After Tuesday’s abysmal performance against Brighton at the
Tampax Amex Arena I was left with a lot of questions that needed answering.
I’ll be making another post with my thoughts about the game tomorrow so for now I’ll comment on the one that sticks out like a sore thumb for me which is; why are our games at Brighton scheduled for weekday evenings?
The M23 Derby
I hate the title ‘M23 Derby’ but it seems to be the one that the media have given the fixture.
Last season our game at Brighton in November was scheduled on a Tuesday because it was billed as a big derby game between old rivals. The fixture subsequently become infamous for the false accusations made by West Sussex police that Palace fans caused trouble and were carrying weapons.
Palace were then drawn away at Brighton in the FA Cup 3rd round. The tie was moved from the Saturday to the Monday because it was suspected that they might be
more crowd trouble as a result of what happened in the previous fixture.
In both situations it was thought that as it was a big derby having the game on a weekday evening would help prevent people from being drunk when attending the game because they couldn’t sit in the pub all day before the game. This presumes that people who go to football to cause trouble have day jobs…
Treated Like A Mushroom
Football fans are generally treated like mushrooms. We are kept in the dark and fed shit in the hope we keep quiet and don’t complain too much but I wonder why our ‘derby’ game is moved when the games between other rival teams are not.
The reverse fixture between Crystal Palace and Brighton at Selhurst Park was on a Saturday at 15.00. The reason given why that game could go ahead as normal was that the Metropolitan Police are a bigger force than the West Sussex and were better equipped for high profile games.
If you wanted to take the police’s word at face value you might be able to accept it I find it difficult to accept and think we are just being fobbed off.
For a start the Brighton v Crystal Palace game isn’t the biggest game in the world, not by a long chalk. On the same week that the ‘big derby’ game between the two teams took place there were also the derby games between Liverpool v Everton, Arsenal v Tottenham and Fulham v Chelsea. All three games would have had just as much risk for crowd trouble as the Brighton v Crystal Palace game.
Let’s dismiss the fact that the two London derbies took place on the same day, two hours apart after the pubs had been open for a couple of hours because after all the Metropolitan Police don’t have anything else to do or anywhere else to police. Do they?
Policing A Match
So let’s look at the Merseyside derby as an example.
According to Wikipedia, Merseyside Police have 3,909 constables plus special constables and PCSOs. I am sure that the police force have a wealth of experience when it comes to policing big matches and other events in the area.
Sussex Police have 2,847 constables plus special constables and PCSOs. While they might not have as much experience of policing big matches they have a host of other events which require a heavy police presence such as Pride and party political conferences.
One thing Sussex Police have in their favour that Merseyside Police didn’t in this case is the fact that one of the teams playing is visiting from another area who has a wealth of experience and could help police the match.
From what I understand, last season when Crystal Palace visited Brighton the Metropolitan Police Force did send constables to help police the game. In fact the Met has 31,075 full time constables, 2,763 special constables and 1,464 PCSOs to call upon which, as we all know, isn’t enough for the needs of Londoners but it is still substantial if an event needs policing.
Policing Away Fans
I have always believed the burden of policing away fans should fall on the visiting teams police force. This is for a number of reasons but least of all because they have the intelligence and experience of the fans in question.
Back in ‘my day’ when I was a regular attendee at away games I was subjected to and witness too mistreatment by the home police force who were heavy handed, to put it politely.
Back then the worst police force I encountered was the West Midlands Police. They were just complete arseholes who thought they could do what they liked to us. And they did.
What Does This All Mean?
It means that there is no reason that the football match between Brighton and Crystal Palace should be moved to a weekday evening at the inconvenience of fans and detract from what is the biggest game of the season for both teams.
The game is far from the biggest and if Liverpool v Everton can go ahead on a Sunday afternoon after the fans have had a chance to have a few beers then why can’t Brighton v Crystal Palace?
I can only conclude that because it has been at the request of Sussex Police that the games take place in midweek that they are utterly incompetent of policing a football match. Something they managed to prove by making false accusation against innocent fans last season.