Soccer - UEFA Cup - Semi Final Second Leg - Leeds United v GalatasarayLeeds head to Turf Moor tomorrow to face the in-form, promotion-chasing Burnley where the largest away following in the division will be subjected to the kind of treatment usually reserved for prison inmates.

The presumption of innocence civilised nations build their legal systems on continues to be ignored by the Police and Football Clubs who seem to believe it’s still the 1980’s and The Whites are coming “tooled up” for some kind of Royal Rumble.

In a “Message from Burnley” published on Leeds United’s official site, the club explain how Leeds fans will be subjected to the following;

  • A tiered and thorough system of search both outside the ground and inside the turnstiles
  • The use of Sniffer Dogs outside the turnstile and also on the coaches before spectators depart, searching for flares, fireworks or other pyrotechnics

I fail to see the difference between racial profiling and the persecution of fans for being the opposition. If the Police stood at airports searching anyone who looked like they might be a Muslim on the basis that they may, in-turn, have extremist beliefs and plan to blow us all up, there’d be justifiable uproar from anyone who cares for the basic freedoms our country is built upon.

And while my comparison may be extreme, where else are you subjected to a search simply because you choose to belong to a certain group? BNP members aren’t harassed in the streets by Police officers because our legal system protects their right to believe and support whatever the hell they like, only when an individual chooses to break the law is the individual answerable to it. Why are these fundamental principles totally ignored when it comes to football?

I’ve been attending football matches for over two decades now and have never experienced any outbreak of disorder which justified the indiscriminate victimisation of away supporters. That’s not to say I haven’t seen violence and anti-social behaviour, it happens far too often unfortunately, but the vast majority of supporters in attendance aren’t responsible for the crimes, so why are they being vilified as a result?

In all my years following Leeds United, the worst violence I’ve ever seen happened overseas and it was in no small-part caused by the ridiculous Policing methods which led to fans being treat like animals (only the away fans though, the home fans were like royalty). It tends to be the same in England too, you’ll see very little trouble when the Police work with fans to create a pleasant environment instead of treating them like villains, because when you treat someone like a criminal, they’ll often start to act that way.

It doesn’t take a degree in psychology to understand basic human nature. Treat people unfairly, they’ll hit out.

I’m sure Parliament passed some kind of law which allows Police and Football Clubs to ignore the rights you and I can usually take for granted because we’re football fans and someone who has sat in the same stadium as us, who just so happened to be wearing the same colours as us, has misbehaved, but that’s simply not acceptable. The vast majority of Leeds United fans – myself included – have done nothing wrong.

The second we decide to support a football club and travel to see them play, it seems we lose the basic rights that protect us on any other day. Your presumption of innocence is lost because you’ve chosen to join a group of people, in which, a tiny minority exists with a penchant for acting like thugs.

And that’s entirely your fault. Apparently.