A TORY MP who labelled thousands of partying football fans as “scumbag hooligans” today apologised to Wearside.
Robert Halfon came under fire after he tweeted his disgust at litter left by thousands of Sunderland supporters in Covent Garden during a celebration on Saturday night ahead of Sunday’s Capital One Cup Final.
Football fans across the country – and even members of his own party – hit back at the member for Harlow in Essex.
Mr Halfon later defended himself by saying he did not specifically mention SAFC fans and added that his comments had been “misunderstood”.
Now he has come out with an unreserved apology and told the Echo he regrets the tweet.
He said: “I would like to stress that in no way did I single out any Sunderland fans or any other fans from any club, but I accept the way this has been interpreted.
“I do regret most sincerely that my emotive tweet did not reflect the distinction between a minority who had smashed glass and the majority of decent fans who were just celebrating as any fan would do.
“I am very sorry for the difficulties and offence this has caused. I did not know that it was just Sunderland fans in the area when I made the tweet. I initially asked police what had gone on and they said there were fans from six clubs in that area that evening.”
Mr Halfon even went on to say he would be happy to see fans back in the capital if they win this weekend’s FA Cup quarter final clash with Hull.
“I wish Sunderland every success in the FA Cup and in the league. I apologise to Sunderland fans and I hope they understand the context in which it was written.”
Wearside MP Julie Elliott had sent a letter to Mr Halfon demanding he apologise.
Mrs Elliott, who represents Sunderland Central for Labour, said: “Whilst I am pleased that Robert Halfon MP has apologised to the people of Sunderland for his comments, I continue to believe that they were wholly unfounded.
“The comments were also completely inappropriate for a member of Parliament in this day and age.”
Sunderland Conservative councillor Lee Martin, who criticised Mr Halfon’s comments, said the apology had been overdue.
“I wish he’d just apologised in the first place,” said Coun Martin. “He’s managed to offend every Sunderland fan in the land, and a lot of them are Tory supporters.
“At least two former Sunderland Tory councillors, Chris Fairs and Stephen Daughton, were amongst the revellers in Covent Garden on Saturday night. It was a party, not a riot.
“I am very proud of how our fans conducted themselves. I’m not so proud of Mr Halfon.
“The Labour Party in the North East use tribalism to cover for their failings. Unfortunately, the idiotic Mr Halfon has just given them a gem.”
Tens of thousands of Sunderland supporters descended on the capital for the club’s first major cup final in more than two decades.
Metropolitan Police praised fans of the Black Cats and opponents Manchester City, with just four people arrested.
A Sunderland fan was arrested after being allegedly involved in a disturbance in the West End on Saturday night.