Rivals clash in war of words over supporter segregation

Braehead coach Ryan Finnery behind the away bench on Saturday. Pic: Steve Gunn
Braehead coach Ryan Finnery behind the away bench on Saturday. Pic: Steve Gunn

Tensions between Fife Flyers and Braehead Clan were stoked once again this week over claims that the away bench was targeted by home fans during Saturday’s match at Fife Ice Arena.

Clan head coach Ryan Finnerty criticised the Kirkcaldy club over the proximity of the home fans to the away bench, branding it “unprofessional”, and called on the Elite League to take action after suggesting he was being “poked”.

It is the second time Finnerty has publicly spoken out against the Flyers, after stating that he had a “lack of respect” for the club following a heated encounter last season.

Saturday’s match, which Flyers won 6-2, was stopped briefly by the officials so that extra security could be called to the Clan bench, with at least one supporter ejected.

Flyers fans have hit back on social media, with some claiming that they were incited by the Clan bench, with several different accounts of water bottles being squirted into the crowd.

Finnerty has called for a return of the previous segregation that saw away fans placed behind the away bench, however a club statement issued by Flyers poured cold water on that suggestion, instead advising visiting teams to “control their emotions” amidst the partisan Fife atmosphere.

A Flyers spokesman stated: “It was unfortunate that an incident occurred between a Clan player and a fan in the crowd.

“The Clan coach was asked to control his bench at this point by security and the rink management.

“Obviously fans will make noise towards the away bench, but as professional athletes and coaches, they know this is part and parcel of the game and should be able to zone out and control their emotions.

“It’s unfortunate that a small minority upset the game night viewing for some but on the whole, the atmosphere on Saturday night was excellent.

“We believe this was an isolated incident and we look forward to welcoming fans to the next home game.”

Flyers head coach Todd Dutiaume felt the incidents may have been blown out of proportion.

“I don’t need to get into a war of words with a colleague,” he said.

“Tensions run high between two teams - it was a sell out crowd - and losing a hockey game intensifies everything.

“If it was a case of a coach getting physical contact - that shouldn’t happen - but it’s a very small minority of our support.

“Our home support shouldn’t be judged on a handful of individuals.

“It’s a unique bulding and a passionate atmosphere - and it has been for 76 years.

“It can be a great asset when we’re winning, although it can work the other way when we’re losing.

“Teams come here looking to silence our support and get immense satisfaction from doing so.

“When you go into away buildings you have to deal with certain things.

“When you go to Hull for instance you have to walk through the crowd and take some abuse.

“And we’ve said a number of times about that Edinburgh building with its cramped, cold dressing room.

“But you won’t hear any excuses from our team about the atmosphere in another building.

“You just have to go and play. It’s part and parcel of the UK game but obviously you have to draw the line somewhere.

“Interaction has to be limited - I would rather it was banter than personal - but fans and players can cross the line sometimes.”