happens, it doesn’t change anything.

      • Craig

        Mix local rivalry with drink and bravado and, sadly, this sort of thing is going to happen on occasion. Watch daytime TV progs like Jeremy Kyle and you’ll be reminded that our society is littered with individuals with limited general and emotional intelligence. Sometimes groups of these socially challenged individuals become football supporters and do what comes naturally to them within football grounds.

        I agree with you though TSS. They do these things to seek approval. Show them widespread disapproval and their bravado will melt away like early morning mist.

  • TheMassacre

    I have a problem that the sentence is too lenient. I have a problem that people turned up pissed to the match that should not have been scheduled for a Friday night. I have a problem with people patting this twat on the back, but the chants? Come on. Dave Jones and Jimmy Savile have two things in common – they were both accused of being kiddie fiddlers and neither of them will have a day in court.

    I’ve heard far worse abuse in the past levied at Scum fans. I’ve heard worse abuse sang about people dying by Leeds fans and at Leeds fans.

    Pitch invaders, twats fighting, throwing things on the pitch, racist abuse, completely unacceptable. However, mocking the opposition (or their home town), sick jokes, sick chants, sick songs, chanting about a dead nonce (hey, if Leeds hadn’t claimed the song, it would have been sung by away fans because Savile was from Leeds) are all fair game in my book.

    People need to not be so fucking soft.

    • Irving08

      Mr Massacre,
      Football, whether you like it or not, is now the national game, it was before it was gradually taken over by an unrepresentative section of the population for a period roughly steretching from 1974 to Hillsborough.
      It is also, so far as its spectators go, increasingly a ‘middle class’ game – and a family game too. Neither of these constituencies think that singing ‘sick’ songs, ‘effing and blinding in front of women and children isa aprticualry clever thing to do.

      So, Mr Massacre, I am afraid, you are rapidly becoming a fossil. My advice is to adjust – it’s not hard: I promise you, your enjoyment of the game will not suffer.

      • TheMassacre

        A very respectful if somewhat sarcastic response, so allow me, please, the opportunity to respond.

        Middle class liberals like you have not only ruined the game so that it is now played by over paid, primadonna crybabies, but also had led to the nation being in the sorry state it’s in.

        People need to roll up their sleeves and get some nuts, not cry about “bad language”, “sick chants, “hurt feelings”, “cyber bullying” and other such weedy nonsense.

        Nature has a way of dealing with people that can’t cope, it’s called natural selection. Who can honestly tell me football is more enjoyable because you get a load of middle class burks going to a game and eating their prawn sandwiches.

        I’ll gladly be a fossil for now, and when the inevitable apocalypse brings the world to it’s knees, it’ll people like me that are eating soft sods like you.

        Man up and don’t be so fucking soft.

  • fringo

    What about face recognition and a data base? The technology exists now, to quickly scan faces, or irises.

    • blondleeds

      is this with and without acne

    • TSS

      Not cheap though, is it? A lot of clubs can’t afford the expense

  • Between the Lines

    We’ve got Arsene Wenger who sees no evil, Dave Jones who hears no evil, now all we need is a manager who speaks no evil. Dave Jones says he’s been receiving this vile abuse for twelve years, have leeds fans been following him around for 12 years? Finally Four months for that thuggish coward is not enough, however we can all hope he slips in the shower.

  • Ron

    Sam Wallace writes an excellent piece on the incident today in the Independent. The guy is a fool , yet crowd trouble will always be with us provided sport and alcohol coexist.

    • Ron

      Another point of concern was David Moyes watching Byram go around. Can we ban other Managers from grounds?

    • MattBB2

      but what about rugby and cricket crowds theyre generally steaming drunk – no problems there

      • Ron

        Fair point indeed. It’s not just sports but whole socities and nations that manage booze far better. Twickenham embodies all that is good about sport generally, but chavs like Cawley were never exposed to any gentlemens agreements or higher education as will typically be the case with most fans in your aforementioned I sporting arenas. I have started to believe Football is the tribal substitute for war in the UK. People love the rivalry and happily shout obscenities at rival players, yet there is no denying what we witnessed on Friday was a step too far.

