Town chief's anger as Leeds are let off

IPSWICH Town chairman David Sheepshanks told of his anger last night as it emerged Leeds United would not be punished for violent scenes at a match that left visiting Blues fans fearing for their safety.

By Derek Davis

IPSWICH Town chairman David Sheepshanks told of his anger last night as it emerged Leeds United would not be punished for violent scenes at a match that left visiting Blues fans fearing for their safety.

The Football Association (FA) said it would not be taking any action against the Yorkshire club for the pitch invasion at the match in April, during which travelling Ipswich fans were pelted with missiles and subjected to intimidation and verbal abuse.

Several fans, including a six-year-old girl, were injured in the ugly scenes at the Elland Road ground as Leeds were relegated to League One by a 1-1 draw.

Town's teenage striker Billy Clarke was attacked by a fan before the major invasion, which caused the match to be held up for 30 minutes before the final moments could be played.

South Yorkshire police have made a number of arrests relating to the incident, but the FA has confirmed the club itself will not face any sanctions.

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Mr Sheepshanks said: “I have had some pretty choice words to say to the FA about this. I personally feel it is a weak response.

“I was at Elland Road and was witness to the repeated intimidation and provocation.

“Although I did not see first hand the violence inflicted, I did see the after-effects and it was abhorrent.

“It is clear that the majority of Leeds fans thought so too and many expressed apologies for the actions of others.”

He added: “Quite apart from the mass invasion there were other minor excursions on to the pitch and one of our players was manhandled.

“I'm quite surprised that the FA have concluded their investigations and that they believe that every reasonably was done to avoid what was known to be a volatile situation.

“I have complained to the FA about this decision although I don't see any chance of our case being reopened.

“I understand the rules but even so this conclusion does not sit comfortably. We have to now move on and hope the police are successful in their prosecutions.”

Former Ipswich youth team player Tommy O'Neill, who suffered a fractured jaw in the violence as he tried to protect his 15-year-old son Steve, said the decision not to punish Leeds “sent out the wrong message”.

“To be honest I think it's appalling and I'm a bit shocked about it. They should have at least got a suspended fine so that it happens again they will be punished.

“It's very disappointing because it does nothing to discourage people from this type of behaviour which has no place at a football match.”

Elizabeth Edwards, chair of Ipswich Town Supporters' Club said: “The decision is a complete disgrace and yet another shocking example of the failure of football's authorities to regulate the game.

“I was at Leeds and the scenes that I witnessed were disgusting. Innocent Ipswich fans were threatened and even injured and yet no action is to be taken.

“In a week where UEFA have issued Celtic with a fine of £25,000 for a single fan's moment of madness I call upon the Chair of the FA to issue a written explanation to Ipswich fans as to why the actions of a minority of a few hundred Leeds fans did not merit any punishment.”

Mark Hooper, spokesman for the FA, said: “From the meeting we had with the police and Leeds United it was clear they had taken action to identify and deal with the individuals involved.

“Therefore it was decided that no further action was required to be taken against Leeds United.

“We are satisfied that the individuals were responsible for the event that day and that every effort has been made to find them and punish them with bans from the stadium.

“That will send a message out their actions are not acceptable and we will work with Leeds United to ensure there will be no repeat.”