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Last Updated: Friday, 15 October, 2004, 14:57 GMT 15:57 UK
Fans fight for 'kop'

By Brady Haran
BBC iCan reporter

Andy Nixon and the North Stand

For Mansfield Town fans, Saturday's derby against Notts County may be the biggest game of the season.

But whatever the result, the day will be tinged with disappointment for Stags fans because opposition supporters will be sitting in the North Stand.

The traditional "kop" for the Stags was reassigned to away supporters at the start of this season.

Away fans had previously been seated in the South Stand at the Quarry Lane End.

Police and safety officials say the move was made to improve safety outside the ground.

North Stand

But Stags fans insist the move has had the opposite effect, making the ground more dangerous.

They say home fans making their way into town to catch buses and trains are now more likely to clash with away fans.

Life-long Mansfield supporter, Andy Nixon, said: "If Mansfield fans are coming face-to-face with away fans, it increases the chances of trouble starting."

Mr Nixon has put his campaign to "reclaim" the North Stand on the BBC's iCan website.

Stags Supporters Association (SSA) chairman Dean Foulkes said: "On safety grounds we are worse off."

Some fans were staying away from games because they felt less safe, he said.

We don't want any protests other than peaceful protests
Dean Foulkes

Mansfield's matchday safety officer, John Rutherford, said the club had made the change "reluctantly" after a request from the police.

Nottinghamshire Police said they were happy with the change and there were relatively few problems when Mansfield played Lincoln City in an East Midlands derby earlier this month.

In a statement, the force said: "Last season, incidents of football-related violence were a real problem, and not just at key matches.

"Already we have seen positive change - at the recent Lincoln match, no arrests were made outside the grounds compared to the same event last year when two pubs were trashed and 15 people were arrested in Mansfield town centre.

"Although the move broke with tradition, it has created more of a family atmosphere at the stadium."

Members urged

The safety measures would face a sterner test on Saturday when the Stags played fierce rivals Notts County, but police said they were confident there would be few problems.

Regardless, the SSA urged its 1,200 members not to take matters into their own hands.

Mr Foulkes said: "Nobody wants any trouble... we don't want any protests other than peaceful protests."

He said Stags fans would not have objected to losing the North Stand if safety had been improved.

The issue will be raised at next month's meeting of the club's safety advisory group, and Mr Foulkes hoped fans would be returned to the North Stand next season.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
The BBC's Brady Haran
"Tradition was turned on its head this year"



SEE ALSO:
Hooligans warned over derby game
11 Feb 03  |  England


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