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Monday, 7 January, 2002, 11:38 GMT
Hammam's shame
BBC Sport Online profiles controversial Cardiff City owner Sam Hammam after his behaviour in the FA Cup tie against Leeds.
Hammam's walk around the pitch must be stopped
BBC Sport Online's chief football writer Phil McNulty believes controversial Cardiff owner Sam Hammam went one step too far during the stormy FA Cup tie against Leeds.

Sam Hammam has long been regarded as one of football's loveable eccentrics - the little guy who revels in rattling the big guns.

But Hammam is no longer a laughing matter after his disgraceful behaviour as his club Cardiff City disposed of Leeds United in the FA Cup third round.

It was a game that should have had the nation basking in everything that makes the competition the most glamorous club knock-out tournament in the world.

Premier League leaders visit lower league club. Lower league club knocks out Premier League leaders in front of hostile crowd.

In other words, all FA Cup life was there.

But the owner of one of the clubs crassly and irresponsibly - even if he claims unwittingly - inciting opposition fans in an atmosphere liberally laced with high tension and hostility is not part of the FA Cup's unique charm.


O'Leary argued with Hammam

Throw in an ejection of a BBC reporter after the game and a public spat with Leeds United manager David O'Leary in the car park, and you begin to get the idea.

Hammam has attracted idle curiosity before at Wimbledon, with his unusual habit of taking close order with his manager during the game and moving around the stadium while the match was in progress.

But he has always teetered on the brink of the bizarre and downright tasteless, not least with the occasional maverick contract clause for his new signings.

According to Cardiff's own website earlier this season, defender Spencer Prior had to have "a physical liaison with a sheep and eat sheep's testicles" as part of his 700,000 move from Manchester City.

Hammam, presumably, thought this was hilarious and in keeping with his image as a man of the people.

And during his tenure at Wimbledon, he threatened the "Crazy Gang" with a trip to the opera and the possibility of eating camel's brains if they conceded too many goals.

This can all be dismissed as Sam being Sam - but his shameful antics at Ninian Park cannot be taken so lightly.

He may own the club, but surely this does not give him the right to parade in front of opposition supporters as part of some supposed ritual.

Did he think this would amuse Leeds United fans?

Ridsdale stepped in
Ridsdale stepped in

Surely those in charge of safety and security at the game should have advised Hammam against this in the light of the combustible atmosphere inside the ground?

Or would they have received the same treatment as the BBC's Jonathan Overend?

Overend was forcibly expelled from the ground, and his recording of a conversation with Hammam confiscated.

His crime? Apparently interrupting Hammam in an attempt to turn the conversion away from his constant references to the English media.

Sympathy is usually in short supply for a Premier League manager when he has lost on a lower league ground.

But O'Leary had every right to question Hammam's shocking behaviour - especially as he has one of football's most mature and dignified chairmen in Peter Ridsdale.

The game's power brokers must act now to punish Hammam, and they can start by finding ways to halt his ridiculous, posturing march around the perimeter of the pitch.

Indeed, the police and others responsible for order inside Ninian Park should tell Hammam this is no longer acceptable.

And if he doesn't like it, he will be subject to the same strictures as everyone else in the ground.

It is sad such things should overshadow Cardiff's victory on a day when their team fully deserved their win, and the vast majority of their fans deserved to celebrate in style.

But those tempted to regard Sam Hammam as a harmless figure of fun should remember his bearing and behaviour at Ninian Park.

And realise he is not funny at all - and that he should be ashamed of his part in the ugly scenes at Cardiff.

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Cardiff chairman Sam Hammam
"It is common practice in the UK for fans to come onto the pitch"
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