‘HOW often are we going to get treated like common hooligans’ It was a perfectly reasonable question from a perfectly reasonable Burnley shareholder and season ticket holder, but – more importantly – human being.
The query came in context during Monday’s night’s annual general meeting.
But even had it not been, everyone would have known the topic on the fan’s lips ... the regimental commute to the derby.
It is a sad indictment of flashpoints of previous fixtures that it has come to this. One in particular.
There were ugly scenes in Burnley town centre on Sunday December 17, 2000, after the Clarets had gone down 2-0 at home to Blackburn Rovers.
An ugly scene on the pitch was accused of sparking it, after Kevin Ball was sent off for an eye-wateringly high and dangerous challenge on David Dunn.
Emotions and tensions ran high in the 90 minutes, and spilled over afterwards as bottles, coins and traffic cones were thrown at police. Then when offenders were prevented from attacking coaches carrying Rovers fans, those vandals turned on the shops and trashed them, causing tens of thousands of pounds worth of damage.
There was looting, and 20 arrests, with 16 going on to face charges of public order offences.
Twelve years on, it remains fresh in the memory, particularly of the police, and the reason why away supporters can now only attend this famous feisty fixture if they travel en masse on official coaches direct from one ground to the other.
That has meant Burnley fans who live closer to Blackburn or Preston, for example, having to go miles out of their way, and vice versa, or not go at all.
Yet while this ‘bubble’ cuts out of the risk of trouble, it does not stop it completely.
During the Clarets’ Premier League season sets of rival fans planned a fight at a pub on the outskirts of Blackburn.
If someone wants trouble, they will find it.
Most people don’t, however. Yet it is the majority that are being ‘punished’ because of a few perpetrators of previous crimes. The ‘bubble’ doesn’t seem set to burst. But with the very real prospect that this derby will take place again next season (and perhaps for years to come – who knows?) then surely these restrictions cannot continue for the foreseeable future.
These measures aren’t needed for the Manchester or Merseyside derbies.
Even Cardiff and Bristol City have loosened the reins.
Perhaps familiarity doesn’t breed contempt after all.
Asked if the situation was under review, re-appointed Burnley director Clive Holt said: “It’s a real hot potato. Burnley and Blackburn is very intense, and regretfully some grown men disgrace themselves.
“It’s only a football match, albeit a very important one.
“It’s that minority that cause us all the problems.
“If everyone can control themselves, I’m sure the police would be more than happy to look at it.
“There were eight arrests in the last match, and if it stays at those levels a few more times, there are more reasons not to have all the bussing back and forwards.
“But there have been previous occasions where our fans broke windows in their own town – it’s a football match, we lost – I wasn’t happy either, but didn’t go round vandalising.
“Surely we are civilised?
“If we can prove that, things may change.”
If fans aren’t happy with the current arrangements – and so they shouldn’t be – it’s up to them to prove they can be changed.