Tuesday, 16 August 2022

Ban buses with rowdy football fans from town, says landlord

THE landlord of a Henley pub says he has suffered abuse after refusing to serve rowdy football fans.

Neil Ainsworth, who runs the Argyll in Market Place, says coaches of away supporters travelling to watch their teams play Reading are being dropped off in the town and causing havoc with their raucous behaviour, including urinating in the street.

He has called on other landlords to refuse to serve the fans in order to preserve Henley’s image as a town to visit and come shopping.

Mr Ainsworth said: “The away teams playing Reading are dropping off supporters in Henley. These are normally northern teams and by the time they’ve got here they’ve been drinking.

“They are coming into the pubs from about noon onwards and I don’t think we should be serving them.

“They come in ones and twos until you have dozens in there and a big percentage are drunk. Their language is awful and when you don’t serve them there’s verbal assault.

“I’ve got no problem with a bunch of supporters going to the football but they are behaving appallingly. Their language is atrocious and they work on intimidation.

“I don’t want to be seen to be overreacting but I fear that if we don’t do something the problem will escalate. I fear someone is going to get hurt.”

Mr Ainsworth said before Reading’s match against Sheffield Wednesday last month a group of visiting fans was dropped off in Henley and were seen acting aggressively, including urinating in public and punching railings.

He said: “This happened on Saturday lunchtime when we had women, children and elderly customers.

“They don’t need to be subjected to that kind of behaviour. It’s not good for the wellbeing of my customers or for the town.

“We have to address it and the way to do that is to not have these buses coming into town when we are not equipped to deal with them.”

Private hire coaches are often used by football fans travelling long distances to watch their teams.

However, some opt to be dropped off some distance away from the stadium and then make their own way there as travelling support is strictly monitored by clubs.

Mr Ainsworth said: “I want to raise awareness and ask whether this is the type of trade we want in the town. Do we want groups of 20 or 30 people on the street chanting or all going to one pub? The police say no crime is being committed but these people are drunk and disorderly.

“If the licensees work together and don’t serve these people the buses will stop coming. If we want to promote Henley as a shopping town there’s a complete conflict of interests.” Mark Dunlop, who runs the Angel on the Bridge, said he had served a group of Sheffield Wednesday supporters before the match and said that while they were loud, they were not aggressive.

Mr Dunlop said: “They were all pretty good-natured. I gave them plastic glasses and they were happy out on the deck. They were singing their songs. If you manage them and are nice to them they are generally all right.”

Town manager Helen Barnett said she would investigate.

She said: “This wasn’t something I was aware of but I will speak to Neil at the Argyll, any other landlords who are affected and maybe the FA and Reading FC.

“We want to attract the right kinds of people to Henley to improve the footfall and our retail and hospitality returns and we don’t want people to behave badly in a way that has an impact on our residents and businesses.”

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