THE anti-Islamic extremism group attempting to recruit Saints fans says it should not be branded racist because of a “few bad apples”.

The local organiser behind the Southampton division of the English Defence League (EDL) also claimed they were not trying to attract football hooligans.

Steve Billows spoke out after a Daily Echo investigation revealed that Saints had brought the league to the attention of the FA, police and city council.

The club ordered Facebook to remove the club’s crest and name from an EDL campaign group set up on the social networking website.

Mr Billows, who is not a football fan, said the group wanted to show Saints supporters “what’s really going on in the world”.

He said there were no plans to hold a demonstration in Southampton, but revealed several local members planned to march on Saturday in an EDL protest in Manchester.

The 28-year-old last month marched in a protest in Birmingham in which the EDL clashed violently with anti-fascists.

“We have got bad apples, the same as any group, but I am no way in the slightest right wing. I won’t tolerate it, but I can’t help it if there are bad people in the group,” he said.

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Southampton Itchen MP John Denham has branded the league, which claims it wants to protest peacefully against militant Islam, “troublemakers”.

Mr Billows last night hit back, saying the EDL would never have been formed if it wasn’t for a lack of Government action against Islamic extremism.

“Maybe if the Government had done something then we wouldn’t have the protests,” he said.

“This is what it boils down to, the Government letting them do what they want, yet if we were to do it we wouldn’t stand a chance.”

Asked if protesting outside a mosque, as is due to happen in the Welsh city of Newport on October 24, was inflammatory, he replied: “I’m not going to get involved in none of that. A few people in the EDL spoil it, but you can’t criticise us just because you’ve got a bad bunch.”

Mr Billows said he formed the Southampton branch after witnessing the EDL’s protest in Luton in May. Since founding the group on Facebook two months ago, more than 180 people have signed up.

However, Mr Billows conceded only a handful were active members.