Aston Villa - Freedom Of Speech At Villa? PART TWO
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Freedom Of Speech At Villa? PART TWO

Flag Gate - The sequel

On Monday 23rd I contributed an article titled 'Freedom of speech at the Villa?

It was a recount of the heavy handed nature of the Support Prevention Officers (SPO's) and their desire to prevent any anti McLeish banners in Villa Park even at the expense of fan safety. It also recounted an assault on my daughter. Something that the club are now investigating. I spoke directly to The Sports Editor of the Birmingham Mail to report the situation and advised him who was dealing with this claim in the club, in order for him to be able to talk to the club and ask for their opinions. I was advised that this is the sort of incident that must be made public and that they would be contacting me for the story in full. I haven't been contacted and I believe that this is part of the reporting ban that the club have agreed with the local paper.

Onto last night. After I was refused access to previous games with my banner asking for McLeish to leave Villa, I decided that I would 'sell' the flag as it was clear that I was being a naughty boy by supporting my club by disagreeing with the appointment of a manager who was appointed against the wishes of the fans and after I had already purchased my family's season tickets. The flag as I now understand has been passed between other fans in the Holte End and my daughter, who I am led to believe have all been bringing the flag to games. I think that there was agreement between these people that the flag would only be displayed at the end of games because there was a common belief that the first action of fans on matchday is to support the team.

Last night a friend, my daughter and I attended the game. It was my friends first visit to Villa Park as I like to spread the word and introduce new supporters to the club, as I do several times a season. We all entered the ground as per normal and made our way to our seats. Within two minutes we were all approached by a team of 6 support prevention officers (SPO's) and asked to open our coats and show the contents of our bags.

Obviously we were seen as a threat to the club because a family of Villa supporters, one a 16 year old girl who has been a season ticket holder for 12 years is obviously a danger!!!! Lets not be beat about the bush though, we were identified and picked out because I have previously had the gall to bring a flag to the ground asking for McLeish to leave. But as I have already said, I wouldn't be a naughty boy and bring a flag that the club have told me I am not allowed in with. For the record, the senior SPO told me 'if you want freedom of speech then that is for outside Villa Park. You are not allowed this freedom within the ground'. I swear on my daughters life this is what the senior SPO told my daughter and I.

Anyway, we got to our seats ready for the game. The SPO who assaulted my daughter on Saturday was allocated another part of the ground (I take that as an admission guilt) but there were several more SPO's in position to guard against this family of hell raisers who actually support the club through thick and thin. What made me chuckle was that they even introduced a new SPO who I presume was there to do the intimidation. He was a bigger guy (fat) who took great delight in trying to 'stare out' me and a my daughter. No problem, I met the challenge head on, had word in his ear and put him straight, he backed off. Until we scored that is. He wasn't happy with me celebrating on the security bars. Ooops, bit naughty again there. Celebrating a Villa goal. But that is the job of the SPO's.

What was also amusing was that the club also introduced new SPO's at the bottom of the gangways at the front of the Upper Holte to prevent any naughty people displaying flags that may disagree with our custodians choice of manager.

After 70 minutes there was a bit of a verbal shouting match in the stairwell leading into the seats by where we sit. And what became clear was that a supporter who had been to the toilet was prevented access back into his seats without a search. By all accounts he had an anti McLeish flag under his coat. The naughty man!! The club refused him access back to his seats and he was a bit irate because he was at the game with his 7 year old son who they were preventing him access to. I enquired as to the problem and the SPO's then asked me to go and look after this mans son!!! Can you get your breath? The long and short of it is that the flag was confiscated and he was allowed back to his seat. But at the end of the game they refused to give this man back his property. I am not a lawyer but isn't that theft?? A weapon I would understand. A piece of cloth though???

The good news though is that all the efforts over the last few games has worked. The fans have turned. The flag is no longer required. McLeish's job is now untenable beyond the end of the season, even if we survive. He is in effect a dead man walking. Personally I think he should go now and Kmac (short term only) should take the job until the end of the season. This would guarantee a 40,000 crowd of passionate support against Spurs, rather than the negativity of protest and disillusionment that will inevitably now happen.


The 19th minute.

