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The away fan's lot
By Darren Rowe
Football, is a business, or so we are all told. No longer are the most influential people in the game the managers of the big clubs. Nowadays the most important people are those with the chequebooks, the Chairmen. Sir John Hall, Jack Walker, Lionel Pickering - the list could go on forever. While they are the men in charge, waving their chequebooks, football will no longer be a game, just a business.

Sir John Hall is proud of the fact that football is an entertainment business, yet in all other parts of the entertainment business, theatre and cinema for example, profits are maximised by making the customers as comfortable as possible. In football, however, profits are maximised by making the customer - you and me, the fans - as uncomfortable as possible. And the poor souls who receive the worst treatment are the travelling supporters.

The life of a travelling supporter is bad enough just getting to the ground. You sit in a cramped Fiat Uno that can't go more than 50MPH for three hours, sit on an even more squallid train for as long, or, indeed, as is the choice of a number of away fans, sit on a cramped supporters coach, for which you have been charged over the odds prices, and get to sit next to a psycho or a train spotter for five hours, while waiting to reach Bristol, or Burnley or, heaven forbid, Sunderland. When you get out of the coach, bus or car, your legs ache, your head hurts, and you need a drink.

Yet all the pubs are closed, it is matchday, and if you are not a regular, you are not getting in. You decide to head towards the ground - at least you will get something to eat there (as long as you don't mind it being a meat pie - veggie Ed). FATAL MOVE. You may head towards the ground, but you will take an hour to get in. The away fans are given three turnstiles to fit in five buses of the travelling contingent. And everyone who is going to try to get through that turnstile is going to be firstly manhandled by the police, and then manhandled by an overzealous steward - who wants to know why you carry a wallet and a radio. These stewards tend to be so thick that they cannot join the Army, but they have the hair to suggest that they once WERE in the military. Rule 1 to keep the yobs out of the terraces(or stands nowadays of course): Put them on the pitch and give them an Orange Jacket.

Some clubs receive 33% of their gate earnings from the away fans, and it is easy to see why. Once you have run the gauntlet through three lines of yellow and orange jackets, and you have finally made it to the turnstile, you are expected to pay more than the home fans, for similar, if not worse, facilities. As a student, receiving a concession, I can get into the Vic for #6. Away fans can get in for #11.50 regardless of age or earnings. Away fans rarely receive concessions at matches, and most clubs charge more for away fans to get in. At least at the Vic they get a good view - they are charged the same amount as Rous Regulars. At most other grounds you can expect to pay #2-3 more just because you are an away fan.

This defies the regular laws of economics, though, because in this case, what you pay for is not what you get. Since the implementation of the Taylor Report, all grounds in the Premiership and 1st division of the Endsleigh League MUST have all seater stadia. For the home fans, that means a nice new stand, and purpose built seating - Roots Hall, Southend, for example (are you sure about 'nice', looks like a shed to me - Ed). For us poor away fans, however, the all seater stand is just the old terracing with the crush barriers swapped for injection moulded plastic seating, with leg room too small for your average Andy Hessenthaler, never mind your average 5'10" adult male. This results in the phenomenon seen at Luton, where fans spend large amounts of time standing in the seated areas - totally against the Taylor recommendations, and the Law, purely because if they sit they will spend up to two hours with their knees in the man in front's shoulder blades.

Stadium security works on the principle that the hardcore contingent who travel away to see their favourite team play are all hooligans. Apparently this manifests itself in chanting- as soon as a healthy roar comes up from the away fans, the local constabulary comes in and lines up, on their horses and on foot in their yellow Jackets, in front of the away enclosure. Result- no seeing the match. This is the case even if there are fences up in front of the away fans- which, despite having been proven to be dangerous, there often are.

Occasionally, the away fans, clearly in the minority, and probably unable to defend themselves if a large throng of home supporters were to manifest themselves, are expected to wait behind for a few minutes in the interests of security. This is done so that, instead of being able to leg it to your car, or to the station, home fans have enough time to get round to the away end, and pelt you with sticks, and cans, and anything else they can lay their hands on. If this happens, inevitably the police pull out a few away fans, give them a sound beating, and lock them up for the night.

If home fans were to be treated so badly, they would stay away from the ground. As a travelling fan, you get used to the mistreatment, and the unfairness of it all. Stories of bad treatment by stewards towards away fans are everywhere - a certain south coast club decreed that bananas should be opened before entering the ground, to prove that the skins of the fruit were not concealing a weapon, yet home fans can take in often anything they want. Cans are illegal, but they still get in. And how the hell was Luton's Scott Oakes hit with a brick, when I can't even get into a football ground with a transistor radio, in case, to quote a steward at Kenilworth Road, "It might conceal a camera".

We're only following our team, for goodness sake! We are the same people that don't riot every other weekend at our home ground. Why, when we go away are we treated like animals?