LET’S not pretend for one second that there aren’t some people who attend football matches the length and breadth of this country and others worldwide intent on causing trouble.
Let’s not pretend for one second that before a match between Everton and Liverpool thousands of rival supporters walk hand in hand singing “Merseyside” as they head off to enjoy ‘the friendly derby’.
But also, and crucially, let’s not pretend that relations are so bad between the red and blue halves of Liverpool that a match can’t be held in the city at 5.30 on a Saturday evening.
The thankfully now scrapped legal challenge by Merseyside Police to bring the derby forward to a lunchtime kick off is believed to be unprecedented. So what does that say about the city of Liverpool when compared to the rest of the country? It’s hardly the greatest PR exercise is it?
Yes, this will be the latest kick off for a Saturday derby since 1967. But why predict trouble before it’s happened? Why set the stage? Why almost will it to happen?
Not only does it cast aspersions on the city and its residents — red and blue — it allows for the sweeping generalisations that have dogged the reputation of football fans from Liverpool to continue. Given everything that Liverpool — and supporters from the city — has suffered in relation to this problem, in particular the families whose heartbreaking fight for justice for the Hillsborough disaster continues, it’s a staggering and thoughtless stance from Merseyside Police.
Think about other events that have taken place in Liverpool on a Saturday night. Major boxing matches. Concerts. Football matches that don’t pitch the L4 rivals together. All passing off without major incident. All taking place without legal challenge from the police. All taking place without the force that serves the city telling the world that the people who attend are heavy drinking would-be hooligans who will revel in “the protection of darkness” (the police’s words, not mine).
Police concerns over Saturday’s kick off time reportedly centred around the fact people are off work on a Saturday and more likely to drink with a later kick off time. Apologies for stating the obvious, but people are off every Saturday. A football match kicks off somewhere in the country at 5.30 every week. Why is Liverpool different? Why is this game different?
By making such a high-profile challenge to the kick-off time, Merseyside Police has unnecessarily drawn attention to the fixture. Now, any argument, any disagreement, any skirmish will receive extra scrutiny. Everton and Liverpool fans will effectively face trial by TV on Saturday through no fault of their own. Where is the sense in that? You can bet that TV producers and sections of the media that seek a scandal will train extra eyes on proceedings before, during and after this match because of what has come before from the mouths of Merseyside Police. If there is now an incident, any incident, will there be context? Will there be fairness?
How many people are arrested in any city centre on any Saturday night? How many football fans up and down the country cross the line on a Saturday afternoon (or evening)? The police have simply pointed an arrow at Liverpool and said Scousers are different. They can’t be trusted. There are too many troublemakers, red and blue. That seems to be the underlying message. And even if that wasn’t the intention you can bet any money you like it will be interpreted that way by many.
Football fans around the world drink before, after and even during games. And that happens no matter what time the game kicks off — morning, noon or night. Some do it sensibly, some do it to excess. Every week. Every match. Those that take things too far are generally dealt with by police. That’s what they’re there for after all.
For what it’s worth, as a season ticket holder who also goes away regularly I have some appreciation for the job Merseyside Police usually do. In my experiences they do it much more efficiently and successfully than some other forces I could mention. But on this they’ve got it wrong. Very, very wrong. Thankfully it seems common sense has finally prevailed but not without damage being done.
Football fans get a bad enough deal as it is — think of the expensive tickets and thoughtless scheduling of fixtures for starters. But the stewarding and policing has — by and large — improved markedly since the dark days of the 1980s. This whole episode has felt like an unnecessary step backwards, and one which has wasted time, effort and money.
According to reporters from the Liverpool Echo who were in court today, police wanted to stand up to broadcasters more than anything else. A bit of posturing. All well and good. But once again consideration of football fans is bottom of the list. Had the kick-off time changed, what recompense would there have been for fans having to cancel travel arrangements? Would the police, or Everton, or Sky, or Liverpool City Council have sought to reimburse supporters for financial loss? Would they even have said sorry?
Thankfully we’ll now never now but I know where I’d place my bets.
So now it’s back to the football. Back to Everton v Liverpool. Steven Gerrard’s last derby. Back to all the things we should be talking about. Let’s hope now that the police stick to their job and let football fans stick to theirs: supporting their team and enjoying football.
…boring grasses. Town’s gonna be great regardless of the result. I can’t wait personally.
And Gareth’s spot on, there’ll be something out of nothing that gets highlighted when if it was Liverpool at home 5:30 against someone else or Everton at home at 5:30 against someone else no one would be arsed.
Best thing I’ve ever read on TAW? Could be.
They may well provoke a bit of trouble just for the PR value. Heavy handed, zero tolerance and over reaction, I will be interested to see how this one unfolds.
