The publisher of the Reading Chronicle has apologised "unreservedly" for a front-page article appearing to link football hooliganism with the Hillsborough stadium tragedy.
The story, headlined "The Other Face of Football", prompted Reading FC to "suspend" its relationship with the paper after chairman Sir John Madejski said the club had received several complaints about the article.
One paragraph read: "Football hooliganism may be thought of as a relic from a previous age when gangs of denim-clad skinheads held the game to ransom and names like Hillsborough and Heysel were symbols of its ills."
The story was illustrated with a mock-up of a Reading FC fan brandishing a weapon. Madejski said: "In my opinion the nature of the article, and in particular the image manufactured for the front page, completely misrepresents the vast majority of our fans, and their experiences supporting the team both at Madejski Stadium and on the road.
"The article itself is an unwarranted and sensationalised attack which undermines everything our club tries to represent."
He added: "We have a duty to protect the club’s reputation, and particularly to protect our supporters’ reputation. This is not a decision we take lightly because we value the freedom of the press and have enjoyed excellent relationships with our local media in the past, but we are sure our supporters will agree that we cannot allow the fans’ good name to be besmirched in this way.
"So many people have spoken to me today about this article – both supporters and my colleagues here at the club – hurt and disappointed by what they had read. As custodians for Reading Football Club, the right course of action was clear to us all."
Berkshire Media Group managing director Keith McIntyre said in a statement: "Berkshire Media Group, publishers of the Reading Chronicle wish to apologise unreservedly for appearing to link football hooliganism with the Hillsborough tragedy on our front page of this week’s issue.
"It was never our intention to do so and we fully accept that hooliganism played no part in the tragic events of 15 April 1989."
The paper's editor, Maurice O'Brien, told the Liverpool Echo: "There was no intention whatsoever to cast any aspersions at all and indeed, on page 5 inside the paper, we talk about sickening Hillsborough slurs which have been shouted at football matches.
"It is simply the fact at that time, when it happened, when you said to people 'football hooligans', people said 'Hillsborough and Heysel'.
"We certainly in no way would wish to link Hillsborough with hooliganism. That certainly wasn't our intention.
"We have no intention of upsetting anybody, particularly the survivors, having appreciated everything they have gone through over a considerable amount of time.
"The intention of doing this story was to try and point out to people that the issues are still going on, the problems of hooliganism."