Arsenal stewards have won few friends in one corner of Lancashire this week, after a group of Blackburn Rovers fans revealed that their flag of St George, England's national flag displayed prominently all over the nation and a source of much pride to many English people, was confiscated as being a 'racist symbol'.
A group of Rovers fans from the Havelock Inn pub in Blackburn had already unfurled the flag, emblazoned with the slogan 'Havelock Blues', at Fulham and Hull City without problems, and the St George's cross is seen at almost every football stadium in England at every level of the footballing pyramid on any given weekend.
Manchester City fans displayed several last night during their tie with AaB Aalborg in Denmark, and representatives from Chelsea and Manchester United today confirmed to reporters from The Lancashire Evening Telegraph that they have no issue at all with any national flags being displayed at their stadia.
The Rovers fans themselves were left bemused and bewildered by the actions of the stewards.
"When we got there we started putting it out, and the steward came up and told us we couldn’t.," one fan, David Iley told The Evening Telegraph.
"It never entered my head at first that the St George Cross wasn’t allowed. I thought it was just that we couldn’t put it there," he continued.
"So we hooked it over the hoardings at the front instead, and the next thing we know a steward was taking it away, saying it could be seen as a racist symbol.
"I couldn’t believe it. When we took it to Hull the stewards even helped us put it up. It’s the national flag and it's absolutely stupid that Arsenal should ban it."
An Arsenal spokesman explained that the measure dated back to 2006, when a Turkish-Cypriot season ticket holder enraged Greek Cypriots when he displayed a political banner at the Gunners' stadium in December of that year.
Dan Tolhurst, communications manager at Arsenal, said, "Arsenal as a club prides itself on being inclusive with respect to all nationalities, cultural and ethnic groups. We have therefore decided that in order for all of our fans to enjoy their experience at Emirates Stadium, we are asking that only flags without any national emblems are displayed within the stadium."
He also confirmed that the ban is lifted for international matches at the ground.
John Newsham, stadium safety manager at Blackburn Rovers, confirmed the Ewood Park outfit held a different perspective to that of their counterparts in London, stating, "We would never comment on the policy of other clubs in relation to flags.
"We have an open approach, providing the flags meet set criteria. For example, flags are vetted for any inappropriate wording which may be considered offensive by the club or any spectators and they must not be draped over emergency exit signs or advertising hoardings."
Zack Wilson, Goal.com