Often Partisan

Zealous

I was sent this picture, taken by my friend at the Second City derby yesterday. Can you spot what is wrong with it? Apart from the incredible amount of empty seats for a derby game, how many policemen are in the picture? After the last derby, in the League Cup I criticised the police heavily for their actions. I’m afraid I’m going to have to do it again now.

Unlike the league cup game, yesterday’s game kicked off at midday on Sunday. Unless you were committed to going out and getting leathered, it was much harder for people to arrive at the game drunk than back in December. The crowd was about 6,000 lower, and there wasn’t as much realistically riding on this game – in short, there was a slightly lower risk of trouble. Yet there were more policemen at the game than I’ve seen at St Andrews for a long time, all done up in riot gear. Somebody has to pay for all this overtime, and unfortunately it’s the club … and by extension, us fans.

After what happened in December, it could be argued that there was a need for a massive police presence. The police seemed to be a bit caught cold by just how much aggro there was post match in December, and I believe the amount of policemen on duty was a show of strength; an intimidatory move to show the fans that they were in charge. It could be argued that it worked; there were only five arrests; only one person got on the pitch and only two smoke canisters were let off.

Only two smoke canisters let off? Forgive me, but I thought that these were proscribed articles, and shouldn’t have been allowed into the ground? I know that stewards (inefficiently) searched me as I entered the ground with my daughter, so how did people get into the ground with them? For me, this is one of the key mistakes the Blues keep making – to prevent trouble, you have to make it known that it’s harder to get stuff into the ground like smoke canisters. Furthermore, the stewards don’t seem well trained enough to nip trouble in the bud – I’ve seen arguments get out of hand within the ground that could have been stopped if a steward had had the cojones to walk over and ask people to cool it as they looked to be coming to blows.

Likewise, the quantity of police in the ground wasn’t required. What is required is policemen who know what they’re doing. Keep a ring of stewards around the pitch to prevent the main body of people getting onto the pitch, and the police as a second line to deal with those offenders who are determined to cause trouble. Form a line as an arc around the away end, and then push out from that line towards the edges, to stop people getting close to the away fans. It’s not about being intimidating, it’s about being in control. If people know that they won’t get away with it, and that they’re not likely to succeed in getting close to the opposition fans, then they won’t try.

As a parent, who takes his young child to the football, it’s important to me that the club keep trying to keep the hooligan element down. Yes, the hooligan element do supply a lot of the noise and the hostility that they want from the crowd, but there has to be a line drawn in the sand, and people have to know that they cannot cross it. Responsibility does come down to the fans to know where the line is, but it helps when those in charge of protecting people draw one in the first place.

Talking Points sponsored by John Hicken Industrial roofing and cladding materials

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