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In my opinion: Persecution of the smoking football fan beyond a joke

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: September 06, 2012

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My partner died two years ago and I have tried to avoid going places we went before as it can be painful. Gill, although a Southampton supporter, used to accompany me to all the Plymouth Argyle matches we could get to.

Last week I decided I was ready to go Home Park again. Everything was going quite well until half-time when, being a smoker, I needed a cigarette. I left the Mayflower Stand and made my way out into the open air behind the stand. I lit a ciggie. Soon after a steward came forward. "There's no smoking in the ground" he said. I was quite surprised as this was where I smoked when I was last at Home Park. "Well where do I have a half-time cigarette?" I asked. He said "You'll have to leave the ground but you won't be allowed back in."

Just then a girl from the sales team who was a lot more friendly and a little sympathetic said: "If you have a word with the lady at the gate she may let you back in." No such luck. The door was open, all she had to do was let me out for five minutes and let me back in. "If you go out you're not coming back in," she said. "But I've got a ticket" I said. "Doesn't matter," she said.

My father and his brother John and Syd Chudley, both Argyle supporters, fought against the Nazis. I knew what Uncle Syd would say. He'd have said "Oh go boil your head." I didn't, but like him I can't be doing with people like that. "You're not desperate for fans are you?" I said, walking out the door.

"I was born in Plymouth, I'm ashamed of you, that's so petty. I'm never coming back". I can't think of any other entertainment venue where, if you've got a ticket you can't get back in. Persecution of the smoker has reached epidemic proportions and as smokers are 25% of the population can anyone, hoping to make money, afford to completely humiliate them?

As for the people who make the rules. Well if you want to drink and smoke you have to go to Parliament's smoking bar where they are exempt from the law. Did General Montgomery tell Winston to put his cigar out. No he didn't.

Most of the greatest footballers of the seventies and before smoked at half time. I'm not suggesting we go back to that but come on let's be sensible – if I'm not interfering with anyone else why shouldn't I decide to live dangerously? Don't give me that drain on the Health Service nonsense. Smokers finance the Health Service.

As for football, for a long time they treated fans like dirt. Will they ever realise that fans are customers and if they lose their customers they are nowhere. Pubs have faced the same problem. Lots have closed. Those that have made a smokers' area or that have concentrated on food have survived. I made my way home, seething, looking forward to burning all my Argyle shirts. Then I thought that's not eco-friendly – so I'm sending them to the Third World. On the way the empty seat next to me was growing larger. I wonder what Gill would have made of all this?

by Bob Chudley Seaton, Plymouth

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