Leeds chairman calls for ban on Turkish fans

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The Independent Online

Officials at soccer's European governing body were today considering a call from Leeds United for Turkish fans to be banned from the second leg of the EUFA cup semi-final.

Leeds chairman Peter Ridsdale called for fans from Turkish club Galatasaray to be banned from the second leg match, to be played at Leeds United's Elland Road ground, following the murders of two British fans in Istanbul on Wednesday.

Mr Ridsdale said the club had asked football's ruling bodies for approval to bar Galatasaray fans because a ban was the safest option.

"I think in the circumstances of the events of this week, it would be far better for everybody if we concentrated on getting the second leg of the tie completed in safety and making sure we don't have any recurrence of the sort of incidents we saw in Turkey last week," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

"I think the easiest way of doing that and avoiding the provocation of Turkish fans being in Leeds is to say: 'Look, don't come over at all'."

Galatasaray reacted by saying that the match, scheduled to be played in a fortnight, should be staged at a neutral ground.

The Turkish club has disclosed that more than 1,600 of its fans have already bought tickets for the match.

Galatasaray sporting director Mete Razlikli said: "We will be making a request to UEFA for the match to be played at a neutral venue.

"Under UEFA rules, if the safety of the fans cannot be guaranteed, then the match cannot be played."

Mr Ridsdale said there was a precedent for UEFA to back a ban on Turkish fans, adding: "It happened before in a Feyenoord and Borussia Dortmund game, and we have already consulted UEFA.

"They think it is a sensible proposal but obviously they have to consult with Galatasaray."

Ray Fell, chairman of the 10,000-member Leeds United Supporters Club, said everyone was behind Mr Ridsdale's call for a ban on the Turkish fans.

"This is not a normal decision but on this occasion it is one that everyone connected with Leeds United will support 100%," he said.

"In the event of any Turkish fans being present - and I honestly hope there aren't any - I would ask fans to show common sense.

"This is not about revenge and I know the fans will not react.

"Had it not been for the restraint they showed in Istanbul, everything could have been a lot worse."

Mr Fell said he believed the game would be played at Elland Road.

"Galatasaray asking for a neutral venue is ludicrous and I don't think there is any country in the world that would even stage the game," he said.

"It's time they started showing a bit more compassion about the incident."

The Football Association said the game should be played at Elland Road.

FA spokesman Steve Double said: "Obviously, we would urge that the tie not be switched to a neutral venue because we feel it would logistically create more problems than with it being staged at Elland Road.

"West Yorkshire Police have considerable experience, having handled many high-profile matches in the past, and we feel sure, with that in mind, this game would pass off without incident."

West Yorkshire Police said it was reviewing and developing plans for policing the match, should it go ahead as scheduled.

Assistant Chief Constable Paul Garvin said: "We are monitoring intelligence, we are continuing to review and develop plans and our paramount concern is public safety, and our policing operation will centre on that."

Leeds MP Hilary Benn also rejected suggestions the second leg should be away from Elland Road, saying: "I don't think that would be sensible. Crowd control could be more difficult."

The fans who died, Kevin Speight, 40, and Christopher Loftus, 37, were killed in the centre of Istanbul on Wednesday night as violence flared between Leeds fans and Turks on the eve of the game.

Another six Leeds fans were treated in hospital.

The bodies of Mr Loftus or Mr Speight were flown home last night.

At least one man thought to have been involved in the murders of the Leeds fans was expected to be formally charged and taken to court in Istanbul this weekend.