Often Partisan

True Faith, The FSF and The Brugge Experience

Blues fans were angered today by an article written on the website of the Football Supporters’ Federation about Newcastle United’s trip to Brugge in the Europa League. The article, which bemoaned the Belgian set-up had a line in its second paragraph slating the actions of Birmingham City fans in the previous year.

I have to admit, I was incensed when I read this article. It’s not so much that it’s criticism of Blues fans that annoyed me – after all, if it’s justified then we should expect it – but the fact is it was absolutely baseless and unfair. As someone who travelled to Brugge last year I can honestly say that I thought we were incredibly well received by the Belgians. In a piece I wrote myself a couple of days later I titled it with how proud I was to be a Bluenose.

I can’t have been that mistaken either as the official Blues site had this quote regarding the game:

Club Brugge officials and the police had words of praise for the 5,400 Bluenoses who attended the game – not only for their passionate singing throughout the match, but also for their behaviour whilst enjoying themselves in the historic city.

Hardly a “dismal experience”.

When contacted for a quote with respect to the article, the FSF said:

The FSF occasionally runs comment pieces on our website and it was made clear at the top of the article that these were the views of True Faith’s editor Michael Martin and not the FSF.

He’s entitled to those views which are based on his experiences of dealing with the authorities, clubs and police. Similarly Birmingham City fans are equally entitled to strongly disagree with those views.

“The FSF exists to defend the rights of fans, yes, but we also exist to give fans a platform to discuss, debate and sometimes disagree with each other. That’s a healthy thing.”

I have also asked Michael Martin of “True Faith” who wrote the article to comment but I have yet to receive a reply. However, it’s worth noting that on 7 November their twitter account, which has the name “Gareth Harrison” attached to it claimed:

Things i’ve learned drom Bruges #1 – brummies are all horrible c*nts that are never welcome back

(the spelling mistakes are theirs, I’ve asterisked the swear word)

In a tweet made tonight he’s gone on to state he formed the opinion on Blues fans based on a conversation with one Belgian kid.

Birmingham City fans have had a reputation in the past – and I’m sorry to say not an unearned one – for being loutish. Whilst I could hardly pretend that that is no longer completely the case the fact is the vast majority of Blues fans are well-behaved, even if they do like a pint or three and a singsong on away trips. It sticks in my craw that a website which is devoted to improving the image of football fans and the governance of football in general will allow such a baseless accusation against a club that falls within their remit. Whilst I can accept the disclaimer that the views are not theirs I think they have an editorial responsibility and it would have been easy to ask someone (they have contacted me before for instance) to check facts or for a comment.

It also annoys me because the piece goes on about how Brugge was poor in its organisation for Newcastle fans… it’s almost as if they are blaming their own problems on us. I’m sure our visit wasn’t 100 percent perfect but I don’t recall Blues fans having those kinds of problems – was it the fault of the Newcastle fans? I wasn’t there and don’t know anyone who was there so I must have the good grace not to throw around an accusation like that at them.

I understand that PR and Social Media manager at BCFC Andy Walker is looking into it and I wonder if the club will ask for a retraction or a right to reply with respect to the piece.

The last comment I got from the FSF was:

If Often Partisan would like to write an article for the FSF which outlines your own experiences in Belgium and explains why the assumptions made were wrong we can publish that too so long as it’s something that will be of interest to football fans generally.”

I’d like to open that out to the readers here. If people have something they’d like to write please email it to me and I’ll pass it on to the FSF for you – alternatively you can contact them direct here.

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31 Responses to “True Faith, The FSF and The Brugge Experience”

  • JBadham says:

    What an awful piece of journalism, unless he was after a reaction?

  • Ebeneezer says:

    If that really was the case, wouldn’t belgian officials gone public with it? I wasn’t there, but an extra 5400 or so spending money in the city sounds welcome to me, and they sang a few songs in the town square, well big flippin deal. Belgians have seen far worse invasions, BCFC fans were the peaceful type. The sources for the FSF Are extremeley questionable, and they should also look at hiring new writers, the ones they have currentley all seem like proper wankers, who couldnt get a writing job anywhere else!

  • John says:

    Why would the people of Brugge enjoy having over 5,000 English football fans drinking, causing a mess and making lots of noise on there doorstep? Yes we had a great time and made friends along the way but i can see there point. If it wasn’t the case then why offer so little tickets to Newcastle, last year would have taught them that they could’ve sold out the stadium if they wanted to.

