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Pompey force John Portsmouth FC Westwood into silence

This is a story from the FSF archive – the FSF and SD merged to become the FSA in 2019.

Following advice from the local Safety Advisory Group (SAG) Portsmouth are threatening to silence their most famous fan, John Portsmouth Football Club Westwood (yes, that is his real name after he changed it by deed poll).

They blame John for hundreds of fans standing, citing his insistence on standing while playing with his bell and bugle (ooh matron!) as encouraging others to follow suit. You’d have thought Pompey have enough troubles at present without persecuting their own fans, but such is the power of the unelected SAG quango that they may be forced to do just that. What a sad state of affairs.

Last season John was moved to a ‘bandstand’ at the far end of the ground – the fans still stood. For the last two games John and friends have remained seated – as usual, hundreds behind him and in front of him have still stood. Yet the club have still written to him warning him to sit, or else.

“We want to make as much noise as possible in support of our Club,” says John. “Playing instruments sitting down is not an option and singing is far more natural standing up. After all you stand for hymns in church and for the National Anthem, even in football grounds.”

The irony is that Portsmouth’s council is lead by the Liberal Democrat who actually pledged to reintroduce safe-standing areas at football stadiums, should they be elected. As Liberal Democrat Shadow Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, Don Foster said: “This is a sensitive issue. But we cannot ignore the large numbers of fans who want to stand, and are doing so in seating areas, despite the existing regulations.”

SAGs are usually made up of representatives from the club, police, and council yet an SAG in a Liberal Democrat Council is using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. John isn’t the only fan standing, he’s one of hundreds, and many feel he’s just being targeted because of his profile.

It’s common knowledge among supporters that action is only taken against groups of fans when the numbers are manageable. Away supporters at Fratton Park often stand for the whole 90 minutes.

Of course standing in a specifically designed safe standing zone is different from standing in a seated area, which is one of the reasons we argue for safe standing areas to be introduced across the country. It’s not just that we feel people should be allowed to stand at football but those who choose to sit should also have this option without having their view blocked too. Everyone’s a winner.

Pompey fan and FSF National Council member Ken Malley is working with John, the club, and SAG to find a solution which will allow John to continue playing his instruments. Keep an eye on the FSF site for more. If we can help, we’ll be blowing our own trumpet.

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Funding partners

  • The Football Association
  • Premier Leage Fans Fund

Partners

  • Gamble Aware
  • Co-operatives UK
  • FSE
  • Kick It Out
  • Level Playing Field
  • Living Wage Foundation
  • SD Europe