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The Journalist

Writer: VoiceOfTheHolte Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Wednesday April 25 2012

Time: 10:06AM

Your Comments (oldest first)

Change to most recent first
I didn't know I associated with such criminals voice! I think you are right though, after last night, his position has to be untenable, has to be. The bile and hatred is way beyond what can be controlled now. Sad to see, but that is that, he's brought this on himself with his anti football and he can't really say the majority didn't give him time and a bit of patience despite us not wanting him.
The Fear
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25/04/2012 10:10:00

Voice: I was going to say 'unbelievable' to describe your experiences, but the sad fact is that it isn't. What a sad, sad reflection on what has become of our club.
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25/04/2012 10:18:00

this is sickening, no respect at all for the fans, well try stopping those ***** off mcleish the villa is ours songs. As for the stewards, they need to be careful, if we lose the spurs game it could turn nasty.
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25/04/2012 10:25:00

Utterly outrageous. I'm truely shocked at you treatment. I think you should cast your net further than the local rags and look to nationals and the Tv/ radio. I love Villa but this is a step too far for me.
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25/04/2012 10:27:00

Our club is a f***ing disgrace at the moment. RANDY MUST GO!
Class of 82
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25/04/2012 10:32:00

I'd love to know what he said to fat SPO...
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25/04/2012 10:37:00

It makes me sick to have to read what's going on at VP now :( It's rotting from the inside out. I also agree that giving these 'SPO's' power is dangerous because they don't know at what point they've over-stepped the boundary. Stealing property, assault and keeping a father and 7 year old son separate for any length of time simply isn't on. I also find it disgusting that the local media would even enter into some kind of a deal where they don't write about the negatives. As much as we know that kind of thing goes on, it's still not nice to have an example of it rubbed in your face.
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25/04/2012 10:40:00

lol @ the phrase 'support prevention officer' - well it sounds like they're doing a great job of preventing support! Voice did you see any other evidence of flags being unfurled around the ground last night?
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25/04/2012 10:41:00

I had great hopes of Randy Lerner when he took over from Ellis. I saw it a a chance for Villa to grow and once again for us resume our rightful place at the top table. O'Neill only took the job because Ellis was going, but when he and his team left it exposed the woeful ignorance of Lerner and his cronies with regard to football in England. Now the situation is as bad as it has ever been for the club which I have followed since 1948. Both football wise and with the events recounted by Voice the situation is truly appalling. I feel now that Villa will not recover until firstly McLeish goes, ideally right now and Lerner and his team go before the start of next season. That is, if he can sell the club after it has been relegated, which is now seriously on the cards. There is no fight left in the team (only among the SPO's it would seem).
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25/04/2012 10:57:00

I was half tempted to get up and write another article to submit this morning. I feel there's a lot to be said but honestly I feel so deflated, what's the point? It's all been said before and I saw last night coming all day long. No surprise at all! VOTH - that kind of treatment is shocking, my jaws dropped completely! How on earth can the senior SPO have the nerve to say that to you? Can't believe it. This club has lost it's identity now, I ain't going back til things change. That's it for me. I can't show support to a club that dish up crap standards week after week and then DENY you the freedom to voice your own opinion!!!! Shocking, what a sad state of affairs to see our great club pulled away from us like this! One more thing - during the Franco era the Catalan language was banned from being spoken in public anywhere in Catalunya. Yet the camp nou opened it's doors and was the only public place the natives of Barcelona could be themselves and speak their own language. Now that's a club with principles, and a club that believes in itself and it's fans. Not like Villa, who at the moment are treating all like thugs and hostile enemies. Feel sick to support the club this morning.
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25/04/2012 10:58:00

I got told by a steward they have been told to remove flags and banners etc
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25/04/2012 11:00:00

Sorry to hear that you went through that, VOTH. At the end of the day, you've paid an incredible amount of money for you and your family to watch what has been sub-Premier League standard football. SPOs, doormen, security guards, they're all the same; some will genuinely do their job properly and show some compassion and humanity, but most of them just seem to be spoiling for trouble these days. Ah well, at least they'll have lesser numbers to deal with next season when supporters are at home wondering why they were punished for having an opinion.
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25/04/2012 11:12:00

I saw with my own eyes an SPO standing in front of a banner last night at the very front of the Holte. They didn't conviscate it but did everything to prevent it from being seen. How utterly pathetic.
Adam Deuce
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25/04/2012 11:28:00

