Sunderland 'pitch encroachment' update
As Rug has suggested, the Sunderland affair has taken much of my time for the last few days. In response to our call for information we have so far been in touch with three Portsmouth fans that were arrested for so called 'pitch encroachment' on Saturday.
I have personally spoken to fans (including some from Sunderland), police and media people that were at the game. I have also trawled through Sunderland websites. They have been unanimous in declaring that from their view, the stewarding was aggressive to say the least.
Firstly the Sunderland websites; from just two websites, I have extracted 48 messages that are critical of their Club's stewarding of away fans in general, Portsmouth fans in particular; I did not find any in support.
Next the background to the 90 minute build-up to the incident. There were 407 Pompey fans in a section that holds about 3000. The seats were inexplicably wet; not just the front ones, but all the way to the back. The Sunderland fans on both sides of them stood continuously throughout the 90 minutes without any attempt to make them sit. Those amongst the Pompey fans that wanted to stand were certainly not blocking the view of anyone that preferred to sit but they were continuously hassled by the stewards in an aggressive manner. One steward was described to me by a media person, as so 'in your face' that he spat as he spoke. At least one lady from Portsmouth complained to a policeman at halftime. Several people have since written to Sunderland to complain.
Near the end of the game, one fan saw another collapsed on the barrier at the front. The stewards mostly were ignoring him; one though did point him out to another and then laughed. Our fan went to his assistance. He in fact was diabetic and was having a fit - I have spoken to a reliable witness who knows the diabetic, knows that he has had this problem at games before and saw this incident as I have described it. The diabetic was being taken out on a stretcher as our goal was scored. The 'Good Samaritan' had just passed back through the barrier; as Kaboul ran over, about 20 Pompey fans rushed forward and the fan was pushed back through. As he attempted to step back he was stopped by a steward. Several others were also carried through by the rush. This area, although 'out of bounds', is still separated from the pitch by the advertising hoardings. Three of the fans were then grabbed by the stewards.
The attitude of the stewards was such that a police Inspector intervened on behalf of the fans in an effort to calm the situation. One of the three admits to putting up a struggle but as he has cuts and bruises it does suggest to me that the amount of force used was excessive.
I have spoken to two of the arrested trio myself and have complete confidence in what they told me. That said I have also cross-referenced their statements with information from other sources.
We (the FSF) are helping all three with legal advice.
This is just a brief résumé of what we have found out so far. There are several other avenues that we are still following, for instance we hope to have access to three separate videos of the incident.
I am still anxious to hear from anyone that was there and can add to any part of the saga, so please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org if you can help.