For years Bradford City’s City Gent mascot has entertained the Valley Parade faithful by throwing sweets into the stands and light-heartedly exposing his considerable belly.
But now City Gent, aka Lenny Berry, has been ordered by club officials to pull the plug on his antics – on health and safety grounds.
Mr Berry, who wears a bowler hat and carries a briefcase in his City Gent guise, has fallen foul of an attempt by the club to improve behaviour at the ground.
David Dowse, facilities manager at Bradford City, said: “We have introduced a code of practice for the matches and most of that is connected to health and safety and we were actually trying to prevent other things being thrown in the stadium.
“We have asked him not to be on the pitch perimeter during the match because that could lead to confusion for the officials.”
Mr Dowse said of the sweet-throwing: “Under health and safety grounds if that was to hit somebody in the eye it could cause some injury to them and the other issue is when he does that there tends to be a surge of people trying to get some sweets.”
Mr Dowse said last season a boy fell and was hurt when there was a surge for promotional goods being thrown into the crowd.
Mr Dowse confirmed Mr Berry had also been asked to refrain from lifting up his shirt on the pitch as it provoked chants and swearing from some sections of the crowd. He said: “He’s been asked not to do anything which leads to abusive chants. We have to make sure that we are a stadium where youngsters and older people enjoy coming and one of the things we are looking at is bad language.”
Alan Carling, chairman of the Bradford City Supporters Trust, said: “Obviously if there have been incidents involving young children we have to be very careful about that but it would be a great shame if the rapport between Lenny and the younger supporters was to be broken because that is a real feature of match day at Bradford City.
“I hope that while bearing in mind all the health and safety aspects, the club can find a way in which Lenny could continue to play the role he plays so well.”