Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Jim Kerr – Out Of Touch, Out Of His Depth

I was present, for my first away trip to Dublin, at the St. Pat’s – Linfield match last night. We had a great day out, bus down with friends and acquaintances, a few shandies consumed, nice feed at the Carrickdale on the way, a good old singsong, an inadvertent tour of Dublin, stress-free walk to the ground, and a police escort to the motorway on the way home. In fact, from my perspective, the only bad thing about the day was the woeful performance of Linfield on the pitch.

Imagine my surprise when I learned on the way home, and when I got home, that there had been some trouble. Apparently there were a couple of minor scuffles outside the ground, during which 4 Linfield fans and 2 St. Pat’s fans were arrested. According to eyewitnesses, the Garda were demanding ID (bizarre) from a section of fans just before kick-off (most fans were long in the ground), started trying to confiscate Union flags and Ulster flags from said fans, during which an altercation ensued, leading to the Garda getting out the batons and being heavy-handed.

The Garda themselves dismissed the crowd trouble incidents as "minor public order disturbances", and said they were brought under control very quickly.

Not surprisingly, the press, never slow to put the boot into Linfield, where blowing things up. My beef here is not really with the press, I’ve come to expect nothing more of the weasels. However, I’d like to point something very briefly at this juncture before moving on: the blatant double standards employed by the media both North and South of the border. To wit:

St. Pat’s – Glentoran: Glens fans arrested, some trouble, net press coverage: virtually none.

Drogheda – Cliftonville: some trouble outside the ground before and after the match, net press coverage: virtually none.

St. Pat’s – Linfield: minor scuffles outside the ground, 4 arrests from a crowd of 800+, net press coverage:

Belfast Telegraph: Six arrested at Linfield match in Dublin

Irish Independent: Ugly face of football as violence flares at cross-border clash

Newsletter: Linfield fans clash with Dublin police

BBC: Trouble flares at Linfield match

At least the Newsletter allowed a Linfield fan to put their point of view across. The double standard meticulously applied to Linfield FC and fans was doubtless inspired by the large numbers of ‘freelance’ press photographers in exactly the right place at the right time, again. To wit, see the numerous photos of:

Press eye

Pacemaker press


Let us recap:

Linfield fans present: 800+

Number of arrests: 4

Newsletter: “The Garda dismissed the crowd trouble incidents as "minor public order disturbances", and said they were brought under control very quickly.

A Garda source added: "It is not clear who started the different
incidents of fighting, but they were separate incidents controlled very quickly."”

Not exactly a major incident, hardly comparable with Dundalk ’79. Remember 800 fans went to the game, watched it and had a good day without trouble. So how does our esteemed chairman react? In an incredibly kneejerk, over-the-top way:

Linfield club chairman Jim Kerr insisted those arrested were drunken hooligans who had tagged themselves on to true Blues supporters.

He added the team is now considering its future in the competition to avoid the team's name being dragged through the mud by yobs.

The club chief said: "The biggest problem was people fuelled by alcohol and people spoiling for a fight.

"I saw people at the grounds I have never seen before in my life being aggressive to security staff. I condemn it utterly.

"Should we continue in Setanta next season then we have to look at busing supporters from Windsor Park... but we will have to look at whether we are going to continue.

"There is no place in football for these people – totally uncalled for."

I find that statement frankly pathetic. It was made no later than two hours after the conclusion of the game, when there was no way that Mr. Kerr could have been in full possession of the facts, and was clearly done, yet again, as a pathetic, sniveling, handwringing apology to the media, to be seen to be doing something, to wipe his hands of the whole matter, in short, to protect the image of the club, yet again, at the expense of the vast vast majority of fans (he’d have been better off saying nothing).

Well Mr. Kerr, I’ve had enough of your lies and gutlessness. I’ve had enough of you coming out in the press and tarring ALL of your OWN fans with the same brush. I’ve had enough of your amateurish gutless dealings with the media. I’ve had enough of the Irish media putting the boot in, only for you, as my club’s ultimate representative, feeling the need to kick me when I’m down, even though I’ve done nothing wrong.

You’re a liar and a gutless coward. You’re scared of the BBC, Stephen Nolan and so-called ‘popular opinion’, and you, in your ivory tower, cannot see that nothing this fine club and its fans do will ever stop these people sniping at us or finding fault in every little thing connected with us. You lied when you said a 3-word banner would get us points deducted. You condemn all of our fans for the actions of a tiny minority who were doubtless provoked, then impose yet more draconian measures on a support already the most controlled in Ireland. You lied that these fans were hangers-on; their faces are well-known as loyal Bluemen.

Your agenda is now clear for all Linfield fans to see: to create a sanitized Stepford Supporters base who you can take anywhere, won’t say boo to a goose, won’t offend anyone in any way, and who you can control.

Well I, along with many others, have had enough. You’re out of your depth, Mr. Chairman. You cannot deal with the media at all, and are just a pandering apologetic puppet. You hang loyal fundraisers for the club out to dry after a smidgen of uninformed criticism from a radio shock jock, without even going on to defend the club’s name. You’re so out of touch with the feelings of supporters, it’s unreal. See the reaction of supporters at the recent Newry and Glentoran matches, belting out ‘Hatchets and Hammers’ almost to a man in defiance of your ‘no longer welcome’ policy, based on cowardice. Now it is your wish that supporters should only travel on Linfield FC-approved buses, with no alcohol and presumably no noise, very much in line with the current ridiculous restrictions still in place if we wish to go to Solitude. I will not be dictated to in this way. I have never committed an offence within or immediately outside a football ground in my life, and I will not be treated like scum BY MY OWN CLUB because you’re scared of our precious public image.

Enough is enough, Mr. Chairman. If you’re not prepared to defend your club or stand up for your members or supporters, 99.6% of whom behaved impeccably last night and had a great time, then do the honourable thing and resign.

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