  • Paul Carter - The Voice Of Reason says:

    The standout feature of our Europa campaign was the behaviour of our fans. Although the press were building up our trips (especially Brugges) as a hoolie fest absolutely nothing happened and I was at all 4. Considering some of the faces out and about on em they were a great success. I can’t stand these ‘all together’ football fans organisations and now they want us to write em an article.

    Do one.

    • Kaje says:

      I’m not sure you have any idea as to what the FSF do.

      They’re not trying to unite all fans into being loved up generic supporters who hug each other at games and have a soft spot for their local rivals.

      They’re an organisation who try to get feedback from fans about how their clubs/leagues treat them and then aim to offer a sounding platform to change that. Look at their campaigns for safe standing areas to improve atmosphere etc.

      They’re not there to unite all fans as one, they’re there to help fans embrace their differences but campaign for fair treatment.

  • Chris Smith says:

    So a lot of Newcastle fans booked the trip before ticketing and couldn’t go to the match after all? That’s their own fault.


  • Jay Sidney says:

    It sounds as though the FSF has taken leave of its senses and decided the unsupported word of a semi-literate ignoramus calling himself “Gareth Harrison” is good coin.

    The Harrison character sounds as though he may need professional help and shame on the people inside the FSF (itself normally an organisation which actually tries to do a little for football supporters of all clubs) who allowed this to happen.

  • Jay Sidney says:

    Almajir. I’m a bit out of the loop these days but is Steve Beauchampe (who I believe is a Blues fan) anything to do with the FSF?

    If so, he needs to speak up here.

    • Paul Carter - The Voice Of Reason says:

      There’s a name from the past.

      I last saw Steve, him of the straggly hair, at a forum alongside Adrain Goldberg concerned with uniting West Midlands football fans. I had gone along to voice my stern disapproval of the idea and to urge all fans to stay divided as that is the essence of football. Plus I hate the filth.

      The power of my argument won the day as there was certainly no unity shown at the meeting. Almost violence lol. A well meaning chap Steve but I aint seen him at a game for years. I hope he is well.

      • Paul Carter - The Voice Of Reason says:

        Ooops should have added he’s Blues through and through.

      • SteveBCFC says:

        you almost sound proud of nearly causing a fight nothing to be proud of scum

        • Paul Carter - The Voice Of Reason says:

          Grow up Steve

          Where on earht does it say the (almost) violence was anything to do with me.

          Do you feel powerful now Steve that you called me scum? Admit it you do don’t you xx

          Bet you’re not going today either.

          • SteveBCFC says:

            season ticket holder in tilton only missed ten home games in nearly forty years so yes will be there will you? you sounded proud with strength of argument wording.

      • Mike says:

        I could be wrong – I could be – but I don’t think that by trying to encourage fans of different clubs to treat each other with respect, such forums and organisations are surreptitiously attempting to erode football’s spirit of competition. I could be wrong. I also don’t think that the phrase ‘stay divided’ is at all helpful; it’s rather strong and when not qualified at all suggests that you’d like to see literally no association or common ground between fans of different clubs. Which is stupid. I could be wrong.

        I also don’t think that division between sets of people is at all the ‘essence of football’, as you call it, even in a general sense. Obviously you need competing teams with the sets of fans that are their corollary to have a match, and it’s not like I’d like to see competition and healthy rivalry destroyed. But I don’t see it as the essence of football, it’s just the way competition works. Competition’s significant but I don’t go along every other week because I want to be on the opposing side to some set of fans I don’t know. I’m in it because I want to watch my team. Not because I want to yell at another. I think an attitude that prioritises being opposed to others instead of not really giving a toss is stupid, takes the sport too seriously, and may be quite damaging.

        I could be wrong. I’ve been wrong before.

  • Mark says:

    I was there and I touched and apart from hard partying where of course it got rather noisey on the night prior to the game it was largely a case the next day of all of us in the square nursing hangovers, hair of the dog drinking and plenty of fun in the square. Fair enough there was an awful lot of cans to tidy up after.

    I have since hooked up with Brugge fans on twitter and even facebook such is the mutual respect of the whole two legged experience.

    I find it disgusting for a group of northern thugs who are no strangers to drink fuelled ‘PARTYING’ to see them trying to run down us Brummies.

    I shall of course endeavour to ask my contacts from Brugge to add their support to our claims.

  • Kaje says:

    The little boy who wrote the article has no place writing anything to be read by civilised and, more importantly, mature people.

    He should perhaps stick to playground tittle-tattle and, once he’s passed the breast feeding stage, ask a teacher or two for some advice on how to properly structure an essay or article as well as research facts as opposed to the opinions of a single person.

    • Paul Carter - The Voice Of Reason says:

      Bet he’s older than you though.

