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June 2021

Stewarding must be a rotten job, but that’s not an excuse for not doing it properly

By Tony Attwood

I was talking to friends on the way back from the game, about their experience of the match in the family enclosure.

They’d got tickets for three adults and four children in the lower tier, clock end, positioned next to the Lincoln supporters, and I was rather sorry to hear that it was not as enjoyable an experience as it might have been.

There were two prime things wrong it seemed: the language and the visibility.

Football grounds are notorious for what we might call the colourful language of supporters, and of course we don’t want the grounds sanitised so that much of the atmosphere is removed.  And yet when children are taken to an event and exposed to others around them using the foulest kind of abuse, and I really do mean the foulest kind of abuse, one begins to wonder where the club’s responsibilities are.

Quite clearly many of the young children using this language have no idea what it means, but it does seem unsatisfactory that all the children taken into the family enclosure are being exposed to a level of industrial language which simply doesn’t exist in some other parts of the stadium.

Yet language is not impossible to deal with: a strong effort was made by the club to get rid of racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic language some years ago, and by and large this has been a success.  In these regards abusive chants of this type have been wiped out.

And yet, although we don’t hear too many expressions with the strongest of abusive swear phrases in the rest of the ground they seem to persist in the Family Area.  It seems strange.

There is also a problem with the seating in the same area.  Some of the people with seats in the area are quite small because they are… well… children.   So when everyone stands up they can’t see, even if they stand up too.  In the end they have to stand on the seats, which is probably not particularly safe.

Of course the family section in the clock end is not the only area where there is a problem – how many times have we seen flares and smoke bombs brought in?  And with the Munich fans, a vast array of rolls of paper – so many in fact that the game had to be stopped.

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And what was done – either to the individuals or to the club?  I’ve never seen or heard of any activity.  Yet it could be so easy – the number of visiting supporters could be reduced for a club, each time that club’s supporters engaged in unacceptable behaviour.   That puts the problem back to the visiting club: sort your own supporters out, or you get a reduction in numbers.

And while I am at it, could the stewards also be informed that smoking an electronic cigarette is also banned in the stadium, along with smoking ordinary cigarettes?

I know the simplest response to all this is to say that I am just trying to spoil fun and bring in more and more regulations, but actually I’d like to enhance the fun – by removing the fear of blinding or serious injury from flares, and by encouraging parents who don’t want their children to be using swear words they probably don’t understand the meaning of, to bring their children to the games.

Individually all the stewards I have dealt with have been excellent.  Recently, when I fetched one because a man exiting the ground was on the floor as the crowd were passing all around him – he followed me at top speed to help get things resolved.  It is just that they are always going to do what they are instructed to do – and somehow we just need some better instructions, in my opinion.

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8 comments to Stewarding must be a rotten job, but that’s not an excuse for not doing it properly

  • David Anderson

    you critisise the stewards in one breath and then praise them in another, either they are not doing it properly as the headline suggests or they are exclellent,make your mind up!
    your article does not go into any detail about the actual stewarding and what was reported to the stewards. If bad language was reported and no action was undertaken you can write to the club and complain as they will know what stewards were working in that block at the time and can take action, you could also have reported this to other stewards in the ground on the day and they too would have taken action.

  • Ernest

    Times have changed, Tony. There appears little that anyone can do about poor behaviour and foul language. The mentality remains that they pay their money and somehow that means invariably they can do and say what they want. Buyer beware in the case of your friends. The world is not a friendly place these days no matter what we would like to believe. Unfortunate.

  • Pat

    About thirty years ago my husband took my son to Arsenal, to the family enclosure. I don’t know if it’s still the same but there were a lot of elderly men in there swearing away. My son asked,”Why are those men swearing?” My husband answered,”They’re silly.” This seemed a satisfactory answer.

  • ossasa

    Used to be a lot of swearing in the schoolboys in the 60s but did we give a fuck? Being topical we were singing ‘the referee’s a wanker’ in the swinging 60s. Great days. I still swear at games but I do it on the quiet.

  • Mike T

    Sorry Tony not a good enough rant!
    Sort of recognise the things you mention so sorry you’re not special.
    To a degree we are quite lucky in that our season tickets are near enough bang on half way in the West Stand at SB just some 29 rows back however about 5 minutes before half time and around the same into the 2nd half that just have to throw the extra couple of pints down their throats.
    To be fair we don’t have the same issues with electronic cigarettes but the toilets, it seems have been designated as smoking rooms!
    Some years ago( seemed a good idea at the time) we sat in the Shed Lower right next to where the away supporters , which on this occasion was West Ham. The closest supporter was a father with his son, aged about 4 in arms, the language and gestures were horrendous , not from the father I would add but from the son. I genuinely don’t shock easily but I truly was disgusted and you couldn’t help but fear for that lads long term future.

  • ian

    Hi Tony
    I was sat with my 2 children in the family enclosure, the shocking thing wasn’t just the language but the fact that there were stewards stood next to the individuals and I do mean next too, the individuals were on the back 2 rows right by the aisle, so right by the stewards.

    One guy to my right was sat with his son but chose not to return for the second half it was that bad.

    This wasn’t just the odd person getting a bit carried away, this was a group of 6 or 7 young men stood constantly using the most obscene language. I looked over to the stewards on a number of occasions to see if they would do something however they were content with chatting to each other and watching the game.

    The great shame is that I truly believe a quiet word early on would have stopped it, it wasn’t about ruining peoples enjoyment, all that was needed was for a steward to point out nicely and respectfully that some words are unacceptable anywhere in the ground and that they should be aware of their surroundings.

  • David, I am sorry that I did not make my point clearly enough. What I was trying to say was that in some regards the stewards do their job very well, but sometimes there appears to be a decision not to tackle key issues.

    I have written so often about the failure of stewarding in certain areas before that it seemed boring to cover all the same ground yet again. And in terms of writing to the club, the supporters association of which I am a member is in regular contact with the club over the issue.

  • Pat

    Sorry, I just don’t see what the stewards are supposed to do about people swearing.