English fans urged to turn over a new leaf
LONDON (Reuters) - The behaviour of English fans is under the microscope this weekend in the wake of calls for an end to sickening chants at matches following the publication of the Hillsborough report.
Wednesday's report, which found that Liverpool fans had been entirely blameless for the crush at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final that left 96 of them dead, was widely welcomed, although it remains to be seen whether their deaths will stop the club being mocked with hateful songs by rival fans.
A minority of Manchester United fans still sing about Hillsborough while some Liverpool supporters continue to gloat over the 1958 Munich air crash which decimated the United team.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers said he hoped the findings of the independent panel, which caused shock among all English fans, would mark the end of the taunts.
"In terms of the chants, I speak as a human being and I never like to hear anything like that, whatever clubs it is, that associates people and other people's tragedies and death," Rodgers told Liverpool's website.
"Unfortunately you have a very, very small percentage of idiots at every club that will always try and smear a club's reputation. So, of course, it's obvious that these are certainly chants that no-one wants to hear about any club."
The north west rivals clash in the Premier League at Anfield in nine days and Ferguson echoed the views of Rodgers.
"You would hope that maybe this is a line in the sand in terms of how the supporters behave with one another," Ferguson said on Friday.
"We are two great clubs and we should understand each other's problems in the past. Certainly the reputation of both clubs doesn't deserve it."
It is hoped that the fall-out from the Hillsborough report, which disclosed a police cover-up and serious failings by the authorities on the day of the Britain's worst football disaster, will lead to more goodwill among fans.
Saturday's west London derby between Queens Park Rangers and Chelsea, however, will put that to the test.
It will be the first time that the clubs have met since former England captain John Terry was cleared of racially abusing QPR's Anton Ferdinand in the corresponding fixture last season.
With Terry waiting for his July date in court, the clubs dispensed with the pre-match handshake formalities before two subsequent fixtures last season in order to avoid tension and the sight of players snubbing each other.
The situation is further complicated because Terry's team mate Ashley Cole, who is expected to play after recovering from injury, was a character witness for the defence in July.
Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo said his players would "respect" the handshake while his opposite number Mark Hughes said they would be governed by the Premier League.
The Premier League said on Friday that the pre-match handshake between the teams will go ahead.
Chelsea were forced to condemn some of their fans in November when they chanted songs about Ferdinand during a Champions League game in Belgium and both clubs have warned their fans to behave.
QPR's website issued a reminder about behaviour on Thursday while Chelsea also said on their website that "abuse and discrimination" have no place in a football stadium.
"Both Chelsea and QPR will work together with the police to ensure that anyone using discriminatory or inflammatory language on Saturday is identified, and that the strongest possible action is taken against them," a statement said.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Justin Palmer)
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