Headingley crowd warned over behaviour

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The Independent Online

Yorkshire chief executive Stewart Regan has urged supporters not to cross the line in this week's fourth npower Ashes Test at Headingley - but concedes he cannot control the booing.

Australia captain Ricky Ponting has been subjected to jeers from crowds around the country, including Lord's, and Headingley's notorious West Stand is next up.

Although Ponting has stated he "loved every minute" of the Edgbaston draw, which concluded earlier this week, England and Wales Cricket Board chairman Giles Clarke has written in the official programme in a bid to dissuade hecklers.

Regan said: "It is about getting a balance right between allowing people to support and cheer for the team that they want to win - hopefully in our case England - and taking that a step too far.

"A lot has been said about the Barmy Army and their behaviour, particularly at Edgbaston.

"It is fair to say the behaviour of the majority of the Barmy Army is usually very good and equally the same can be said of many spectators.

"Our own West Stand has come in for a lot of criticism over the years and the several people sitting on the West Stand are largely here for the enjoyment of the cricket.

"There are a small minority who like to take their behaviour one step too far and the club have said we will not tolerate behaviour which gets out of hand. "Obviously we can't stop people booing the opposition, to even suggest that is ludicrous, but what we can do is stop fans getting close to the players.

"At Edgbaston we saw a number of fans trying to get close to the tunnel area where the players come out and where the players are congregating.

"We won't be allowing that - we will take action against anyone who tries to get close to the players."

However, Ponting himself does not seem too concerned by anything from the stands, describing England's official supporters' group the Barmy Army as "the best sporting crowd in the world" and admitting he was "half-expecting" some heckling as he made his way to the middle.

"There is never anything untoward," he wrote in his Daily Telegraph column.

"It is always good, light-hearted stuff, and when England have a sniff of winning the volume goes up tenfold. They add a lot to the whole experience of the Ashes.

"The Edgbaston crowd were not the first to boo me this summer - but they were the loudest. Which makes sense, because Edgbaston is famous for being the bullring of English cricket.

"Whenever I walk out of the changing rooms I'm half-expecting it. I'm thinking: 'Right, let's get it out of the way, get the booing done, and then I'll start building my innings'."

ECB chairman Clarke, who knows Ponting from their Somerset connections, believes the Australian captain has "earned the respect and courtesy" of the crowd.

At times the reaction has been close to that received by a pantomime villain, with Ponting, 34, receiving a great hand for becoming Australia's leading run scorer in Test history in the first innings in Birmingham.

Meanwhile, Regan has confirmed that Barmy Army trumpet player Bill Cooper will not be permitted to play in the ground.

Yorkshire have enforced a ban on musical instruments and Regan said: "It goes against ground regulations.

"We have decided in conjunction with our security officer we will not allow musical instruments in the ground."