STAG-GERING: WESTWELL EJECTED, STEWARD ARRESTED
CHAD front page 24Jan2007:
CHAD, 23 January 2007
FREELANCE photographer Dan Westwell was thrown out of Mansfield Town's Field Mill ground on Saturday . . . for displaying a 'Haslam Out' photograph on his laptop.
The stunned Stags fan has now blasted 'heavy handed' club stewards for the way he was ejected, saying he was not even given a proper explanation.
And in a second extraordinary incident, a 66-year-old former headteacher was surrounded by stewards and police after refusing to be searched as he went through the turnstiles.
It also understood that a 42-year-old Stapleford man working as a steward on Saturday was arrested for an alleged assault after ejecting another fan in a separate incident.
Yesterday Stags' safety officer John Sidney insisted that, despite the two incidents involving Mr Westwell and the pensioner, he was satisfied the match had been managed capably.
But Mr Westwell says his ejection came completely out of the blue during the match against Walsall after stewards spotted a picture he had taken of a sign calling for the departure of under-fire chief executive Keith Haslam.
A number of stewards and police officers surrounded him before he was led from the ground.
Shortly afterwards he was arrested and charged by police for a public order offence, which allegedly took place as he was led away.
Mr Westwell –– who will appear before Mansfield magistrates on Friday –– told Chad he was 'absolutely stunned' by the incident and appalled by the actions of the stewards.
"I was just doing my job, as I do every week, following Mansfield Town all over the country when I was approached by several stewards who told me to leave the ground immediately," he said.
"When I asked what had happened I was told if I didn't leave they would physically drag me out.
"I was extremely concerned for my equipment and also my own safety.
"I was given no reason for my ejection from the stadium and my safety was threatened by the very people employed to protect exactly that."
The photographer's dismissal after half an hour prompted even louder chants against the club's owner –– who had been the target of some supporters from kick-off.
In a statement released this week, Mansfield Town said it had received complaints from supporters in the Lower West Stand that Mr Westwell's computer screen was displaying a message they found offensive.
Says the statement: "After radioing the control room a supervisor was sent to speak to the photographer who was asked to cease taking photographs and leave the premises.
"Mr Westwell refused to leave quietly and police were in attendance to assist with the ejection from the ground if they were required."
And Mr Sidney told Chad the club would make a decision on whether Mr Westwell would be banned from attending future Mansfield Town matches after Friday's court hearing.
But the photographer this week sent out a message of thanks to Stags fans for the support shown since the incident.
"I would like to thank each and every Mansfield Town supporter for their amazing support and backing that I have been shown since the incident," he said.
And Stags' stewards have also come under fire from 66-year-old supporter Bob Blagg, of Dorchester Drive, who says he was surrounded by stewards and police and told he would be thrown out and arrested if he refused to be searched.
"I'm 66 years old and a former headteacher of 17 years –– I'm probably the most unlikely person to cause any problems, and I felt utterly aggrieved to be singled out and frisked," he said.
"I do not believe that the actions taken were in the name of ground safety, they were designed to stop any protests against Mr Haslam –– and this is an abuse of power."
The club's new chairman James Derry told Chad he had been 'disappointed' by the incident involving Mr Westwell, but said he understood he had been correctly removed from the grounds after causing a disturbance.
He added that he was unaware of the incident involving Mr Blagg but said he would look into any complaints made about the conduct of security staff.
But Mr Sidney told Chad: "The stewards can't search everyone that enters the grounds –– but anyone that does refuse a search can be ejected – that's written in the rules."
Fans step up 'Haslam Out' protest
CHAD, 23 January 2007
CAMPAIGNING fans have kept the pressure on under-fire Stags' chief executive Keith Haslam this week by putting up scores of 'Haslam Out' signs across the area.
The newly-formed supporters' group Stags Fans For Change also followed up last week's promises of action by collecting a petition outside the Field Mill ground asking if fans thought Mr Haslam should sell the club.
And they asked supporters if they would boycott a match in the future as part of the 'Haslam Out' campaign.
But protestors were also dealt an unexpected blow, after Mansfield District Council revealed that the fly-posted signs would land anyone responsible with a £75 fine.
Said the council's portfolio holder for public protection, Coun Andre Camilleri: "The council supports everyone's right to free speech and protest, but we would be neglecting our duty to the environment if we allowed fly posting to go unchecked.
"If people wish to protest, there are many other lawful ways in which they can do so.
"We are aware of the strength of feeling on this issue and when considering action it may be the council will be 'damned if it does and damned if it doesn't.
"However, fly posting is an offence and we will have no hesitation in issuing fixed penalty notices to those involved."
And new Stags' chairman James Derry has called on fans to drop their chants of 'Haslam out' during matches and instead concentrate on supporting the players.
"If people want to peacefully protest it's fine to do so before and after the game, but have a bit of respect for the players," he said.
"Hearing the chants during the game was very disappointing and I hope that we can resolve these issues.
"I'm more than happy to meet with the supporters groups to talk through their concerns, and hopefully we can get a bit of dialogue going."
And he confirmed that he would now be taking over from Mr Haslam as the figurehead for the club, after the chief executive told Chad to direct all enquiries to the new chairman in future.
He also said that he was currently looking into a number of current issues surrounding the club –– including the currently overdue accounts.
The controversies hanging over Field Mil once again made the national media last week, with BBC radio station Five Live focusing on Mr Haslam's leadership as part of a piece on 'clubs in crisis' broadcast on Thursday.
Mansfield MP Alan Meale was also in the national spotlight after satirical magazine Private Eye followed up last week's Chad report on the Labour politician's plans to sue two unnamed Mansfield Town supporters for libel.
Row over football protest posters
A row has broken out over posters calling for the resignation of Mansfield Town Football Club's chief executive Keith Haslam.
Mansfield District Council said it had received a number of complaints about posters bearing the words "Haslam Out" which have appeared around the town.
No-one has admitted putting them up, but the council has warned it will fine anyone caught posting them illegally.
A petition against Mr Haslam's running of the club is also being circulated.
Raising the issue
Graham Parker from the protest group, Stags for Change, said fans had been getting increasingly frustrated over Mr Haslam's continuing presence at Mansfield Town.
"While we recognise what the council has said in that there's some illegality in putting the posters up, people will take whatever means they think are necessary to raise the issue about Keith Haslam," said Mr Parker.
But lifelong fan Barry Salmon, from Mansfield, said posters were not the answer: "I've been watching the club since 1942 and with it, we've had bad managers, bad chairmen and bad players so this is nothing new.
"I don't like Haslam but there are other ways of doing it."
Andre Camilleri, portfolio holder for public protection at Mansfield District Council said people had to abide by the law.
"If you are caught putting up posters, you will be fined, on the spot, £75, it doesn't matter if the poster says Haslam in or Haslam out."
Mr Haslam has declined to comment.
Mansfield Town is currently in 17th place in League Two.
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