On Saturday, on behalf of The Supporters’ Club, I attended the joint Fans’ Forum with Hampshire’s Dedicated Football Police Officers, to discuss the upcoming game against Southampton. Also in attendance were representatives of other supporters groups from both Pompey and Southampton, representatives of both Disabled Supporters’ Associations and both Club SLOs.
As had already been announced this will not be a ‘bubble’ match, although their fans will have the choice to travel on dedicated, police escorted coaches if they so choose. In making this decision, the police and clubs gave consideration to a) the fact it is an evening game and there will be heavy, rush hour traffic on the M27 and b) the disruption closing Rodney Road for part of the day would create to the wider Portsmouth community and local businesses. It also allows those Southampton fans who may not live or work in Southampton to travel independently. The short planning time between the draw and the game was also a factor.
We were advised that there will be a heavy police presence on the roads and throughout the City as well as around the ground. There will be no ‘football special’ trains laid on, but there will be a police and BTP presence on trains in the area, especially those running from Southampton to Portsmouth. There will be no dedicated away pubs and Southampton fans are being advised to drink away from Portsmouth rather than in the City. Plans are in place to deal with any problems caused by fans turning up without tickets.
Disabled fans of both clubs expressed concern about their safety and were advised that there will be extra stewards on duty around wheelchair and ambulant disabled fans and their carers, as well as a police presence in the ground.
During the game the referee will be advised to relax the new rule regarding substituted players leaving the pitch by the nearest touchline.
A decision is yet to be made on whether Southampton fans will be held back after the game to allow Pompey fans time to clear the area. If they are, they will be advised in advance so that they know what to expect on the night.
Overall the meeting was positive and informative, with both sets of fans expressing their concerns and offering suggestions. Other local derbies, eg Sunderland v Newcastle, are now being policed successfully without resorting to bubble matches so we hope that this will prove to be the case on the 24th.
#Passion not poison