Letters, Thursday, January 26th, 2012

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Away fans deserve more consideration

IT is ironic that after Niall Quinn’s impassioned pleas last season for football supporters to get themselves out of the pubs and clubs and into the stadiums to watch live football that Sunderland AFC have limited Middlesbrough’s fourth round FA Cup ticket allocation to less than half the FA’s suggested 15 per cent allowance for the away team in cup games.

This was on the advice of the Sunderland Safety Advisory Group (which includes SAFC, Sunderland City Council, Northumbria Police, British Transport Police, NHS, Northumbria Ambulance Service and the Tyne and Wear Rescue Service among others).

Instead of more than 7,000 Boro fans travelling, only 3,000 are being allowed to attend due to alleged persistent standing the last time they visited the SoL.

Man United, meanwhile, the most persistent standing away fans around, are getting more than 5,000 tickets for their tie at their main rivals, Liverpool, in the same competition.

Away supporters are part of the culture of football. They add revenue and they create a better atmosphere. They deserve to see their side in big games as they spend fortunes going to the run-of-the-mill games.

There are enough factors at work already to put them off going to games without seemingly excessive rulings like this one, such as ridiculously bloated ticket prices, inconvenient kick-off times on inconvenient days, foreign satellite showings in pubs, clubs, homes and iPhones etc. Keep putting people off, and ultimately they will stop watching live games as the hassle (and disappointment for thousands of Boro fans in this case) becomes too much.

It’s time for a working party from SAFC’s advisory committee to go to Germany and look at their Bundesliga to see how you can have boisterous, atmospheric stadia that include safe standing in most arenas and decent-sized away followings allowed and that are well policed.

Football is supposed to be the people’s game but is now being over run by beaureaucrats. Safety, of course, is paramount but things are now getting overly officious.

Tom Lynn

Fight to save NHS

I CALL on the Government to drop the Health and Social Care Bill because the changes to the Bill have done nothing to address the most damaging aspects of government health plans that will break up the NHS and put profits ahead of patients.

The Government plans to massively shake up the NHS, which has the potential to cause huge damage to patient care and waste vast sums of public money.

The plans will turn the NHS into a business where our taxes will increasingly pay for profit-driven companies to provide our healthcare. We must ensure that the NHS continues to be a public service that gives us quality services that are local, easy to access and free when we need them.

To protect our NHS we need to act now. The Tories and Lib Dems are playing politics with the future of our health service – we need to stop them.

Please join us in our campaign to “Drop the Bill” and keep the NHS universal for all. Please sign the petition on www.dropthebill.com or http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/22670

If 100,000 signatures are collected the petition will be considered for debate in the House of Commons.

Don’t wait till it is too late to defend the NHS.

Gemma Taylor, Houghton

Not so great

KEITH Newbery thinks Muhammad Ali is the world’s greatest sportsman. One person who would have disagreed was the late Joe Frazier, who for years was the butt of Ali’s insults.

It must have been galling for him to watch the whole world laugh whenever Ali made cheap remarks like “Smokin’ Joe’s too ugly to be champ”. But for one black American to call another an “Uncle Tom” was a terrible slur.

Don’t tell me it was just a bit of fun. No wonder Frazier hated him and despaired that everyone thought Ali was such a great showman.

When he learned that Ali was asked to light the flame at the Atlanta Olympics, Frazier said it was a pity Ali didn’t fall into it.

Jim Ridler, Hylton Road, Sunderland

Hospital parking

IN reply to the letter headlines “Blue Badge blues”, I too dreaded my husband’s hospital appointments and parking after reading in the Echo of the problems.

But it really is no hassle at all. You only have to make a one-off phone call to the hospital – 565 6256 – and ask to be put through to security who will ask your details, car reg, Blue Badge number etc and that’s it.

You can then park whenever you need to attend the hospital as your details are entered into the system.

C. Ramsey, South Farm Cottage, Seaham