|BACKING THE FACTION - JEFF THE REF SUPPORTS THE FANS
9th March 2012
I have been watching and supporting Boro for nearly half a century and during that time have enjoyed the highs and, more to the point, the lows of my hometown team.
Boro have always had a loyal band of supporters and we have enjoyed ourselves supporting the team we love, clocking up tens of thousands of miles in the process. Away games have always been the highlight and recent Boot Boy reunions have helped us recollect the tales of yore.
From the Boot Boys and Ayresome Angels to the present day Twe12th man and Red Faction we have always been known for our tremendous vocal support but things have changed over the generations.
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In the old day of the 60s, 70s and 80s, supporting your team was at times dangerous with violence being an integral part of any game. There was little or no segregation and without the police intelligence and stewarding that has evolved after the terrible tragedies of Hillsborough, Heysell and Valley Parade.
The introduction of all seater stadiums and much tighter crowd control meant that days at the match no longer involved battles and the crush of the terraces.
On a positive side though, whilst the atmosphere could be ugly it was always colourful and noisy and a far cry from the sterile stadiums that we now visit.
In recent years the Riverside has not been a place to enjoy yourself. Results and attendances have dictated that, but there has been the odd exception when a big game comes along and the stadium bounces. The European nights, the Carling Cup ties and most recently the FA Cup tie against the Mackems for example.
I have long championed the cause of the two current supporter's groups, different in so many ways yet sharing the same passion for supporting the Boro. Against Sunderland both ends of the ground were in unison and the sound of the drum beating and reverberating around the ground helped instigate the songs and in turn helped the team.
The next home game did not see the same. The Red Faction flag was upside down - a signal their members were not happy. The drum had been banned, the latest in a long running feud between the supporters and the club and its safety stewards.
I don't fully understand exactly what the total extent of the problems are but the fact that supporters choose to stand rather than sit is obviously a major issue. The Riverside, along with the Stadium Of Light, seem to be two of the few grounds that adhere strictly to the licensing requirements that all supporters must remain seated.
You only have to watch MOTD or any other televised game to see visiting supporters standing throughout the game and many home fans doing likewise. Why can't we have safe standing areas? We will never return to terraces that led to crushes and fatalities but surely common sense can prevail?
I hope that sooner rather than later an agreement between club and supporters can be reached to enable the Red Faction to continue to bring their colourful flags, banners, drums and their infectious support to the Riverside.
I, along with many others, would like to see them re-sited for the majority of games to behind the goal in the usually deserted South Stand. The visiting supporters could be placed in the corner. This would help the atmosphere and in so doing the team.
Wherever Boro's most vocal supporters are placed I hope that they grow in numbers and continue to be a major presence at the Riverside.
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