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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

English Premier League warning over ‘anti-Muslim’ group

Football Lads Alliance was set up in 2017 following terrorist attacks in the UK 

Newcastle United said it would try to prevent banners promoting the Football Lads Alliance (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)
Newcastle United said it would try to prevent banners promoting the Football Lads Alliance (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

England’s Premier League has warned football clubs about a new national fans’ group after claims it is using publicity surrounding high-profile matches to promote an anti-migrant and anti-Muslim agenda.

The Football Lads Alliance (FLA) was set up last year following a series of terror attacks on the UK claiming that “enough is enough” and vowing to tackle extremism.

It has risen in public prominence after far-right wing activists attended a march held in the central city of Birmingham earlier this month.

The group’s founders say it is an inclusive movement and open to all faiths and ethnic backgrounds, but social media posts by supporters have focused on anti-migrant and anti-Muslim messages. Its founder is a former football hooligan.

The Premier League – which runs the world’s most lucrative football league – has held talks with police chiefs about the group and warned clubs about the group’s banners inside the grounds.

FLA banners have been seen at some groups and one club, Newcastle United, told The Times that it would stop FLA banners and flags being shown at games. The group said it had not had any problems previously and that it displayed 50 flags at football clubs.

“These reports are very concerning and, while it is up to individual clubs to determine which banners and flags they allow in their stadiums, we will bring this to their attention,” according to a Premier League statement.

“Premier League football is open to everyone and clubs work hard to encourage welcoming and friendly environments in their stadiums.”

The FLA said it would seek to meet with Premier League officials. "We aren't far right. We don't have an issue with Muslims. Our issue is with Islamist fanatics waging war on the UK and Europe," the group told The National.

The group was set up following the terrorist attack at London Bridge in June last year. Three extremists were shot dead by police after they used a van to plough into pedestrians and then stabbed revellers gathering in nearby bars and restaurants.

The FLA launched a fund-raising drive on an agenda of promoting tougher anti-terrorism laws, supporting armed forces veterans and imposing greater restrictions on terrorism suspects. It claims to have the support of fan groups from 80 of the 92 clubs in the top four divisions.

Critics say it has been used as a vehicle by high-profile far-right campaigners including Tommy Robinson, a prominent activist with convictions for violence, who appeared at a rally in Birmingham earlier this month.

The group’s official Twitter page has also retweeted comments including “The UK is a Christian country but allowed Muslims in” and “If your (sic) worried about the Muslim invasion, then the FLA is where it’s at now”.

The group’s founder, John Meighan, has denied that the group is racist. “We are just normal people who want change. Simple as that,” he told the Birmingham rally attended by some 5,000 people.

Another rally is planned in Manchester in May.

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