April 24, 2011

Carlisle Utd steward quits over support for English Defence League

A Carlisle United employee has resigned following reports that Brunton Park stewards were among supporters of the man jailed for burning a copy of the Koran. United spokesman Andy Hall yesterday confirmed that a steward has now left the club.

Andrew Ryan, 32, of Summerhill, London Road, Carlisle, was sentenced to 70 days in prison for intentional religious/racial harassment on Monday. He arrived at the city magistrates’ court flanked by men waving the St George’s Cross and shouting nationalist chants.

The English Defence League Carlisle Division (EDL) had put out a call for members to support Ryan. The News & Star received reports that some of the men were stewards at Brunton Park and the club launched an investigation into their identity.

Mr Hall said: “We received the News & Star’s photographs and are very thankful for it being brought to our attention. We looked at them with our safety staff who identified [one of the men] as a steward at Carlisle United. We contacted him, and he said he understood this could be misconstrued. He said that he would like to keep supporting the EDL. He said he would like to step down.

“The club will not tolerate any form of racist behaviour and, in conjunction with the FA and Football League ‘Kick it Out’ campaign, we are working strenuously to ensure that this issue does not arise at the ground.”

Mr Hall stressed that the steward offered his resignation. It is not illegal to be a member of the EDL.

Ryan was jailed for what district judge Gerald Chalk described as “theatrical bigotry” aimed at causing the maximum amount of distress. Back in January, he had stolen a copy of the Koran from Carlisle Library and burnt it in the city centre. He was shouting abuse about Muslims as he set light to the book and admitted in police interview that he knew his actions would stir up racial hatred.

Ryan has previous convictions for violence, public order offences and racially abusive chanting at a football match. He claims he only has issue with Islamic extremists and has no ill will towards ordinary Muslims.

From 16 to 20 Ryan was a soldier, serving in Northern Ireland. He said he “lost it” after seeing internet footage of extremists burning poppies.

News and Star

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