Sing up if you love Reading…but don’t stand up!

Reading PodJockey Westie reflects on the attempts
of Reading fans to enhance the atmosphere at the Madejski.

the last few weeks a Reading Fan, Dan Maskell contacted my show, ‘The Reading Football FanCast’ and
asked if I could help him to create a singing area at the Madejski stadium. We
organized it for the home game against Sheffield United and this is his account
of the day.

“The Biscuit Boys’ plans were finally realised on the evening of Good Friday
with mixed results. The experiment was a success in as such that we got a group
of strangers together with one common interest, to support the team for ninety
minutes. However the way in which our group was rather unfairly treated by the
safety stewards was a real dampener on the evening’s events. With hindsight it
is also apparent that we upset a number of supporters who enjoy the more
relaxed atmosphere of the upper west stand.

I took to my seat in GU1 as the teams entered the field of play for kick-off. I
was delighted to see and hear a decent number of Biscuit Boys in attendance
clearly intent on making this an evening to remember. As the match started our
support was vocal and the more regular West Standers seemed to be enjoying the
atmosphere we were creating. Within five minutes of us standing up and creating
a positive amount of noise for our small numbers, response stewards (orange coats) had been dispatched to GU1
by their supervisors. Instantly all those standing in GU1 were ordered to sit
down. Some people obeyed these orders more than others and we were left with a
hardcore group of twenty-odd people intent on continuing the enjoyable
atmosphere. As we continued to offer our support to the team I felt a hand on
my shoulder shaking me and trying to force me into my seat. I instantly turned
around to face the perpetrator, which to my surprise was a response steward. He
asked me to sit down, I remonstrated with him that seeing as I was in the back
row and blocking nobodies view I was not causing a problem. The steward then
told me that I was on my second warning to sit down and my behaviour would not
be tolerated. I was shocked and amazed how I was on my second warning as this
was the first conversation and dialogue I’d had with a steward this season, let
alone that evening. I offered this opinion to the steward and I was again informed
my behaviour would not be tolerated and persistent standing may result in
ejection from the stadium.

The group continued in our support for the team and stood to sing songs and at
times of excitement. This is where a game of cat and mouse started between us
and the stewards. We would stand to sing our encouragement, they would yell “Gentlemen, please sit down!”. We would
then sit down and given a few moments start our chanting and standing again. At
this point our group began to take objections to our treatment. What made the
situation a whole lot harder to understand was that a group of Sheffield United
supporters, similar in numbers to ours were persistently standing in the back
rows of the south stand. When we explained this observation to a response
steward and were informed that actions were being taken to control the
situation in the south stand and measures were being taken. We could only see
one steward at the back of the south stand and he was clearly not in any such
dialogue with the away supporters.

Half time came and I remained in my seat rather than visit the concourse. Upon
individuals return to the group comments were made and it was clear that some
families were angered by our language. I understand that one family in
particular took great exception to our use of language and demanded to be
seated elsewhere in the stadium or receive a refund on their match tickets. The
language used for the ninety minutes was no different to that heard at football
stadiums throughout the UK and any such abuse was not directed at anyone
personally. This was purely football speak and banter that is to be fully
expected at any such football fixture. At this point it should also be mention
that many west stand regulars congratulated members of our group during the
interval in creating such an enjoyable atmosphere.

The second half followed very much the same pattern of 100% passion and effort
from the Biscuit Boys to back the team. We were again stood over by response
stewards and the cat and mouse game restarted and the cycle of standing up,
being asked to sit down and then standing up again for a new chant continued.
Once again every time we were asked to sit down we pointed out that the
Sheffield United fans were standing and no effort was being made to stop them.
We then proceeded to protest by means of chanting and pointing out the away
fans to the stewards to make out point. But this was ignored.

Towards the end of the game people around us started to leave the match early.
As much as they are entitled to come and go as they please a chant started up
surmising that if you leave early you are “gay”. Again we were apprehended by
stewards asking us to stop this chant as it was homophobic. Fair enough this
could be misconstrued as a homophobic reference but it was more a childish,
playground dig at others for seemingly deserting the team.

Upon exiting the stadium bowl and entering the concourse our group was met by a
group of stewards and the inevitable discussions took place as to our behaviour
inside the stadium. Each side put across their views and opinions but this was
not the most productive environment for such a dialogue because of the highly
charged atmosphere. I would very much like to continue this dialogue in a more
suitable environment and will try to initiate such actions.”

Article title: Sing up if you love Reading…but don’t stand up!

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