  • anythinggoeshere

    Sheff Wed fans have abused Dave Jones before, and I’ve been told that he gets the worst abuse from Barnsley fans. And most media reports ive read so far say nothing about the abuse directed at Neil Warnock or Leeds fans(inside and outside the ground) by Wednesday fans. But as always it is Leeds fans who are held up as the pariah. There is no doubt that what happened on Friday was a disgrace to Leeds and to football, it should never happen again and Leeds should be punished for it, however Sheffield Wednesday chose not to allow Leeds’ stewards to attend the match and help the Wednesday stewards to identify trouble makers and police the crowd, this is a standard operating precedure for Leeds when going to away matches. Leeds have some of the most stringent policing of away fans in the country, the lunatic Cawley should not have got into the ground and I’m sure there were other banned individuals among that crowd as well. Leeds fans indentified the idiot within minutes and reported him to authorities and Leeds fans were the first ones on forums, facebook and twitter to express their disgust and embarrassment. The crowd were mostly celebrating the goal and the ones who patted him on the back, may not have seen what he actually did. So the reaction of blaming all leeds fans is disgraceful, and doing so is not going to help Leeds get rid of the fringe element, it will only keep up the bad image of the club, which means when in the near distant future Leeds experience another freak incident of trouble, people will jump on us and say all Leeds fans must be violent thugs again, it is ridiculous. Leeds have been in the championship and league one now for nearly a decade and haven’t had many incidents of hooliganism, some clubs have had more than Leeds, and Leeds have been victims of it as well. For a club and city like Leeds to be out of the top flight for so long I think there is alot of pent up frustration, so when you consider that, I think our fans have behaved well. When Man Utd were relegated in 1974, their fans rampaged around the country, in comparison over the past 8 years Leeds fans have mostly gone to grounds allover the country, filled up our ticket allocation, supported our team passionately, in a well behaved manner, and received abuse from nearly every set of fans in the country along the way. In my opinion no matter what happens we will never get rid of this image, we are the pantomime villain, even if we go 10 years without a single incident, the next one that comes along, all Leeds fans will be branded as horrible animals and the media will demand the FA make an example of us

  • Vancouver White

    Banning Leeds fans from traveling is not the answer. I was there in the 80’s when the cop and Lowfields Rd were closed due to the ball bearing incident with Kevin Keegan. Also we were banned from several away games following the destruction of Derby Countys Baseball Ground by a large section of our ‘fans’ during the game. It didn’t stop 1,000 of us going to Wimbledon, and watching the game mixed in with their supporters. True Leeds fans are a different breed, and will get into any ground just to see their team. Guess what, 25 years on and the problem still exists, ban or no ban.

    My solution would be to display all the banned Leeds fans faces with their names on the big screen before every match and at half time. If you recognize any offender you can easily speak with a steward or cop to get them ejected or whatever punishment is required. I guarantee they will not show up knowing their face is going to be a main attraction.

    • anythinggoeshere

      If Sheff Wed had allowed Leeds’ stewards to the match, banned individuals probably would not have gotten in. The stewards of other grounds are probably given pictures of banned individuals anyway, however if they are not familiar with them, they would probably find it difficult to recognise them, so I doubt the big screen idea would work

    • Flippin-Pop-It-Bruva

      Im not sure i agree with your comment as for me its all about status, whose billy big bollocks and to see their face and name will only encourage more extreme behavior to get noticed. There is no clear cut answer. At the end of the day we are in a recession [similar to 80’s] where we got a lot of unemployed young lads [and older ones who should know better] who want a bit of excitement and a bit of a ruck. This will never change, well not until the 10 year recession is over.lol Yes its bad for the club but i think football is now returning to the crazy days of the 80’s [with the racism storm and now this] and thats because young lads have no hope or way to shine so they do weird things to gain respect from their crew. The 1st match i ever saw was away at coventry [highfield road] in 93-4 we were 3-1 down with ten mins left, my dad wanted to go and beat the que but we stayed and rod wallace scored an equaliser in 94th min, leeds fans went mental ripped up the seats and invaded the pitch and it was a meaningless mid table result. Leeds fans have always had that mentalness in them lol its not going away anytime soon. no matter what you do…give them jobs or hope instead..anyway he dont count hes from Cheltenham ive already disowned him i suggest we all do the same….

