Lancing Football Club are in danger of losing one of their most loyal supporters.
Martha is fluffy, about 14 inches high and has accompanied great-grand-father Albert Green to matches at the Culver Road pitch for the past six years.
It’ll be a shame if we are not allowed in anymore. But my dog comes first.Albert Green
But since Sussex County FA, which owns the Lancing stadium, introduced a ban on bringing dogs to games, their future at the club has been thrown into doubt.
Albert, of Elms Drive, has had three generations of Lancing players in his family and his grandson was recently signed to the club.
But he said he will stop attending matches if his Patterdale terrier cannot accompany him.
“It’ll be a shame if we are not allowed in anymore,” said the 82-year-old.
“It’ll be very sad. But my dog comes first.”
Dressed in yellow and blue, Martha is somewhat of a celebrity at the stadium, where she is treated to dog biscuits at the turnstiles.
Seated on Albert’s lap, and always on a lead, the rescue dog ‘goes mad’ when the team scores, he said, adding: “She barks her head off and everyone joins in.
“The kids love her.”
John Rea, Lancing FC chairman, said he would fight the ‘ridiculous’ ban.
Of the regular supporters like Albert, he said: “It’s a social occasion for them.
“They have a chinwag and a cup of tea. For some it’s their only trip out in the whole week.
“The dogs are on a leash and don’t do any harm.”
Having to turn supporters away would have financial repercussions, he said, adding that he is seeking a meeting with Sussex FA to see if dogs could be allowed in for Lancing games only.
Adrian Hoell, Sussex FA’s stadium manager, said banning dogs ‘was a difficult decision’ but that health and safety issues had to be taken into account.
Asked whether Sussex FA would turn dog owners away, he said: “No one wants it to get to that point.”
He called it a ‘soft change of policy’ and said he hoped warning signs would encourage people to ‘change their habits’.
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