Fans sing for prizes in football chants league

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The Independent Football

Football fans are to receive prizes for their vocal support under new plans being introduced by the Football League to attract more spectators and take the professional game back to its roots.

Football fans are to receive prizes for their vocal support under new plans being introduced by the Football League to attract more spectators and take the professional game back to its roots.

Under the scheme, to be named the Supporters' League, points will be awarded at every game to the most passionate fans, with prizes donated at the end of the season to the best set of fans from each of the three divisions below the top flight.

Independent observers will decide whether to make each game a home win, away win or a draw depending on the intensity of support. Details of how the system will work are still to be ironed out but one idea is for the referee's assessor to double up as a fans' assessor.

Football League officials hope to launch the project next season but are more likely to wait until 2005-06 in order to attract the right sponsor. Sir Brian Mahwinney, the League chairman, said the idea was to bring some fun back into a sport that is increasingly dominated by big-money transfers.

"We want independent observers to make a relative judgement - and I stress the word relative, otherwise the home team would win every time," said Mr Mahwinney, who stressed the prizes would not go into directors' pockets.

"Ideally, we'd like whoever sponsors the competition to present prizes that are fan-focused. In other words, money that does not just go into the clubs' coffers but is ring-fenced between the local fans' organisation and club concerned. We want to make it more fun to be a fan and give them an element of recognition for the important role they play in our league."

The new scheme received a cautious welcome from fans' groups. "Certainly it's a fun idea and if can contribute to eliminating some of the racist chanting, that's an additional benefit," said Malcolm Clarke, chairman of the Football Supporters' Federation and a Stoke City fan.

"You have to take into the account the state of the match. It's not very likely away fans would out-sing the home support if their team is losing 6-0. The volume is normally a function of what's happening on the pitch. If you're being thrashed, getting some points for support may be some kind of consolation."

Alan Bloore, the Barnsley Supporters' Club chairman, said he hoped the system would be fair. "Anything that encourages fans to enjoy themselves can only be a good thing."

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