Outside the Box: Fancy a fag at half-time? Well, you can smoke at Stoke

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The Independent Football

Popping out of the building for a quick smoking break is catching on – at football grounds. Stoke City are delighted with the success of a new scheme under which those who cannot last 90 minutes without a cigarette use a special reversible turnstile to leave at half-time, when they are given a ticket, and then can come back in. One grateful fan gasped: "I managed to squeeze in three cigarettes." Supporters at grounds that operate a complete ban in line with the law on smoking in enclosed public places may wish to lobby their club for something similiar. The ban, widely implemented for the past two years, has caused problems from time to time, notably in the case coming to court next week in which a Manchester City fan who had been found smoking inside Old Trafford at this season's derby game alleges he was pushed down the stairs by two Manchester United stewards.

Neither fish nor foul

Gone are the days when supporters' pent-up frustration could only be shared by banging off a letter to the Evening Pink 'Un. Now, anyone with access to a computer can really let rip. So imagine how much better one Grimsby Town fan must feel after posting an open letter to the squad on thisisfishy.co.uk after last Saturday's FA Cup defeat at home to Bath City. Managerless Grimsby, who have only Darlington below them in the Football League, sacked Mike Newell as manager three weeks ago after sinking to 91st position in the Football League, but it is clearly the players that our supporter feels are to blame. His post included the following (obscenities deleted as it is Sunday): "I am writing with regard to my absolute astonishment and disbelief as to the sheer magnitude of your complete lack of talent and failure to carry out the job for which you are paid... You have collectively reached a level of inadequacy and ineptitude that neither I nor modern science had previously considered possible... You are a total disgrace, not only to your profession, not only to the human race, but to nature itself... I considered, for a second, that I was perhaps being a little too harsh. But then I recalled that I have blindly given you all the benefit of the doubt for too long now. Yes, for too long you have failed to earn the air you've been breathing by offering any kind of tangible quality either as footballers or as people in general. Don't pass go, don't collect your wages, don't ever come back to this town again... I look forward to you serving me at my local McDonald's drive-thru in the near future." It is signed "A very disillusioned Mariner".

Clubs get lick of paint

One of the more useful football sponsorships, by Johnstone's Paint, will be put to good effect in a competition to spruce up non-League grounds and pitches across the country. Amateur clubs and organisations with run-down grounds have until 31 December to upload a picture of their facilities in their current state to the Johnstone's Paint Trophy website. Eight will be shortlisted and fans can then vote for an overall national winner who will not only receive an additional £1,000 decorating voucher but also a makeover "courtesy of Johnstone's very own decorating team".