If you are a Bristol City fan right now, you could be forgiven for thinking somebody up there doesn’t like you. In fact, not even anything as divine as that, simply certain police forces across England and Wales.
On Saturday 12th September 2015, on route to Birmingham City, 55 Bristol City fans were turned away and packed back onto a train; they were in sight of the stadium. They weren’t a mob, there was no hint of trouble, they all had match tickets and included a range of ages from 16 – 76. The mistake they seemingly made was thinking that it was not against the law to attend a football match. This is all thanks to West Midlands Police wielding new powers of dispersal if they merely suspect there could be public disorder.
Wind on to the present day: ticket arrangements for our match at Cardiff on 26th October 2015 have just been announced, barely more than two weeks ahead of the game. Having been subject to bubble restrictions (being bussed in and out) for many years, it was a welcome change last time we played them, when this was relaxed. It wasn’t perfect, with a few young ones getting more than a bit carried away in a pub and the police lining up outside in what many present felt was a very confrontational way. This year, however, that welcome freedom of travel has again been removed. Instead, fans will be issued with a match voucher, which must then be exchanged for a match ticket between 6.15pm and 6.45pm at Cardiff West Services on the evening of the game. The match kicks off at 7.45pm, it is live on Sky and it’s a Monday night. Our understanding is that both football clubs wanted no such travel restrictions. South Wales Police said otherwise. Net result: loss of income, loss of support, loss of freedom of movement.
This cannot go on, it is killing the game. We therefore call on the Football League, the Premier League, the Football Association and individual clubs to take a more resilient line in their dealings with the police to ensure that law-abiding fans are not inconvenienced or mistreated in this way and that the custodians of law and order are reminded that watching football is not a crime.