The pendulum has really swung the other way, eh? The Steamers, Villa Youth etc. at one extreme & now the 'SPO's & police at the other. Not supporting the hooligan culture at all, but no way would our 'custodian' have gotten away with ***** like this with those boys around. It's just indicative of how sterile supporting your team is nowadays.
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25/04/2012 11:30:00

Again, before anyone feels the need to have a go, I'm in no way condoning the behaviour of hooligan groups. I just miss the passion that supporting Villa pre-EPL brought.
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25/04/2012 11:32:00

Can I please BEG YOU ALL who intend to go to the Hawthorns for the Albion game to take yourflags and banners there. Surely Lerners' Gestapo have no "authority".. ha, there. This needs ramping up BIG TIME. Should of been months ago but better late than never. Come on Villa Supporters, show your feelings for our Great Club which is being ruined as we "speak".
Pride of Lions
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25/04/2012 11:50:00

Can't wait to see how those Nazis are going to handle McLeish Out day against Spurs! There could be a riot. I can't believe what's happened this season, it's like our own little Orwellian nightmare at Villa. Anyone heard from General Krulak lately?
Stephen Jay Hawkings
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25/04/2012 12:19:00

Sounds quite Orwellian! Nothing from Krulak recently... As for Lerner, no trophies to show and no further forward than when he arrived, just some more disappointments in the bank. Unfortunately we live in a money game and Lerner is small fry.
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25/04/2012 12:25:00

Understand and empathize totally Rawlie I well remember the days we were treated as hooligans by all and sundry just because we went to away games. Where being attacked and having to defend yourself was a way of life. Think the Spurs game is going to be interesting no need to say anymore at this stage,except I have supported VOTHs right to protest for quite some time in my opinion he has acted reasonably and without threat or malice Randy Lerner should be ashamed many of his countrymen gave there lives fighting for the rights he now suppresses.
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25/04/2012 13:04:00

No need to be defensive Rawlie, in the old days we sorted out our own issues at the back of the holte. I remember as a teenager being "advised" a few times and seeing a bloke get seven shades beat out of him for constantly bumping into a bloke with his young kid.
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25/04/2012 13:11:00

Some valid points on here and a few observations of my own. Rawlie, you are so correct. In the good old days this would be sorted out privately with a word in the ear. However I am now a family man and have responsibilities more important than who manages our club, which is why my protest has been peaceful and only visible on any game when the points have already been lost. Thorpy, one of my pals went into the Trinity last night to voice his displeasure and told me after there was an anti McLeish flag in the Lower Holte but the SPO's moved in as soon as it was displayed. Nottingham you want to know what was said to the fat SPO? Not a lot in truth. Just a word or warning to take his eyes off my daughter because it was making him look like Gary Glitter. Obviously I would never threaten a respected club official like and SPO!!!! Pride of Lions, you are correct, any banners taken to WBA will almost certainly be allowed full and open display. However I stand by my thoughts that we should do everything possible in support of the team during a game. The protests should be pre or post match. I have been in touch with the bloke who had his flag stolen from him by the SPO's. He went to the club at 9am this morning to claim back his property. The club refused and told him that Head of Security John Handly would be in touch. As of 2pm today no one from the Villa has been in touch. I really am disturbed by this. SPO's are just that . . . SPO's. They have no right to steal and keep supporters possesions. Prohibited articles or weapons that would involve the Police then certainly . . . . but a flag without any vulgarity or swearing??? It is theft and should lead to a possible criminal offence. With regards to my complaint about the assault on my daughter at Saturdays game, the club have emailed me to say that in line with customer care charter that they will respond by 7th May. This meant that the man accused of assault was still in place as an SPO at last nights game (I saw him, although he had been moved to another area of the ground). I also have to defend the club on certain points. Randolph is owed about 120m by the club. He has put his money where his mouth is. Simply abusing him and telling him to go is not feasible. He has been great for this club other than not managing M'ON's spending and his ridiculous appointment of McMuppet. He can simply correct the ills with a sensible a proactive recruitment of a manager with potential. We must be clear. Randolph was and is the White Knight. There isn't another on the horizon about to spend the quarter of a billion that it would take to buy the club and Randolphs debt. The club have also been very charitable and humble with regards to the treatment of a close personal friend prior to him losing his battle with a terminal illness. The ban on protests is wrong. The choice of McMuppet was wrong. But imho opinion Randolph is the right custodian for this club for the forseeable future. However McMuppets imminent departure can not come a day too soon.
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25/04/2012 14:28:00

