Football: Leeds agree ban on away fans

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The Independent Online
LEEDS UNITED and Rangers last night reluctantly agreed to impose an away-fan ban on both legs of the European Cup second-round tie. The decision, reached after meetings between police and officials of both clubs in Scotland, was immediately criticised by the Football Supporters' Association who fear that potential troublemakers will still travel to Ibrox for the first leg on 21 October and the return at Elland Road a fortnight later.

The problem could be alleviated by showing the first leg live in England - it cannot be transmitted north of the border because Hearts play Standard Liege in the Uefa Cup the same night - and the return throughout the United Kingdom.

A joint statement from Rangers and Leeds said: 'All aspects relating to safety and security have been taken into account and it has reluctantly been agreed in the circumstances by all parties not to issue tickets to the opposing club's supporters.'

The problem is exacerbated by the decision of the governing body of the European game, Uefa, to reduce the clubs' standing capacity by 40 per cent. There will be room for 42,000 at Ibrox and only 25,000 at Elland Road for a match that could fill Wembley. Uefa must ratify the plan, but the FSA believes the federation will approve the move. 'It sets a precedent which Uefa may be happy to follow in the future,' the FSA spokesman, David Lee, said. 'And it could overlap into the domestic game where clubs could use a ban on away fans to overcome the problem of reduced capacity as grounds are redeveloped.'

West Ham United are to cut admission prices for their First Division games at Upton Park in an attempt to reverse a decline in gates.

West Ham's managing director, Peter Storrie, announced the price cut within 24 hours of the 6-0 defeat of Sunderland - a match watched by 1.28 million on television, but only 10,326 at Upton Park. It was West Ham's lowest League gate since 1957 and 50 per cent down on last season's average attendance. The exact amount of the reduction has still to be settled.

By contrast, Newcastle United have more would-be spectators than they know what to do with. After closing the turnstiles 45 minutes before their home match against Tranmere Rovers on Saturday kicked off, locking out several thousand, the First Division leaders have been instructed by police to make their matches at St James' Park all-ticket until further notice.

West Ham do not blame the high level of televised football for the slump in their crowds. They estimate they lost pounds 20,000 on the Sunderland game despite receiving nearly pounds 50,000 from TV.

BSkyB plan to show five live games in the next eight days, kicking off with tomorrow's England Under-21 game against Norway at Peterborough, followed by Manchester United v Liverpool on Sunday, Aston Villa v Blackburn 24 hours later and the return of Paul Gascoigne's Lazio to Tottenham on Tuesday. Also at the weekend, London ITV will show Charlton v Millwall live, while Central screens Leicester v Peterborough. And on Wednesday week, October 21, the Rangers v Leeds European Cup tie will be shown live in England.

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