LETTER: The blame for football riot belongs to clubs, fans ... and MPs

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The Independent Online
From Mr Tom Carroll

Sir: Here we go again. The inevitable crowd violence which has been such a hallmark of British (not exclusively English) soccer has once again risen to the surface.

There have been some improvements in the general level of behaviour at football grounds but the undercurrent of conflict and violence has always been there. While football clubs condone the violent actions of their players on the field and do nothing to banish hooligan elements from their grounds, our game will inevitably suffer from sudden eruptions such as were witnessed at Lansdowne Road and the recent game between Millwall and Chelsea.

The actions of Eric Cantona were unforgiveable but should players (and officials for that matter) be forced to endure such vitriolic and unbridled abuse as was clearly the case prior to Cantona's now infamous response? Soccer clubs must take the blame fairly and squarely because they are the greenhouses in which the violence is propagated, only to be exported to somebody else's backyard in which it breaks out in full bloom.

Football club chairmen bleat about the strenuous efforts they are taking to control the violent element, but still they continue to accept known hooligans' money at the turnstiles week after week.

The clubs should work closely with the police and the vast majority of law-abiding fans to identify and prosecute the violent elements and show they really mean it.

Segregation should be abandoned altogether as it is clearly not working and only creates "battle lines". But for integration to work, the catalysts for violence need to be removed.

Clubs must encourage more self-control and respect for match officials among their players. So don't go looking for scapegoats on whom to pin the blame for the violence in soccer. The root of the problem is no further away than your local club.

Yours sincerely,

TOM CARROLL

St Helens, Merseyside

16 February

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