They're out of order. I went to a Juventus game a couple of seasons ago, and in hindsight, foolishly went in the middle of the hardcore Drughi ultras. The atmosphere was amazing - hundreds of flags, banners etc - but not a steward in sight (or police). I got into a situation when I was rumbled as being English, by a coked-up psycho, and it all kicked off, but luckily some higher ranking ultras stepped in, in the nick of time. The 'Support Prevent Officers' wouldn't stand a chance there and wouldn't be allowed to exist by the Ultras.
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25/04/2012 15:06:00

PS - We need to research the law behind the actual power of these SPO guys.
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25/04/2012 15:07:00

Shame about the Stewards, they used to be Villa fans and more interested in what was going on, on the pitch whilst obviously keeping the peace if need be. Voice, Randy may be a wolf in White Knight's clothing. Please remember that he has leant this money to the club and he will get it back sooner or later. His most criminal of offences that you missed off was continuing to employ the Ginger one. Was a mistake to employ him sure but a much bigger folly to think that he knows what he's doing and not rectify the mistake. He could change this all tomorrow or he could walk away and demand his money back ala the Russian at Pompey. Neither would suprise me.
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25/04/2012 15:19:00

This is an extract of stewards powers. What Stewards Are Allowed To Do Under English law (which will include Wales for these purposes) Stewards have no special powers but are able like anyone to have a power of arrest where: a breach of the peace is committed in their presence; the person effecting the arrest reasonably believes that such a breach will be committed in the immediate future by the person arrested, or; a breach of the peace has been committed or the person effecting the arrest reasonably believes that breach of the peace has occurred and that a further breach is threatened. A breach of the peace occurs whenever harm is actually done or is likely to be done to a person or, in their presence, to their property, or where a person is in fear of being harmed through an assault, affray, riot, unlawful assembly or other disturbance. Stewards have no legal power over and above anyone else to do more than is detailed above.
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25/04/2012 15:36:00

444 you are correct in that he should have corrected his McMuppet mistake. However in leadership you have to be strong and sometimes you have to do unpopular things for the overall good. Look at Manure. If they had capitulated to fan revolt Ferguson would have left the club after 3 years. Unfortunately we all know that McMuppet was the wrong man and will never be a success, Randolph is simply learning the hard way. I actually admire his support for the manager, but it is misguided imho. In truth we need a strong leader who doesn't bow to fan pressure. But McMuppet was simply a grave error. Also Randolph is here for the long haul, having recently spent over 1million buying a secluded farm estate in the Whittacre Heath area of Warwickshire.
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25/04/2012 15:42:00

I gotta say Voiceoftheholte....... "Assault" & "Akin to Syria" what have you been smoking??? This sort of behavior from the stewards has been ongoing for years and isnt just saved for when were doing *****e.............. Ive bitten my tongue over the bile you pour out over the years but this "Sensationalised Story" takes the ***** - I bet the club and the media are laughing there ********* off at it............ YOURE A C*NT !! rant over !
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25/04/2012 18:11:00

adbo9 all about opinions fella. But you know whare I sit fella. Come and say hello.
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25/04/2012 19:23:00

Just checked my spelling and asbo has a point. I must have been smoking!!! But asbo, come and join me for a chat at the Spurs game. And I think you maybe right, the club must be laughing at the fun of it all.
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25/04/2012 19:36:00

Albion Mcmuppet out flag day for the benefit of sky and all media sources Freedom of speech should never be restricted
Randy bollox
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25/04/2012 20:59:00

Sounds more like North Korea than Villa Park. A disgrace.
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26/04/2012 02:09:00

North Korea !!?! HAHA get a grip for *****s sake !
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26/04/2012 09:22:00

Not the point really is it Adbo9 the question is do you agree that these stewards should be able to take a banner with no bad language on off anyone ?. Love to have seen them trying that when it was all standing down the Holte .
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26/04/2012 12:17:00

Voice is on Radio WM tomorrow (27th April) at 11ish
The Fear
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26/04/2012 15:37:00


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