I think they were also worried about town after the match. It’s possible one set of fans will be gutted and they are quite bitter to be fair. I just hope the people of Liverpool prove the police wrong and I’m sure they will.
We have an issue in Chester with the police. They’ve made all Chester v Wxm games a ‘bubble’ match. I’m sure you’re aware but it means away fans can only travel to the ground from the away ground. So, a Chester fan living 2 mins from the Wxm ground (unlikely there would be any but not the point) can only go to a game at the Racecourse by travelling to Chester’s ground first to get the organised bus. The buses are then escorted from Chester to Wrexham with motorbike out riders and about 20 police vans with flashing lights. They then form a cordon and usher them into the ground. Same again on the way back. The thing with this is, firstly, the hooligans only number 50 on each side and most of them know that if they get caught fighting at football now – especially that match, then they’re going down for 3 years (based on past cases). There’s no real appetite for trouble once you look past the bravado. So, it’s completely unnecessary and many think related to police overtime (but then we all love to take that stance, haha). Chester are a fan owned club and need the money Chester v Wrexham makes as it’s the only time they’ll get a sell out all season. As it is they make nothing at all. Last time it wasn’t a bubble match there were 123 police for 4000 fans at a cost of £12k. This years bubble match saw 230 police for 4000 fans at a cost of £35k. The club pays that.
My point is, police shouldn’t be allowed to make the rules like they do now.
This is staggering – basically ‘we are the people in charge of whether you can operate, and also you have to pay us to do so, and pay us as much as we tell you.’ That’s not policing, it’s an organised crime protection racket.
Sadly, most of the authorities in Britain are, mate.
Well said Gareth! But we shouldn’t get confused with Merseyside “Bobbies on the Beat” and the senior coppers who made this challenge. The Merseyside “Bobbies on the Beat” do a pretty good job at matches and always have done so far as I’m concerned.
What does worry me though is that this objection seems to have come from much higher ranking police.You know;the politically motivated career types.And I can’t help wondering who is politically motivating them.
I mean drunken fans from Liverpool fighting?I’m sure I’ve heard that before but it wasn’t from Merseyside Police.It was from another police force in another County.Just recently.And they were using barristers to try and convince people.All for One and One for All eh?
As someone who is primarily a Rugby fan, I find it depressing that football K.O times are still an issue.
You can support LFC, have a fair few ales, go to the game and have some more ale afterwards without having to kick off in some innocent pub.
It ain’t big and it ain’t clever but may cost an innocent licensee their job.
And thats the point isnt it – kick off time shouldnt be an issue.
If people want to cause trouble they will irrespective of time of day and even if a match is being played.
In my opinion the drinks issue is a red herring – You can drink at any time of day in this country if you so wish – what next forcing the closure of all supermarket drinks depts within a 5 mile radius 48 hours prior to kick off?
A few nails hit on the head there
Very useful ammunition for Masonic .mates over the Pennines
There might be a valid point in here somewhere but it’s a massively overblown reaction. Most people looking at this story don’t think of this as a Liverpool issue. All kinds of derby games in other cities are subject to the same contraints regarding KO times.
The police think that is is a risk to have the KO later, whether you agree or not is irrelevant. What are they supposed to do, just roll over and let Sky have their way like every body else does? If FIFA was allowed to ignore policing advice there would be outrage, but Sky can apparently do what they want because we fancy a couple of ales.
Hi Sam,would you like to have another shot at this?
In the middle of the inquests in Warrington, the position of Merseyside Police, which seems to suggest that Scousers + a football match = drunken hooligans, is scandalous.
Perhaps there’s not a great deal of difference between Merseyside and South Yorkshire after all…
Spot on Mate!No difference between South Yorkshire Freemasnons,West Midlands Freemasons and Merseyside Freemasons!
And you might be shocked to learn about a few more!
Common Sense, wish there was more of it in the world.
Are you seriously suggesting that Merseyside Police lack basic common sense, surely not!
I’m gutted ! I’m 52 Disabled with M.E never been to a Derby Game only live in Crosby would have given anything to go and watch Stevie Gerrard in his last Liverpool Derby & to think of all the wealthy footballers and people who live by me I often see Carragher don’t even have sky and nobody wants to be seen pushing a 52 yr old man in a wheelchair so a pubs not an option oh how depressing life can be when you are single disabled and have a family that doesn’t care. I love Liverpool FC it’s my only interest in life along with my dog. ;-) x
Oh Billy! Anfield is downhill from Crosby.You could freewheel down here.And with a little bit of training and a harness and some dog biscuits your dog could take you home again.
Call yourself a supporter?