Sky Blues pitch protesters: ‘We’d rather be banned than not be heard’
Interview with Coventry Telegraph
Three Coventry City fans who invaded the pitch at Northampton to protest against the club’s owners Sisu today insisted: “We’d rather be banned than not be heard”.
Adam Howells, Paul Sulley and Dean Thomas were among nine people arrested after pitch invasions at Sixfields which saw the game disrupted on a number of occasions.
Coventry City lost the match 3-0 and remain rooted at the foot of the League One table.
Howells, 38, was pictured waving a flare after taking to the pitch as part of the pals’ ongoing protest against London-based hedge fund Sisu.
All three were handed interim three-month football bans which mean, as they all live within a three-mile radius of the Ricoh Arena, they cannot leave their houses on a matchday when the Sky Blues are playing at home.
They are also likely to face further punishment.
Yet, despite giving up the chance to see their beloved team in action, the three friends say that publicising the plight of the club at the hands of Sisu was their main aim.
Howells told the Coventry Telegraph: “The idea was to disrupt and that will be continuing, even though we can’t be there.
“We have given up a lot for a cause that we believe in.
“If this stops just one more person from going then that is achieving what we wanted to do.”
Sulley, 42, added: “We shouldn’t have done it but you want to be seen and to be heard.
“We were prepared to give up seeing our club play for this.”
‘Apologise for any distress’
Speaking exclusively to the Telegraph, the three lifelong City fans denied being football hooligans and insisted that their actions on Saturday were borne out of frustration at seeing their club being ground down “year-after-year”.
They said: “Firstly, we would like to apologise for any families that were at the game.
“We are not thugs nor did we want to cause distress to any fans, including children.
“All three of us are family men with children of various ages, who used to love and watch the games with us and join their friends on a match day, but they have all gradually decided they don’t want to go anymore.
“We have all been lifelong CCFC fans attending our first games as children with our parents.
“For 20 or 30 years we have continued to invest our time and money into the club we love.
“We have all brought our kids up together buying them season tickets and all the merchandise year after year.
“As parents we all agree it was a special moment when we were able to bring our children to their first games, to be with our own friends and their children too.
“As our children have now moved into their teens there is no interest from them – what has been happening at our club has taken the next generation of fans away and has destroyed our community.
“Our decision to interrupt the game was not an easy thing to do, but Sisu are destroying a community. This is more than just a football club.
“Sisu have ignored six years of protests; the Football League and FA have ignored the protests; the letters, emails and cries for help.
“The national media has ignored our plight even with 10,000-plus fans marching on the city centre, bringing traffic to a standstill and a day of protesting brought us nothing but the Coventry Telegraph’s coverage.
“20,000-plus fans signed petitions and not a man outside of Coventry have taken notice.
“The unplanned Sheffield United protest put the issue into the media’s eye. Sky Sports broadcast it live instead of their policy to turn cameras away – this gave us an immediate platform.
“All news networks and papers have ran with the story. Soccer Saturday, The Football League Show and Football Focus have ran segments on our plight and all these news outlets are backing us, they are the ones now asking the questions.”
The three friends, who could face lifetime banning orders from football grounds in England, said that they are against violence but that “peaceful protests have been tried and have got us nowhere.”
They said: “No-one is calling for violence – we are the first to disown that idea.
“The problem with the world we live in, is the only way to get exposure is doing something risqué that bends the rules.
“We thought if we caused a delay it might keep us in the spotlight. We did not aim to hurt any players or officials and did not approach them either.
“Does anybody think we want to never be able to watch our City play again? That we want to risk a life ban?
“We just want to be able to take our children to the football on a Saturday and meet up with our friends we have grown up with and their kids and have day out watching OUR Coventry City.
“That’s all what we want.”
Northampton Town 3-0 Coventry City
Saturday 28 January 2017