Letter: Fans' crime was to be English

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Sir: I write, as a solicitor and a football supporter, who attends over 50 matches a year, to express my anger regarding events in Holland over the last few days. My anger is directed not at English supporters but at the Dutch authorities and British politicians.

Despite the hysterical reporting of 'riots', 'battles', 'fighting' etc, and despite the presence, in huge numbers, of photographers and news cameramen, there has been little or no evidence of what has been reported - no pictures of rampaging fans, no mass brawls and very little violence. Indeed, all I have seen are pictures of police, many in plainclothes, rounding up and beating large groups of supporters who, for the most part, appear passive, somewhat bemused and then, yes, angry, but surely with justification.

They were hounded on arrival, herded about by armed police, caged and deported without charge or right of appeal, their passports and possessions still in Holland. Their crime? Contrary to the emphasis of most reports, very few appear to have been guilty of any violent conduct.

The idea seems to have been that England supporters may cause trouble, so let's round them up and ship them home before they do anything. That way we'll avoid any trouble. Why stop there? Let's arrest anyone who has ever had a drink and proposes to buy a car. That'll stop drink driving. The sole crime of most of those deported appears to have been to be English and ticketless. Foolish? Perhaps. Criminal? Surely not. Not until they attempted to gain entry to the match without a ticket, could the failure to possess one constitute an offence.

The Government has already recognised the inequities of this type of treatment, which is indiscriminately dished out on a regular basis to English supporters. Why else would the Football Spectators Act expressly provide that those deported in this way will not be prevented from travelling abroad to future matches unless they have been charged and convicted?

It should now go further. It should demand that if foreign authorities wish to deport our nationals, they should at the very least be charged and preferably convicted of an offence first. That would at least allow a right of appeal and should ensure that the guilty are treated as they should be and the innocent are not tarred with the same brush.

Yours faithfully,

CHARLES ASHMORE

London, SW5

14 October

(Photograph omitted)

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