      15 aintcha?

      • Kaje says:

        We’ve mentioned this before, and if I was 15 I’d still be older than you, but alas I’m much older. Would love to be 15 again without having to have a mortgage or bills, but unfortunately it comes to us all in the end.

        You’d have some sterling views if you respected the opinions of others, by the way. Your attitude is simply awful and it detracts from some usually positive comments.

        • Paul Carter - The Voice Of Reason says:

          I was only having a play mate

          I do like reading your comments

          • James Black says:

            I’ve had differences with Paul but on the whole i believe Paul is not thoughtless and would go as far as to say he stepped out of being totally pessimistic to being one of the more optimistic and positive commenters here. He hasn’t jumped on the Sack Lee Clarke bandwagon and i think your possibly being a little harsh on him. Now wheres my pint Paul.

          • Kaje says:

            Fair play, bud! We’re all good! :)

  • DoctorD says:

    “It seems…the authorities in Bruges experienced the same anxiety felt by many others at the prospect of an invasion of thousands of football supporters from the North East of England. Maybe their fears were justified. After all, Bruges by accounts had a pretty dismal experience of Birmingham City supporters in the same competition twelve months ago.”

    “It seems” is a classic cop-out — the author of the piece is clearly just guessing what “the authorities” were thinking.

    As for “by accounts”, well what accounts precisely apart from the one person he spoke to? Again, pretty thin speculation.

    I could quite easily ignore this piece, but not because it’s from a site that’s supposed to be backing football fans.

  • Taz says:

    Like most Bluenoses, I was slightly miffed at these comments so, on Friday I completed the “contact” form and sent the following comments to FSF.

    “I fail to see how you can justify the comment that “Bruges had a pretty dismal experience of Birmingham City supporters” when ALL reports coming from Bruges, both before and after the game, where of a mutually positive nature, with both sides declaring it to be a very pleasant football experience. Maybe you should re-check your sources or, do you just find it easier to perpetuate and repeat unfounded myths about clubs you obviously know little about?”

    I received the following response:
    “Hi Chris,

    We’ve received a number of similar comments from Birmingham fans on Twitter regarding the article, and as we have mentioned on there, albeit under the constraints of 140 characters, we feel it’s right to let the author (Michael Martin of the True Faith fanzine – @truefaith1892) reply to those comments and concerns, as the article was his experience and understanding of the problems faced by Newcastle.

    We can’t speak for him as to what reports he has heard and from whom regarding Birmingham’s trip to Brugge the previous year, but we have made him aware of Birmingham fans’ concerns and comments.


    Garreth Cummins
    International Officer
    The Football Supporters’ Federation”

    I will leave you to make up your own mind about Garreth’s response.

  • Paul Carter - The Voice Of Reason says:

    It’s a cop out

    OK it’s the authors opinion and not the FSF but they don’t seem to have a problem with their decision to publish

  • Trevor Honnor says:

    I can tell you that I know a Newcastle supporter who went there. We nickname him ‘Geordie’ because that is just pure genius :o)

    He asked me about the trip to Brugge last season. I never went myself but I heard nothing but glowing reports regarding both sets of fans and the whole experience in and around the town.

    Geordie went there without a ticket and ended up watching it on a TV with hundreds of other Geordies in a pub. He also said it was an amazing experience, that he’s glad he did.

    I can only presume that one person has moaned about something from last year and had his moaning published for a large audience.

    The truth is both sets of fans have done the English reputation in Europe a lot of good.

  • Paulo says:

    I read this yesterday and I was simply astounded that The FSF published it in the way they did, therefor promoting it (on their website) and took no responsibility for it. I posed this question to them, and my reply from them was simply a link to a FB column where they had added the reply to all. It’s quite narrow minded to print something without proof or a reason for concern, let alone not do any research themselves. This simply invites false accusations and a lack of subject knowledge. I like to think that of our Europa involvement, Club Brugge was by far the most memorable and admired by nearly all Birmingham City fans.
    If we were to have the chance to play them again, in any way, it would sell out, and the fact that many of those I know are still asking for the Brugge – Birmingham friendship scarf ..to this day, is a testament in itself.
    In my opinion, I think BCFC were the biggest underdog in our group anyway, and playing in Europe was a once in a lifetime experience for many. I doubt CH will ever forget it either. As for Brugge, they are a big club and have a proud history, and it was an honour to join in the 23rd minute applause with them.

  • Ben-Fre says:

    Coventry away in the cup ,was better than Brugge personally Ben-Fre KRO

  • bluearmyfaction says:

    I note the FSF still haven’t published an article in response – is that still going ahead?

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