  • Gerald Hobbs

    should have locked him AND THE OTHERS ON THE PITCH for at least five years

  • leedsscar

    Sentence too short also should have to report to police station while leeds matches are on for the 5 years or get extra time

  • oldschoolbaby

    We have two massive problems in this country. One, we work from the bottom up fretting about the individual rather than socirty and the greater good. Two, we struggle to differentiate between primary and secondary problems
    The primary problem here is young Cawley. He is the problem that needs to be addressed. Solutions involving Leeds fans en masse are knee jerk, expensive, time wasting nonsense. Testostrone, alcohol and stupidity are not new issues. Kids like Cawley need help. A graphic demonstration that if you perpetrate assaults of this nature you go somwhere dark and unforgiving for an extended period. Fear, within reason, can be rather healthy

    • Irving08

      Unfortunately OS there is no evidence to support your view that exemplary punishment works. The answer lies elsewhere – in the re-industrialisation of Europe and the new type of worker this requires. That is now the agenda. Meanwhile Mr Crawley could be invited to share a coporate box with Mr Bates for a season.

  • Australia White

    No, it is not long enough. The imbecile who did this to Kirkland should have gone away for a longer period – much longer. The ever-present problem of how to enforce bans will not be solved anytime soon either. It’s a catch-22 in that if the clubs try to do so with a heavy-handed approach, then the thugs who are their targets are more likely to dig their heels in and rebel/behave in an even worse manner because, typically, these types have a hatred for authority in general and a something of a pack-mentality – which intensifies the more the group grows.

    Singing and chanting and banter (whether good-natured or in poor taste) are one thing, but when things turn physical then it is another thing entirely. I’m not saying I condone or agree with disgusting chants, but when thugs turn violent whether it be fighting with other supporters, throwing things on the field, ripping chairs out, ripping signs down, pitch-invading (especially) or any other physical acts then they must feel the full force of the law. These acts should be dealt with swiftly and firmly. If they start to make serious examples of people who engage in this type of behaviour (not a few weeks in the clink) then people might start thinking twice about engaging in it. It’s not practical to go and start making mass arrests at matches where a large group of alcohol-fuelled hooligans is causing trouble, however I’m sure with the amount of CCTV they can identify some of the individuals who engage in this behaviour especially the repeat offenders, and the police can pay them a visit when they are not in a large drunken group. This would at least start to make some inroads into dismantling these groups of louts and once word gets around among the group that “So-and-so got sent down for 18 months for ripping the sign down and throwing a bottle on the pitch” the others might think twice about whether or not it’s a good idea to join in.

    I’m not claiming that this is the best or only solution, but it’s a problem that must be addressed in some way and this is the only (somewhat) practical solution that I can think of which would be able to be implemented. Goodness knows that banning orders don’t work and the FA’s methods of dealing with these issues only hurt the clubs, which in turn hurts the true fans.

  • jdl63

    Good article…I agree with part of your conclusion is that as Leeds fans we all have to police our own. But history shows banning the majority does not work, and fining clubs deprives financially strapped clubs at all levels financial resources to fight the problem.
    Perhaps the way forward is that breaching a banning order becomes a criminal offence (similar to breaching an ASBO), punishable by years in prison not weeks! (Appreciate this cannot be actioned by the FA)
    Faces of banned supporters should be published in free leaflets handed to supporters as they go into grounds.
    Finally any serious crowd trouble should be reported to the FA and a points deduction of up to 3 points within 72 hours of the game…no right of appeal.
    Probably wont be popular in the short term, but it means we will all be able to play our part to identify and root out the idiots..and save the club losing points in the process.

