East Lancs Derby

Burnley fans trying to break through heavy police to reach Blackburn fans

The East Lancashire Derby (also known as “El Lanclassico” or the “Cotton Mills Derby”) is a football match between Blackburn Rovers F.C. and Burnley F.C.. The nickname originates from the fact that Blackburn and Burnley were former mill towns in East Lancashire.

The derby is one of the oldest and fiercest derby matches in the game. The first ever competitive league match between these two former English football champions and founder members of the Football League, took place at Turf Moor on 3 November 1888, Blackburn won the game 7–1. Blackburn also won the return fixture at Ewood Park 4–2. From a town standpoint there is an obvious geographical reason for the rivalry as the two Lancashire towns only lie 11 miles (18 km) apart. Accrington Stanley F.C. stands in the middle, but is not taken seriously as a rival by either. It is widely rumoured among Burnley fans that the animosity began in the 1890s, after Blackburn Rovers complained to the Football League about Burnley’s illegal number of Scottish players. It is also rumoured that Blackburn won a large cotton contract ahead of Burnley meaning employment and wages in Blackburn and unemployment and semi-starvation in Burnley. This is not just a football rivalry, it is a town rivalry and it is ancient.


Throughout the 70’s numerous battles took place on the terraces with Burnley and Blackburn fans both invading each others ends. Blackburn fans reportedly mobbed up to attack Burnley fans as they traveled by train, throwing bricks and other heavy objects through the windows. Blackburn fans often use this as an example of one man upmanship, but reports suggest that the burnley fans who were attacked consisted of women and children.

When Burnley met their main rivals Blackburn rovers on April 4th 1983 they lost a Second Division game at Ewood Park , manager Frank Casper was forced to appeal for calm among the travelling supporters following unrest that had resulted Burnley fans climbing up onto the roof smashing up anything they could get their hands on including asbestos tiles being ripped from the roof of the Darwen End and used as missiles. This match was deemed to be ‘The match that died of shame’ or more notably ‘The Day the roof came off’. A quote from Simon Garner shows the hostility at the game that day, “I remember scoring two penalties against Burnley in 1983 and as I was running up to take the second, bricks were being thrown at me on the pitch”. The ‘cotton mill derby’ is arguably one of the fiercest derbies in English football. Since the fifth-round cup replay in 2005 and the violent aftermath of the first tie at Turf Moor both sets of supporters have been forced to travel to the rivals ground on buses surrounded by a heavy police escort although this still hasn’t put a stop to the violence  as on the 28th march 2010 over 40 people were arrested after violence erupted in the stands with fans battling with police trying to get at the rovers fans sat smugly behind the police protection. The latest meeting between the two sides saw a 12:30 kick off on a sunday morning but this still didn’t seem to matter to some Burnley fans who reportedly bricked rival Blackburn fans coaches when they were entering Burnley.

On 18 October 2009, following the first FA Premier League derby between Blackburn Rovers and Burnley, members of the Suicide Squad organised a clash at the Station public house in the Cherry Tree area of the town. Allegedly the blackburn fans they were supposed to meet had informed the police of the plans, resulting in offices intercepting the burnley fans before any trouble was to occur. police officers described the scene as “like something out of Braveheart”. 15 months later, 12 members of the Suicide Squad received prison sentences totalling 32 years along with lengthy banning orders. Andrew Porter, aged 44, was discovered to have organised the riot, receiving the heaviest sentence; a five-year prison sentence along with a 10-year banning order. Porter had written a book – Suicide Squad: The Inside Story of a Football Firm – about his experiences as a football hooligan.There was also an incident


In the 1990–91 season Burnley lost in the Division 4 play offs to Torquay consigning them to another season in the lowest league in English football. After the match a plane flew over Turf Moor with a banner saying “Staying down forever luv Rovers Ha Ha Ha”. This prank has largely been attributed to former Blackburn striker Simon Garner although he denies this, but does claim to know who was responsible.

Burnley fans gained some revenge after Blackburn Rovers were beaten by the semi-pro Swedish team Trelleborgs FF in the UEFA Cup 1994, where Burnley fans changed a road sign to ‘twin’ Burnley with Trelleborg.

Prior to the meeting in the Premier League in the 2009-10 season, Burnley fans snuck into Ewood Park and dressed up the statue of former Blackburn owner Jack Walker in a Burnley kit. This led to retaliation by Blackburn fans a few days later when they scrawled graffiti and dressed a cone with a Blackburn shirt. Also, the Blackburn fans hung banners over motorway bridges, one reading “Your Mum’s Your Dad, Inbred Bastards”, when Burnley fans were coached to Ewood.

In the lead up to the corresponding fixture in March 2010, police allegedly foiled a plot by Burnley fans to paint Blackburn midfielder David Dunn’s house Claret & Blue. On 7 May 2012 during Blackburn vs Wigan at Ewood Park, Burnley supporters arranged a plane to fly over Ewood Park which read – In Venky’s we trust-Burnley SU. Blackburn lost this fixture 1-0 and were subsequently relegated from the Premier League.

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