Newcastle's soccer louts

Tim Verschelden seems like a decent sort of fellow. Certainly as the president of the Newcastle Jets supporters group, the Squadron, he's ambitious if his efforts to portray the Squadron as a group of civilised people are a fair indication. Time after time he has stood to defend the Squadron against those who blame it for dangerous hooliganism at Jets games and time after time he has been betrayed at the next game. In defending the Squadron against criticism of obscenities, throwing objects at players, brawling and lighting flares, Mr Verschelden has blamed a rogue element, a certain pocket within, but on Thursday in response to news that Football Federation Australia is investigating mob hooliganism among Jets supporters at the Jets-Mariners game last weekend he tried a slightly different tack. He said, in the Herald, that the offenders were not members of the Squadron, that they were ring-ins, that while they claimed to be Squadron members they were not. The problem, Mr Verschelden, is that when we see them with the Squadron we see them as part of the Squadron.

Some of the Jets supporters' thuggery was described in a letter in the Herald on Wednesday by a woman who'd taken her children to the game at Gosford. She described the obscenities, the brawling and the lighting of flares, and a video posted on YouTube (and since withdrawn) showed the Jets supporters' disgusting conduct as they moved as a mob to the Gosford game, at the game and after the game.

Six days before the mother's letter Jets chief Robbie Middleby had his own letter in the Herald. He wrote glowingly of the Squadron and how the Jets were envied by other teams for having such a committed and vocal supporter group behind the club.

Soccer throughout the world seems to attract fans who find their courage in mobs, and it seems that the Jets' thugs are doing their best to emulate Britain's notorious soccer louts. I suggest Mr Verschelden seek the help of the supporters' group for the Newcastle Knights, the Crusade, in cleaning up the Squadron. But, really, does the Squadron have any saving graces? Wouldn't Newcastle be better off if Jets games could be watched only on television?

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