Mr Pendle: Football fans transform once they enter the stadium

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WHAT is it about many normal human beings that makes them mutate into something totally different once they set foot inside a football stadium?

Mr X might be a rational man during the week.

But dress him in the colours of his favourite football team on a weekend afternoon and place him in a ground watching his team and he becomes a different kind of animal altogether.

Watch any televised match and you can see him.

He will be standing in an all-seater stadium, his contorted face shouting all kinds of vile and sometime racist abuse at the opposing team’s players and match officials, his jabbing finger pointing in the direction of opposing fans, threatening all manner of violence, his loose change hurled in all directions with the intention of causing injury to any opposing supporter or player unfortunate enough to be in the way.

If he were to behave in such a manner on the streets outside the ground he would, quite rightly, be arrested, hauled up before the magistrates and sent to prison.

As it is, the oafish behaviour of the Mr Xs of this world goes unchecked in the vast majority of cases, so much so that we see players hit by coins and cigarette lighters and the game sliding back towards the bad old days of the 1970s, when football hooliganism was rife.

All-seater stadia were supposed to be part of the remedy for the problem.

But spectators are rarely, if ever, seated – in the cheaper stands at any rate – and there have recently been calls by fans groups for standing terraces to be brought back to grounds.

Compare all of this with sports like rugby league where in a week’s time, the 2013 season gets under way.

Now Mr Pendle is not making out rugby league to be squeaky clean. There are one or two isolated instances of fans misbehaving every season.

But it is a sport where there is no need for fans to be segregated by fences as if they were animals and there is often good-natured on-terrace banter between the rival sets of fans.

Such a thing could never happen in football these days.

In fact, segregation has been around for so long that Mr Pendle can just about remember being able to stand on the terraces with rival fans at Turf Moor as a teenager in the early 1970s.

But the Neanderthal Mr Xs of the world have seen an end to that, with their belligerent, boorish chanting, jabbing fingers and loose change throwing – and apart from the high costs involved and the mediocre quality of the product on offer, it is one reason Mr Pendle is unlikely to set foot inside a football ground again.