Last Sunday’s 5-0 Manchester City victory against Sunderland guaranteed a happy weekend for the vast majority of Blues fans. The club had strengthened its position in the Champions League places and even, for the more optimistic supporter, kept alive their title challenge.
However, one young fan left the City of Manchester Stadium feeling more than a little disgruntled after being thrown out for smoking – despite the fact he claims never to have smoked a single cigarette in his life.
17-year-old Alex Blood has been a season ticket holder since City’s Maine Road days and now sits in the East Stand. He was at last weekend’s Premier League fixture with his dad when, just after half-time, stewards approached Alex and accused him of smoking in the ground – he was then ejected from the stadium for breaking ground rules.
But Alex says this is a bad case of mistaken identity and accuses the club of arrogance in its refusal to listen to his case. He has now been banned for three matches, meaning Alex won’t see another home Premier League fixture this season and loses out on three games he’s already paid to see.
Five minutes before half-time Alex’s dad, who sits next to him, decided to head downstairs to beat the queue for a pint, Alex said he’d follow down once the first-half was over. A few minutes later the referee blew his whistle and Alex headed down to meet his dad, via a visit to the toilets. After that father and son stood chatting for five minutes before Alex saw a few of his other mates who sit elsewhere in the stand. His dad had left for the start of the second-half.
“I even offered to take a medical to see if there’s nicotine in my blood”
“Five minutes into the second-half me and two mates were stood in the concourse talking. Most people had cleared off – there was only a few about. Between five and seven stewards approached us, including a female steward who was shaking like a leaf, and said: ‘All right lads, show us your tickets and come with us – you’ve all been seen smoking.’
“We got kicked out of the stadium although I didn’t kick up a fuss as I knew I couldn’t win at that point and didn’t want any mither. So I emailed Peter Fletcher (City’s stadium and safety manager) who was no help and didn’t acknowledge my points at all, I thought that was arrogant. He wouldn’t admit they’d made a mistake and I even offered to take a medical to see if there was nicotine in my blood – I don’t smoke.”
Alex claims that Peter Fletcher also informed him that the stewards who had “saw” him smoking were different from those who kicked him out. City told Alex the stewards who reported the incident originally were dealing with “a separate matter”. Alex rightly points out that this opens the door to the possibility of mistaken identity.
“I know one of my mates definitely wouldn’t smoke, he’d never touch a cigarette ‘cos he wants to make it as a pro – he plays semi-pro in the Lancashire leagues now against people like Blackpool Reserves. The other one is a smoker but I’ve asked him if he was smoking anywhere and he says he wasn’t either.” Of course Alex wasn’t with his friends for the entirety of half-time but he’s adamant they did not smoke in his company.
The club wrote to him informing him of the ban – only for Alex’s mum to intercept the letter and open it before he got home from work. “It was worse getting a bollocking off my mum than City! I hadn’t told her about it and she said ‘So you smoke now, then?’ I explained it all to her and she believes me now though. I can always get back in City one day but once my mum kicks me out that’s it!”
Alex’s case has also grabbed the attention of City fans online with a thread on fans’ forum Blue Moon receiving more than 300 replies and 11,000 page views as of Friday 8th April. Within that thread are plenty more accusations of heavy-handed stewarding which has alienated a significant number of fans.
Earlier this season one fan was thrown out of the stadium for kicking a ball that a Reading player had hit into the crowd during the warm-up. Fellow supporters have also set up a Facebook group titled “Give Alex Blood his season ticket back” which has almost 200 members.
The FSF contacted Manchester City to discuss this case but the club were not willing to comment at present.
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