Police are imposing draconian measures on Hull
Tigers feel they are being treated unfairly
20 February ~ When Huddersfield Town travelled to the KC Stadium eight seasons ago, for a match in League One, a fight broke out between a handful of young men in the main car park. It wasn't pleasant and resulted in some rightly stiff sentences from the courts. The thugs in question weren't even attending the game. This altercation has, however, been the stick with which West Yorkshire Police (WYP) – and Humberside Police, when the West Yorkshire clubs visit Hull – have beaten Hull City supporters ever since.
Tigers fans aren't a controversial or even especially boisterous bunch but WYP have never failed to try to reduce their numbers when looking at fixtures involving the club on their patch. Their latest effort has tipped many peaceable City fans over the edge. Having already switched the Easter Saturday game at Huddersfield to a 12.30pm kick-off, for the usual nonsensical reasons involving public safety and disorder prevention, they've conceded power over the match to Sky and allowed a 5.20 start instead. However, they have imposed draconian restrictions on the Tigers supporters not unreasonably wishing to make the 70-mile trip.
Only 1,500 tickets will be given to Hull City and each supporter purchasing one will be forced to travel only on allocated club-run coaches. No fan is to be permitted to travel under their own steam and by a means of their choice, thereby making the journey pretty much impossible for the hundreds of supporters who no longer live in East Yorkshire. This legally dubious stipulation has left the fans apoplectic.
WYP appear to pressurise the Football League each July to make sure games at Leeds United are scheduled for weeknights, while the last trips to both Huddersfield and Bradford (a distant eight seasons ago) were both switched to Sunday lunchtimes. Beyond the anger lies confusion; though Hull fans are renowned for disliking Leeds, there is next to no animosity towards Huddersfield. The two Sheffield clubs engender much more antipathy yet Hull games at Bramall Lane and Hillsborough have happily and uneventfully commenced at 3pm on a Saturday with great regularity.
The official supporters' club and two highly influential fanzines have issued a joint statement imploring Hull City to decline the tickets until better treatment and more trust for the fans has been secured, to the tune of a bigger allocation and the freedom to travel at a time and via a method of an individual's choosing. The club claims it had long negotiations with WYP over this issue but couldn't budge them; sadly for the current regime, the evidence of their predecessors suggest they didn't try hard enough.
In 2005, City chairman Adam Pearson refused to take any tickets for a New Years Eve game at Leeds until identical restrictions on fans were lifted, while even his discredited successor Paul Duffen was admirably critical of Colchester United on behalf of Tigers fans when a 2007 game at Layer Road was wrongly postponed due to heavy rain just an hour before kick-off. Though the club has said it has done all it can, the level of indignation from supporters – and great interest from local media organisations, some of whom have rarely been friends of Hull City or football – suggests that it could and should try again, and take direct action if necessary.
Rattled by their powerlessness to tell Sky where to go, WYP have taken their frustration out on the fans of Hull City, an easy target. There are no more unruly elements among the travelling Tigers fans than any other group of supporters and they do not ever invade pitches or attack goalkeepers. The fans simply want to watch a progressive Hull City team earn a place back in the Premier League this season and are, again, being stopped by an authoritarian bunch of uniformed weight-throwers who haven't a clue. Matthew Rudd