EDL recruitment drive aimed at Southampton fans

A far right-wing group is attempting to recruit Saints fans to its ranks.

The English Defence League (EDL) last month launched a recruitment drive in Southampton to enlist football fans to march against “Islamic extremism”. The league, whose demonstrations in London, Luton and Birmingham led to violence, has infiltrated supporter’s online forums and the terraces of St Mary’s Stadium.

Concerned Saints bosses have condemned the group and brought it to the attention of Hampshire police, Southampton City Council, Hampshire FA and football’s antiracism campaign Kick it Out.

Southampton Itchen MP John Denham, who is in charge of promoting inter-faith harmony for the Government, last night branded the group “troublemakers” and said he was confident most fans would have nothing to do with them.

The Echo can reveal Saints this week ordered Facebook to remove the club’s crest from an EDL campaign group founded on the social networking website.

By yesterday 175 people had signed up to the “Southampton FC branch of the EDL”, which claims it wants to peacefully protest against “militant Islam within our shores”.

Desperate to disassociate itself from the fringe group, Saints were last night seeking legal advice to have the name Southampton FC removed from the website page.

A Saints spokesman said: “Southampton Football Club wholeheartedly condemns this type of racist activity. We were made aware of this group, and immediately took the relevant steps to ensure that any implied affiliation was eradicated.

“Further to this, we have notified members of the club’s Racism Just Ain’t Saintly committee of our concerns, and asked that these are passed on to the Premier League and Football League to make other clubs aware of these activities.

“This is something the club will be monitoring in the future as it clearly conflicts with our principles of a united, cohesive and integrated community.”

Southern Daily Echo, 3 October 2009