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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 5 March, 2003, 14:44 GMT
Football club bans gas masks
The Riverside Stadium
Middlesbrough says the wearing of gas masks is provocative
Football fans who poke fun at supporters of Premiership team Middlesbrough by wearing gas masks at games have been banned because of fears over terrorist chemical attacks.

Some supporters, particularly from Sunderland and Newcastle United, have worn white chemical suits and dust masks over their faces in reference to smog created by Teesside's massive petro-chemical industry.

Middlesbrough fans have been labelled "Smoggies" by their Premiership rivals in north-east England.

Some rival suuporters have even worn gas masks for games at Middlesbrough's Riverside Stadium.

But the club, who face Newcastle United on Wednesday evening, have banned fans from wearing masks or chemical suits.

'Iincite crowd trouble'

Cleveland Police has supported the move, while stressing it is not an offence to wear a mask or suit.

A spokesman for Middlesbrough Football Club, said: "These suits can incite crowd trouble.

"Given the world situation we feel they are particularly inappropriate."

A Cleveland Police spokesman said: "Some fans have been known to attend Middlesbrough Football Club wearing white chemical suits and smog masks.

"It is felt to be both insensitive and intimidating to wear such outfits, particularly in the current international situation.

"The club has decided it will not let such people into the ground and we agree with them, but it is a matter for the club and its conditions for entry."

'Part of the banter'

Mark Jensen, editor of Newcastle United fanzine the Mag, accused Middlesbrough officials of lacking a sense of humour.

He said: "We sing 'What's it like to see the sun?' to them.

"I think all this must touch a bit of a raw nerve."

Sunderland fanzine editor Peter Daykin said donning chemical gear was just "part of the banter" between rival fans.

The Sex and Chocolate editor said: "It is certainly not insensitive - this has nothing to do with terrorism.

"But I can imagine it is insulting, that is the reason it is done."

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