  • MattBB2

    You can ban alcohol from the ground totally and ruin it for those of us who drink responsibily, or you can encourage responsible drinking, by introducing random breathalyser testing and setting an arbitrary limit say equivalent of 3 pints? Thoe clearly steaming can then be ejected – the piolice can also ensure they dont then get in a car. I hate to say it though but for something as serious as an assault on a player the Football league really should turn the crowd on the individuals and put an order in making the next two games `behind closed doors’.

    • ben

      Thats such a prefect comment…..’well sir nobody should drink’….one lad cant ruin it for millions of supporters..and this suggestion is ridiculous as we would be out of business in 6 months if you couldnt have a pint at a game.

  • Craig

    I’m probably going against the flow here but as a punishment for what the idiot did the jail term was fair. Think about it – if I pushed a stranger in the face on the street would I get a similar sentence? Probably not. It would almost certainly be a warning or a community sentence. Do I wish he’d been sentenced for longer? Yes. But that is my anger and shame speaking.

    My beef is with the idiots who were throwing missiles (they began the escalation of the trouble) and those who welcomed him into the fold afterwards. Ban them too and you really would be sending a message.

    • Irving08

      No, Craig you just have a sense of justice.

  • trev

    if you want to watch your team you should have to go to ticket office and show you photo I.D to them where you then get a card with your photo on and name that you would have to put into a card scanner that says your in the ground all ready and nobody else can use it then.so what i mean is if you buy more then one ticket whoever you buy rest for has to have their own card also to get in.just a thought

  • Irving08

    The punishment more or less fits the crime, as no grievous bodily harm resulted nor apparently aimed for. The fact that the incident may have harmed the club in the eyes of public opinion, inlcluding its supporters, is unfortunate; but a court cannot and ought not to take this into account.

  • nora battys tights

    this chap had has his defence the fact he was drunk he had a whole list of stuff he claims to have drank including 3/4 of a litre of vodka .
    if he was drunk to that extent he should never been allowed in to the ground i see it at ER all the time drunk fans in the ground .
    his sentence fits his crime people do worse things and get less jail time, had he not had previous he would NOT have gone to jail…
    we leeds fans have a reputation but so do west ham ,millwall .Cardiff etc etc .
    we think we are the only ones ,we need to wind our necks in a bit ,what he did was wrong clearly but not all leeds fans will agree either ,there is an element of people who should know better ,these are not young kids ..
    That said when the away fans were in the cheese wedge there was an element of young leeds fans coming through wanting to cause bother
    its a tribal ,bravado thing it happens at footy ,,schools and in the pubs every weekend .

  • henrymouni

    Here we are again boys!
    It makes a change from talking about the takeover from hell.
    Self policing by supporters will never work.
    If there are 20 thugs you need 40 supporters to tackle them.
    They always travel in groups as, outnumbering opposition supporters is their usual tactic.
    They are cowards who run when outnumbered.
    If the stewards and police don’t sort them out, why should the fans have to anyway?
    They only understand fear, not shame.
    The ‘idiot’ pretended he could not remember anything because he was too drunk. A lie.
    Prison is a real fear, but the law is weak in this area.
    If they executed him, and hung his head in the cop, like they did in the good on days, that would do the trick.
    You cannot reason with them.
    They are not real fans who love the club.
    You have to keep them out!!!

    • Snowjoke

      Public execution would surely be a little harsh, Henry – even for sad Nobhead Cawley. But, as with many other areas of criminal activity these days, a bit of severe exemplary sentencing could be the answer. Say a full year, without remission, in Cawley’s case. It would also mean that good supporters like you, I and thousands of other fans are not punished for offences we did not commit – the huge flaw in TSS’ s argument.