Meeting regarding Palace v Brighton game

26th October, 2012

Holding away supporters back after the final whistle of Brighton versus Crystal Palace matches was deemed the most logical way to prevent trouble between fans at a police-organised meeting at Selhurst Park last night. 

The meeting, attended by the trust, FYP fanzine, Palace Radio, and the BBS, alongside many Brighton fans, police and club representatives, was a continuation of discussions held after the last Palace versus Brighton game on 31 January. That game is infamous for the use of a steel wall across Holmesdale Road, and the police are the first to admit they could have done better on the night.

Phil Alexander, Crystal Palace chief executive, kicked the meeting off by confirming the configuration for the Selhurst Park match: Brighton will be given 2,600 tickets in Blocks S, T and U of the Arthur Wait. Blocks V and W will be left empty, with season ticket holders moved to other areas. Blocks X and Y will be made up of Palace fans. The match will be all ticket and will kick off at 3pm.

The supporters present at the meeting were quick to raise the issue of keeping the away fans behind until the Palace fans have been cleared from the surrounding area, however, the police said they could not ‘kettle’ fans for no reason.  They were concerned about complaints from away supporters, but also worried that away fans might damage the stadium or target stewards and fans not wanting to get involved in any trouble-making.

CPFC stadium manager Kevin Corner said: “At the last [Brighton/Palace] game we kept Palace fans back because we know they are more respectful of the stadium. The last time we kept fans behind was against Millwall a few years ago. It resulted in six stewards being hurt, toilets being smashed and gates damaged – we were only going to keep them in for 10 minutes. 

“Also there is a problem that if [away fans] know they are going to be kept in they will try to leave at half time.”

 However, Amanda Jacks, case worker at the Football Supporters Federation, said:  “I’ve yet to receive a complaint from a fan about being held back after a game. Fans expect it.” This view was backed up by a representative of the British Transport Police who said that Millwall fans asked them on Saturday why they hadn’t been kept back. 

Another key topic of conversation was on the matter of communication, fans said they would like to know what plans the police have for the night.  It had been suggested for the last game that it should be printed on tickets that fans might be kept behind after the match, but that didn’t happen. They said there would be less agro if they knew before hand that they were being kept back so they could make alternative travel arrangements.

Also the fans said it was important that the police directly dealing with them on the day needed to know the details about how long they will be kept in etc to ease frustrations. Although, Corner explained: “We can’t tell people our tactics because the small minority that wants to cause trouble can turn them around [and use them to their benefit].”

Brighton fans raised a concern that the Arthur Wait concourse is narrow and they could get crushed, they would prefer to be held back in Park Road. They encouraged the club to arrange for kiosks to be kept open so the away fans can have a drink while they wait, and for a part of Park Road to be cordoned so they can have a cigarette if they want to.  

Other ideas batted around to prevent trouble between fans included not letting away fans use Norwood Junction, but after discussion it was concluded that wouldn’t work because to get to Selhurst they would have to go near Holmesdale Road, while to go to Thornton Health station they would have to go through the High Street which would inconvenience businesses. 

Jacks asked: “What do the police do to defuse the rivalry? What about a carrot and stick approach: if Brighton fans behave this time, give them more seats for the next match.” 

Slade confirmed that the ticketing situation will be reviewed after the December game. 

On the subject of the infamous steel wall deployed last year, the police explained the that it was used because fans can’t get angry at it, they can’t damage it and it’s very difficult to hurt themselves on it.  They confirmed that it could make a comeback, although it could be deployed in a different area. They said decision to use the metal wall was made at half-time and was based on intelligence gained in the build up to the game and at half-time.

The MET and Sussex Police forces revealed they have already met to discuss both the home and away games – they see policing the events as a joint operation.  Chief Inspector Duncan Slade explained the purpose of the meeting: “We want as many views as possible – we want suggestions on what we could do. All the tactics we have you’ve already witnessed. Anyone with a good plan contact me – I’m willing to listen them all.”

Meanwhile, both police forces have started using Twitter to get messages to fans using the hashtags #eaglesseagulls and #seagullseagles.

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