YORK City fans group Jorvik Reds have had to call off plans for a spectacular show of support at today’s FA Cup home tie against Mansfield.
The group, formed in 2004 and renowned for their Continental-style flag displays, were hoping to put on their biggest and best demonstration for the return of former manager Billy McEwan during this afternoon’s fourth qualifying round clash.
But a tightening of health and safety ground regulations has been imposed by the club, who feel their “trust has been abused” by Jorvik Reds in recent times.
The move means members of the supporters’ group, linked with crowd disturbance at Woking earlier this month, can no longer bring flag poles or their drum into KitKat Crescent on match days.
A Jorvik Reds’ spokesperson, who wished to remain anonymous due to the negative publicity surrounding the group, said: “We could have done a very big display for Mansfield, maybe a card display involving the whole Popular Stand and a large display in the David Longhurst end.
“All of our materials, however, have been banned from the ground, including the drum. It’s not a problem – if the club don’t want us active in Bootham Crescent that is up to them.
“We shall only hang our group banner – the centrepiece of our unity – and continue to get behind the team regardless of how they play.”
Communications and community director Sophie Hicks hinted the club had taken a relaxed approach with the Jorvik Reds in appreciation for of their efforts as supporters.
Hicks said, though, that alcohol and metal canisters have recently been smuggled into the ground by members of the group.
The Jorvik Reds’ spokesperson denied that members of the group had carried alcohol into the ground, saying: “We hold no objections to being searched for alcohol and other objects going into the ground. They are regulations we have never broken.”
Hicks also revealed City fear a financial penalty after referee Kevin Johnson noted, in his FA report, that a flare thrown on to the pitch at Woking delayed the kick off by three minutes until it could be removed safely.
The club have already been issued with a £200 invoice for “JR04” graffiti found at Crawley Town and Hicks added: “The club has been very supportive of the Jorvik Reds and worked hard to accommodate their flag displays, which we believe add positively to the match-day experience.
“To assist their activities, we have allowed the group to visit the ground two days before kick-off, which enables them to set up and prepare properly. However, we feel our trust has been abused as members of the group have been found in possession of alcohol within the ground on a match day and have also brought metal canisters into KitKat Crescent.
“As a result, we are now strictly following the FA’s ground regulations which state poles, smoke canisters, fireworks, air-horns or any article that might compromise public safety are not allowed into the ground.
“We welcome flags, but these cannot be attached to poles.
“Random searches will be performed by stewards as normal to ensure dangerous items do not enter KitKat Crescent and the rules will apply to both home and away supporters.
“We encourage the Jorvik Reds to attend our regular supporter forum meetings, from which they have withdrawn, as we are very keen to find a positive way forward.”
Pride, passion and full backing
THEY insist they exist to support their team in the most noisiest and colourful fashion possible.
York City fear their liveliest band of supporters might have overstepped the mark in expressing that passion this season and their future conduct will be under close scrutiny.
Speaking about the group’s raison d’etre when formed in 2004, a Jorvik Reds spokesperson told The Press: “A few of us were discussing how it wasn’t fun or even slightly exciting watching City any more. A lot of people’s interest was fading so we chose to create something rarely seen in this country, let alone the fifth division of English football.
“We brought together a lot of people passionate about City and put on displays and made new songs. We decided that we didn’t expect to go to a game to be entertained, we wanted to support the team in the loudest and most colourful way possible.
“Sometimes we might shout at the manager or a player but, as a group, we never call for negativity. We are there to support through bad times and good.”
Jorvik Reds’ influences are wide-ranging but are chiefly inspired by the Ultra movement embraced by many groups of supporters on the Continent.
The group’s familiar “Whooaa La La” chant is an adaptation of one heard in the terraces of Italian Serie ‘C’ team Cavese and the spokesperson added: “We find the scenes at matches in France, Germany, Italy, Eastern Europe and South America amazing.
“There are thousands of people doing what many in England don’t do – have fun at football games. Our aims are simple really – to support our team and to be louder and more colourful than any others who visit us.
“Away from home, we like to give the players a bit more inspiration when they play in front of 1,300 fans at grounds like Histon and Grays. We also like to express our pride in where we come from and what the York City shirt means to the fans.
“We like to use the history of our great city, the colours of our team and other social influences such as music and film. All the flags are made by our members as an expression of our passion.”
The group comprises of male and female supporters aged between 15 and 43 and amounts to roughly a couple of hundred people when active members, organisers and peripheral fans are taken into account.
There is no membership as such, just a general association between fans who might be students, probation officers, pub landlords, builders or plumbers.
“We have no criteria, dress code or rules, just a shared passion for our club,” the spokesperson pointed out.
Jorvik Reds hold regular informal meetings to discuss finances, displays and travel problems, offering very competitive transport prices for away games.
They admit, however, that their relationship with the club has grown strained.
The spokesperson added: “At the moment, our relationship is rocky with the club.
“I’d like to think that they could see our passion for the club and city and let us utilise our capabilities to show the team how much the supporters are behind them.
“We are not hooligans, we are just normal supporters wanting to create a positive atmosphere.”
Jorvik Reds’ defence
Accusation – graffiti at Crawley Town Jorvik Reds – “The Crawley fans and officials said our support was the best they had seen at their stadium but, sadly, all the attention focused on some JR04 graffiti. Nobody has ever admitted to this yet the club, perhaps justly since it said our name, accused us.
“We would never cause any damage to our own ground, let alone intentionally go to damage another ground. It would never happen.”
Accusation – throwing a smoke bomb on to the pitch at Woking and causing damage to perimeter fencing Jorvik Reds – “At Woking, we had guests from the Crystal Palace Holmesdale Fanatics at the match and wanted to show the club and our league in a good light. One York fan was ejected for standing next to a smoke bomb although he did not have it in his hand or, as he says, set it off.
“Another one was thrown out for abusing a Woking player and calling him ‘sh*t.’ If everyone was told to leave the ground for that, there would be no fans left.
“In an act of unity and disgust, the rest of the group chose to leave of their own volition. I left straight away so I did not see the fencing incident however it seems a few took their emotions too far. They have been spoken to internally and it will not happen again.”
Accusation – letting off a firework in an enclosed area at Stevenage Jorvik Reds – “We do not know who let the banger off at Stevenage. I was spoken to by a paramedic as it took me by surprise as much as anyone.
“It was perhaps a shade silly of the culprit but it will not happen from within our group and we certainly don’t intend to spoil any person’s experience of watching York City, home or away.”