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Page last updated at 15:34 GMT, Thursday, 23 September 2010 16:34 UK
Bradford City FC fails to attract Asian football fans

Bradford City sign at Valley Parade
Bradford City Football Club is said to attract few Asian fans to the ground

Some of Bradford's Asian football fans would much rather support teams such as Manchester United and Liverpool instead of the home club, despite it introducing a number of initiatives to get Asian soccer fans through the turnstiles.

Bradford City FC's joint chairman Mark Lorn told the BBC's Asian Network he was mystified as to why he could not get more Asians into his team's 25,000-seater stadium at Valley Parade.

He said: "There is no violence or racism on our terraces and racism in general has been stamped out in the game as a whole.

"We would not tolerate any form of discrimination and in fact we are positively trying to encourage more Asian supporters.

"We have a dedicated room where people can go to pray, and we think we even invented the chicken tikka pie which is on sale at our ground as an alternative to the traditional meat pie.

Youth focus

"In some seats it's cheaper for a family to watch Bradford City on a Saturday afternoon than taking them for a burger."

In the mid-1990s Bradford enjoyed two seasons in the Premiership and attendances at the ground were increasing every week.

The club is the only professional outfit with an Asian first team captain, yet still it struggles to attract large numbers of Asian fans.

Teenagers Imran and Ali live just 100m from Valley Parade but they are die-hard Manchester United supporters.

The club could have scouts going to Mirpur saying, 'We're searching for a star'
Aurungzeb Iqbal

Imran, who has never been to a Bradford City match, said: "Why should we support Bradford City when they're rubbish? We will support our city but not the team and all my friends think the same."

Ali has seen a game at Valley Parade but he said he still wouldn't support the home team.

"The only time I would go into the ground to watch the team is if they gave out free tickets, but I would go to Old Trafford any day if I could afford it, their team is much much better".

Former Bradford solicitor Aurungzeb Iqbal, who set up Bradford City's now-defunct Asian supporters club, said more must be done to get Asian youngsters on to the terraces.

'Neglected' community

The vast majority of people living around Bradford City's Valley Parade ground are of Asian origin but Aurungzeb said few venture through the turnstiles to watch the Bantams in action.

He said he believed it was time to get to the root of the problem.

"For 40 years, I believe the Asian community has been neglected by football clubs, not just here but in other towns and cities too," he said.

Valley Parade ground
The majority of people living close to Valley Parade are of Asian origin

"If you go into Bradford into any mosque between the hours of, say, five and seven o'clock, they are full of kids. They're able to attract them.

"We need to get parents and imams to Valley Parade, not just for the football matches but coming in to see the facilities and to slowly win them over.

"Once those parents start bringing their kids in, and once you've got the imams on side, then you will have the numbers coming through."

He added: "People living in Bradford are from one region of Pakistan.

"The club could have scouts going to Mirpur saying, 'We're searching for a star'. Or they could take a small squad to hold friendly games there.

Turning point

"It would encourage youngsters to come and watch Bradford City."

But Zesh Rehman, now in his second season as Bradford City's first team captain and who also plays for Pakistan, said he believed that the club might now be at a turning point.

He agreed the problem of attracting people from the city's Asian community was a generational one - but said it could turn to the Bantams' advantage.

"The first generation that came over had no love for football. The second generation got involved in the game a little bit," he said.

"Now, obviously, the third generation - like me - can hopefully inspire the next generation.

"I believe they will be the real difference-makers: the kids who are born here to parents who were born here."

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