Two Hereford FC Directors, Chairman, Ken Kinnersley, and Commercial Director, George Webb, have today spoken to the club’s official website and given their thoughts on recent events.
Both Board members have also discussed the wider matters the club tries to address with opposing teams when talks take place about accommodating the Bulls’ brilliant away following.
Firstly, Kinnersley said: ‘When you consider all the good things that are happening at Edgar Street right now – our team at the top of the league, continued impressive attendances, a new contract for Jimmy Oates, the lease extension, consistent hospitality sales and a thriving Junior Bulls scheme to list just a few – it’s a real shame that of late more focus seems to have been on non-football matters.
‘Dealing with off-field issues is incredibly frustrating as all any of us want to do is concentrate on enjoying the terrific team we have. We expect to have to work on ensuring our home games pass off without any problems and in general this is the case, but dealing with issues following away trips is not something that anyone could possibly enjoy.
‘As a club we are not going to shy away from the fact that we have problems we need to tackle relating to a tiny minority of our away support and we will continue to work hard to eradicate the issues we have had. Much of this work has to be done privately and quietly, but rest assured work is going on.
‘Decisions have been made at board level after the Didcot game, but until we get feedback from the Football Association and Southern League on the documentation we have provided, we believe it is inappropriate for club officials to make public comments about the events of that day.
‘Despite a number of requests to talk about the situation, out of respect for the football authorities and Didcot Town, we will not be unprofessional and make any specific comments until the investigation is completed.’
So how does Webb think the club can address these issues?
‘That’s the big question. It’s certainly not straightforward and I have to be honest, it’s quite depressing to spend so much time talking about it.
‘Although in the main our supporters are great ambassadors for this football club and behave extremely well both home and away, there is no getting away from the fact that on a number of occasions a small minority have behaved in a way that has caused the club embarrassment.
‘We are continually working to address this problem and will never stop doing so. However, there has to be an element of self-policing from supporters and some individuals do need to take more responsibility for their own behaviour.
‘With that in mind, it has been pleasing to hear reports from the game at Bideford which state that our supporters showed great restraint when finding themselves faced with a huge amount of provocation at full-time. I’d like to thank supporters for that restraint and also thank any supporters who put themselves forward to stop the situation escalating.
‘While we openly acknowledge the problems we need to deal with, we also need the clubs we are visiting to ensure they are properly prepared for the arrival of several hundred of our supporters – which is, of course, often more than five times the number of fans they are used to dealing with.
‘We offer clubs as much advice as we can – calling upon our knowledge of the number of the supporters that are expected to travel and experience of what has worked well for other clubs we have visited – but decisions about security and safety at away grounds are not ones that we can make.
‘We try to exert an influence and offer as much support as we can – offering guidance on the sale of alcohol during games and the number of stewards required for example, but there is only so much we can do as the final decisions and the overall responsibility for the safety and security of all supporters – home and away – is down to the home club.’
How do clubs usually take the advice the Bulls offer? Webb explained:
‘Many clubs have taken on board the information we have provided and made sure they have everything in place to ensure matches pass off without incident. Sadly though, there are some clubs who are not so willing to go the extra mile to accommodate our supporters and this is often when problems occur.
‘As I said earlier, as a club we are not going to claim that there aren’t a small number of supporters who have caused problems on more than one occasion – encroachment onto the field of play to celebrate goals being one of the most obvious issues – but equally we do feel that better preparation by our opponents would actually have prevented some of these problems occurring in the first place.
‘On a few occasions we have had requests to provide our own stewards at away games, but this often comes with a demand that we pay for them. This is something we feel we simply cannot agree to, as it is the host club who is responsible for ensuring the safety of all supporters who attend a game.
‘We pay for stewarding at our home games, we would expect our opponents to pay for adequate stewarding at their home games too. To agree to pay for stewards at an away ground would set an incredibly dangerous precedent and would be an open invitation for other clubs to make the same request. It would just not be sustainable for us from a financial point of view.
‘Our belief is that the size of our fantastic away support provides enough of a boost to opposing clubs that they should be able afford to steward our matches properly. Even if clubs increase admission prices slightly across the board for our visit it is not the end of the world as long as it’s clear the money has been well spent on resources to ensure supporters are safe and well looked after so that football is the only thing being discussed at the end of the game.’
Finally, what message does the club’s board have for supporters? Kinnersley said:
‘All we want is for all supporters to behave like the majority, which basically means offering the same levels of vocal support and encouragement without overstepping the mark. There is no excuse for going on the pitch during a game and there is no excuse for throwing things onto the field of play either.
‘Everyone at the club wants to see fans enjoying themselves at games, but please remember that your actions have consequences, not just for yourself, but also for your fellow supporters and the clubs we are visiting.
‘We believe that everyone who cares about Hereford FC has a huge amount to be proud of and if we can all work together to manage the poor behaviour that occurs on occasions away from home, then we can then just focus on getting this club to the higher level we all want it to be at.’