Fans turn sour on Sugar rule

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The Independent Online
Tottenham supporters planning to show their displeasure at the club's bad results over the last week during tomorrow night's match against Liverpool at White Hart Lane have been urged to keep their protests "civilised and constructive" by a supporters' organisation.

Following the 3-1 defeat by Arsenal and the 6-1 drubbing by Bolton Wanderers, angry Spurs fans took to the Radio 5 airwaves on Wednesday to complain about the state of the club, the host Danny Baker replying that throwing programmes on to the pitch would be fitting comment.

"This is not the way to demonstrate," said Mark Agate, secretary of the National Federation of Supporters' Clubs. "I appreciate feelings are running high but there are ways of doing things more civilised and constructive than going on to the pitch or throwing things on to it.

"Just not going to the game is one. Or surely they can elect a deputation to meet the chairman. There is also the Premier League consultative group that is a channel for the football club to get the views of supporters."

Those views centre on Tottenham's gradual slipping behind the Premiership's elite clubs as a result, supporters perceive, of the chairman, Alan Sugar, being unwilling to invest the sums required these days for the top players, and their salaries.

The manager, Gerry Francis, a cautious man himself in the transfer market, has so far mended and made do with his organisational coaching but Tottenham's audience has been used, in addition, to a creative quality that does not nowadays come cheaply.

Such rumblings have surfaced more noisily because of the nature of the defeats; being shown up by a traditionally less attractive Arsenal, then losing heart - which brought criticism from Sugar himself - at Burnden Park in the Coca-Cola Cup, a consolation competition these days, it seems, for the Premiership's second tier and one for which Spurs might expect to challenge.

Before last Sunday, ironically, Tottenham had been on a good run, winning four of their five previous league matches. It remains, however, a question of style, something which may be thrown into further relief tomorrow, to noisy annoyance from fans fuelled by a planned leaflet campaign, when Liverpool bring their smooth ingenuity to the capital.

Yet the discontent at Tottenham pales when compared with the turmoil at Brighton, where hundreds of supporters continued their protest at the running of the troubled club by marching through central London before the Third Division match at Fulham yesterday.

Flanked by police, the 500-strong march ended in Hyde Park while a delegation continued on to the FA's Lancaster Gate headquarters, handing in a 3,500- name petition calling on Brighton chairman Bill Archer and chief executive David Bellotti to be charged with misconduct likely to bring the game into disrepute.

Paul Whelch, chairman of the Seagulls Over London Supporters' Club said: "We are appealing to the FA to ensure the crowd disturbances don't become too significant. Firm action needs to be taken to prevent the obstacles that are getting in the way of a resolution from causing significant problems."