Dunfermline Athletic

Statement from the Chairman

Wednesday, 12th Dec 2018

Statement from Ross McArthur, DAFC Chairman

It is both regrettable and, for me, very disappointing, that I have to issue this statement on behalf of the DAFC Board - particularly as it relates only to a very, very small minority of our supporters. Sadly, these so-called “supporters” are not only becoming increasingly divisive and seriously undermining the tremendous good work done by the majority within our fan base but have now crossed the line into the area of conduct which is wholly unacceptable. The club owes a duty of care to its employees, volunteers and other supporters and we need to ensure that this behaviour stops.

As I frequently acknowledge, the vast majority of our supporters are an absolute credit to our club. I would never take the loyalty and support of our fans for granted, but I am afraid that it appears that a minority of people who attend our matches are taking our club, our staff and the rest of our supporters for granted. That minority have crossed the line and appear to have no qualms about showing complete disrespect for the various people who represent our club in many different ways.

This is not an attempt to distract from the fact that so far this season, results are not what any of us would have hoped for and that supporters will feel disappointed and frustrated, as I do too. I fully accept that I, the Board and the Manager are all accountable for this. However, what I will not accept is the level of abuse affecting the families of our employees including those of the players, manager and me.

A number of events over the last couple of months, combined with earlier incidents and culminating at Firhill on Saturday, have brought this to a head – so, quite simply, enough is enough. As Chairman of our club, I will not stand for any of our employees being abused (on or off the field) by a small section of our own supporters, as I have a responsibility to all of our staff. I am not talking about anonymous postings online, I am talking about verbal abuse and worse at our matches. I read a journalist’s comments with interest on Monday, when he stated there appears to be a culture within a minority of some spectators think football players or staff have a contractual obligation to accept nasty personal abuse that would not be tolerated in an office, shop or factory.

The reason for this public statement is to give our loyal fan base a flavour of what has been taking place and to appeal to them for their help in bringing about an end to this very unwelcome behaviour. I would like respectfully to ask for your help to bring these people to account as we do not want, at our Community Club, people who think it is acceptable to abuse any of our employees or volunteers. I know it can be difficult for fans to “self-police” the crowd, so we have also been working closely with our Safety Team and stewards to be more focussed in our attempts to identify people who overstep the mark in terms of abuse and antisocial behaviour.

By issuing this statement, I will undoubtedly receive further personal criticism from some, but recent events have now made the situation untenable. These instances of unacceptable behaviour have also been witnessed by other staff, sponsors, potential sponsors, other clubs, their players and their staff together with representatives from the SFA and the SPFL. Not only do they portray our club in a very poor light, but they might now cost us future investment and staff.

Our Board, the numerous other hard working and thoroughly decent people who volunteer together with our dedicated and loyal staff have kept this club functioning over the last few years. The very existence of our club continues to depend on their goodwill. In addition, the fantastic support we receive from the majority of our supporters via season tickets, donations and our Centenary Club Lifeline provides us with invaluable income streams which is a lifesaver for our club. Those people who are quick to criticise or abuse others appear neither to care, nor to have any awareness of how galling it is for so many other people and their families who keep our club running, to see their good work being seriously undermined by unnecessary, divisive and abusive behaviour. It is one thing having to hear the negativity, but I also have to deal with the consequences of the actions of these people, which takes up yet more valuable time which could be better spent on other club matters.

There are, thankfully, a great many genuine supporters who have the club’s best interests at heart and are probably as sickened as I am by the abuse from, and the behaviour of, the minority. Irrespective of anyone’s view of the Chairman, the Manager or a particular player, would it not be better for that minority to put their energy, assuming they are genuine supporters, into encouraging the team if we are going to move our club forward?

I am as frustrated as any other fan when we are not getting results or underachieving, but that is life and when these things happen you need to work even harder and remain resilient so as to deal with the adversity. It appears that some people can now deal only with success – and success that comes immediately - and if their expectations are not met, they will look for someone to blame or insult. We all care passionately about our team, but we need to channel our emotion in the right manner, to stay positive and have the ability to keep things in perspective. Undoubtedly, the majority of our supporters understand this, and I have no wish to criticise or patronise them.

I have to be very guarded about the detail I can provide publicly about specific incidents, as I do not want to prejudice any further investigations and I certainly do not want to provide any sensitive information or names of our staff. Furthermore, I don’t want to give the perpetrators any form of credibility, or a platform from which to repeat their actions – in the mistaken belief that they have sparked a reaction from me, on behalf of our club.

Sadly, there has been a number of recent instances where several of our own players, the manager, the coaching staff and the directors have been routinely abused by our own supporters. It has also now spread to abusing our families too. The behaviour of a handful of people in the Dunfermline end at Firhill on Saturday was nothing less than disgraceful – and a huge embarrassment to the club. Again, I reiterate it was only a minority.

As a football player, receiving stick (unless it oversteps the mark as we saw last season and elsewhere in recent weeks) from the opposition’s fans is usually a back-handed compliment, as it means that you are seen as a threat. However, receiving continued and concerted abuse from your own supporters is counterproductive and completely unacceptable and this victimisation and bullying will not be tolerated.

A few weeks ago the family of one of our players was sent an abusive video message by a “supporter” during a match. His family managed to prevent the player from seeing it, but nevertheless his family have seen it, and have questioned whether he should remain at our club. If his family had not deleted the video, this would now be an ongoing matter for Police Scotland.
On Saturday, there were various unsavoury incidents reported (including a steward being taken to hospital) but the worst was when the girlfriend and the sister of one of our players targeted as they left Firhill, with younger male supporters verbally abusing them in their faces, with one of them having to be physically restrained from getting to the girls.

These latest incidents follow previous instances of our office staff being intimidated and insulted, the Ticket Office and Shop staff (and volunteers) being abused and our young Ball Boys/Girls also being insulted. In addition, as a footnote, at two of our recent home games some “fans” thought it would be really clever to plug the drains in the toilet sinks in Legends, with paper towels, and leave the water taps on, so that it flooded downstairs to our newly refurbished lounges and reception area. A window at our reception area was also kicked in after a home game.

I would urge people to remember that depression and mental health problems are most prevalent within young males in this country, and clearly our club’s core staff fall within this “at risk” category. The club has tried to help our players, with further education, touch points and various forms of support but abusing a player or other member of staff simply undermines our club’s efforts on this front. Football is a particularly uncertain and fickle industry, giving rise to many challenges for young players. They need our support at all times, not just when they are playing well, and East End Park needs to be a positive environment for them to develop. The players representing our club are not overpaid superstars, but honest young men trying their best.

Football is a hugely emotional game, but everyone has to think very carefully about the consequences of their actions. Harming our club, its staff or its property is surely counter-productive, in anyone’s eyes, is it not? We all need to work together to remove this culture exhibited by this minority both from our stadium and when visiting other clubs, by a combination of increased peer pressure, more robust stewarding and education.

The rules relating to Unacceptable Conduct are very well known and understood. Anyone behaving in such a manner will be ejected from East End Park, as it will not be tolerated. Where the behaviour warrants it, the club will not hesitate to involve Police Scotland.

I am genuinely sorry for our true supporters that they have to read about, and suffer the consequences of, the behaviour of a minority, and I certainly would not tar them with the same brush.

Ross McArthur

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