A football fan was forced to sacrifice his copy of the local paper after stadium security guards decided it could be used as an “offensive weapon.”
West Ham United fan Chris Barmby had travelled to Stoke City Football Club for the teams’ Premier League clash earlier this month, armed as usual with a copy of his local daily, the Worcester News.
But when he got to the ground, the retired firefighter was stopped by guards who said he could not take the paper through the gates into the Britannia Stadium as it was the club’s new policy to ban newspapers.
They told him it was due to concerns over people setting them on fire and using them as a torch.
Deputy editor of the News, John Wilson, said: “The Worcester News has always packed a punch, but we have never been called an offensive weapon!
“While security at football matches should, of course, be taken seriously, I really don’t think the crumpled copy of the paper in Chris Barmby’s back pocket could have harmed anyone.
“The idea of his turning it into a flaming torch beggars belief.
“We are just delighted it has become such an indispensable part of Mr Barmby’s day out at the football.”
The story made a splash for the News, which also dedicated its Leader column to the story which branded the decision “absurd”.
It read: “Most rational people can understand the need for safety precautions at football stadiums in light of the violence that has blighted the game in the past.
“But banning newspapers for fear they are turned into the sort of burning brands wielded by horror movie mobs? It is an absurd overreaction that is in danger of colouring the club’s reputation more than its famously rugged style of football.
“Meanwhile, we hope this incident does not prevent Mr Barmby continuing his splendid custom of carrying the Worcester News in his back pocket to every game he attends.
“We admit we have been called many things, but ‘offensive weapon’ is certainly a first!”
John said despite numerous requests for a comment, Stoke City Football Club had yet to respond.
On the club’s website the list of banned items does not include newspapers.
However, it does state that any article that might be used as a weapon and/or compromise public safety would not be allowed into the grounds.
Mr Barmby himself said he was baffled by the “ridiculous” rule.
“What is stopping someone setting light to a club programme?” he said.
“I’ve been following football for years and years and go to a lot of home games and as many away games as I can and I have never heard anything so ridiculous.
“I always take a copy with me to read on the train but we end up having a bit of banter and I stick it in my back pocket to read later.
“I told them I hadn’t read it but they said to stick it behind the fence and pick it up on the way back. I left the grounds out of another gate so I didn’t even get it back.”