Aston Villa FA Cup final flag banned for including the word "Arsenal"
Aston Villa fans have been banned from unfurling a giant Sex Pistols-themed flag at the FA Cup final against Arsenal on Saturday, because it flouts a technicality in FA rules.
Despite meeting all health and safety criteria, the surfer flag - designed to be held above the heads of thousands of fans before kick-off - will not be allowed into Wembley because it contains a reference to the opposition club.
Villa supporters' group My Old Man Said have launched a petition to overturn the decision, which demonstrated their frustration at what they see as a lack of "common sense":
"After getting the OK from their club to take a supporter-funded giant surfer flag to Wembley, over 200 Aston Villa fans raised £3000 to produce a surfer flag that met Wembley’s health and safety and size regulations. The surfer though has since been banned by Wembley simply because it contains the name of the opposition, despite the name only being used because Villa happen to be playing them in the final and it’s a necessary part of the design."
The flag has received the backing of the Football Supporters' Federation: “It isn't offensive, isn't discriminatory nor is it inflammatory,” said an FSF statement. “This banner should be allowed into Wembley.”
A combined statement from Arsenal supporters' groups also showed dismay at the decision to ban the flag:
"We are flattered that the Villa fans consider us worthy of being included on their banner and see absolutely no reason why Arsenal fans should consider it anything other than what it is, a well designed idea with no intention to cause any offence or incite bad feeling between the fans.
"In fact, we find it quite concerning that the FA should have such a poor opinion of Arsenal fans, feeling that a banner of this type would cause any kind of unrest or ill feeling from us towards our opponents. It would appear to be another example of the sanitisation of our game by the authorities; trying to remove any aspect of friendly rivalry between the clubs competing in their flagship game."
The Football Association’s new CEO Martin Glenn declared that “football must work together to put fans first” when he arrived in the job. Aston Villa supporters are providing a stern test of his promise.