Copy of letter sent to Jack Straw today and cc'd to the following:
Charles Clarke - junior home office minister
Lord Tom McNally - helped during Murdoch
Lord Alf Morris - helped during Murdoch
Lord Basham - minister responsible for football hooligans ( I kid you not)
Bev Hughes MP for Stretford
Rt Hon. Jack Straw
50 Queen Anne's Gate
Dear Mr Straw
I wish to express severe reservations about your proposals to stop fans travelling to overseas fixtures. Whilst I accept your desire to be seen to be taking some action I believe that the safeguards for innocent supporters to be wholly inadequate and find it hard to understand why you made no attempt to discuss the matter with supporters' organisations prior to making your announcement.
Knee-jerk legislation will not achieve a solution, instead a more fundamental approach is needed to tackle the issue and this cannot be done without proper consultation with fans' groups. Innocent football fans have been wrongfully arrested and identified in the past whilst so called 'known troublemakers' have evaded the authorities.
As representatives of fans who regularly travel abroad for matches we have an understanding and experience of the issues at ground level as do the FSA and other supporters' organisations yet we are rarely consulted. When we take action independently we invariably are blocked or discouraged, yet it is us who suffer more than any others from the appalling treatment meted out by police and football authorities in other EU states.
IMUSA have presented a report on the experience of United fans at European games every season for the last five seasons and despite a wide circulation it has been ignored by UEFA, Government and Manchester United.
Last season Manchester United played Marseille in a Champions' League fixture and in the light of the troubles at France 98 our organisation proposed a goodwill visit in advance of the game. Contact was made with the British Consul, the local press as well as Manchester United and the relevant Government departments apart from the British Consul nobody was interested in assisting us in our endeavours.
It was most disturbing to hear Lord Basham use the forthcoming European football season involving domestic teams as one of the reasons for rushing through this legislation as English teams have been playing European fixtures for sometime now with little if any trouble at all. If this is so pressing then why has your department not sought comment from fans' groups earlier?
I urge you to suspend this current legislative process to allow time for consultation to take place before innocent citizens are criminalised on the word of a police officer.