The Saints/Pompey 'bubble'
The first South Coast 'bubble' is less than a week away and it`s causing quite a stir in Southampton.
I've followed a survey in their local paper, the Daily Echo, with great interest. Its starting point is "What do you think of the Saints/Pompey 'bubble'? and follows with 5 choices.
It seems that 15% of their readers "Don't care",
11% "are going because the 'bubble' makes them feel safer"
and 22% "won't be going but think it's a good idea"
The mathematicians will see that that leaves 52% who are against it and more than half of those "won't go because of It" [remember this when you reach the final paragraph].
We have been promised more of the same for the return fixture on April 7th; will it make you feel safer?
Pompey Trust colleagues that were on the coach that was 'bricked' whilst supposedly under police escort on leaving the stadium on our last visit, say not. Those of us that were on a parked bus waiting to return to the Park & Ride and saw a local idiot emerge from a side street to throw stones at our stationary target won't feel too confident either.
I have been to every clash between the two teams in the fifty seven years that I have been going to football. I've managed to stay safe even on those occasions when I've been an away fan in the home end at the Dell.
Will you be amongst those who "don't like it but will put up with it"? Or will you refuse to go on principle!
The Football Supporters' Federation will be distributing fliers to as many Southampton travellers as possible asking for their views on the matchday experience but we would also like your thoughts in advance. Supt Rick Burrows, Silver Commander for both teams, has promised discussions on the success/failure/problems of the first 'bubble'. The FSF report on fans' views will be part of our presentation.
The Echo has run several intelligent, balanced articles about the forthcoming trip but I have it on good authority that the majority of communications that they have received have been strongly against the concept. Fans' feelings have been further fuelled by apparent ticketing chaos and the fact that they are to be charged £12 for the privilege of the convoy's protection.
On the subject of cost, it should be mentioned that in the North East, voluntary 'bubbles' have been organised for the Newcastle/Sunderland derbies for many years and the fans, the police and the Clubs think that they are useful but interestingly the away clubs pay for the coaches so there is no cost to the supporters. We will ask that if our police and clubs are convinced that 'bubbles' are the way forward then they should at least talk to the guys in the NE, as we have, fans, clubs and police.
Whilst talking to others, a lot can be learned from the experiences of Cardiff City after 34 compulsory 'bubbles'; working with the supporters they have at least brought in many improvements to the scheme like ticket collection points for fans who don't live in Cardiff.
Yes, you did read that right. Cardiff fans have endured thirty four 'bubble' games. I wonder if they were assured that the first would not set a precedent.
The first thing that many fans say is that it infringes their human rights but Supt Burrows argues that we have a choice; we don't have to go if we don't like it. Many fans say that the problems after the last game at St Marys would not have been so bad if Portsmouth supporters had been kept behind for a while afterwards but Supt Burrows says that that would infringe our human rights. Legally he might be right on that although I seem to remember being kept in at their stadium more than once in the past. A leading barrister has questioned the concept of 'bubbling' (the mobile form of 'kettling') as the law requires that 'breach of the peace is likely to happen' and police action has to be a last resort and 'no more intrusive than appeared necessary' at the time.
So we question whether it infringes our human rights and we can see that it probably adds to the expense for most fans but what about the inconvenience? Travelling from Devon, in April, I'm going to have to go past Southampton to get to Portsmouth to bus it back to Southampton then reverse the procedure to go home. There will be other examples more extreme than mine; how about the Saints fan living in Ryde who would normally walk to the ferry, sail across to Portsmouth harbour then has the short bus ride to Fratton. Next Sunday he must drive to Cowes (extra cost), park his car (extra cost), Red Funnel ferry to Southampton and then bus trip to St Marys to jump on a 'bubble' bus (extra £12). And what a trip home afterwards (especially if we beat them).
Away games for me are always social days out, meeting up with friends that I only see at football and enjoying nattering about every subject under the sun. Southampton trips will now be a sterile exercise, leaving earlier than usual for the four-hour journey in order to make sure that I reach Pompey in time to catch the coach back down the M27; there will be no leeway if you're late.
Like the Football Supporters' Federation, members of the Pompey Trust Board have discussed this at length and are against the principle of herding fans in this way. We recognise the argument that the police have our safety at heart but are not convinced that these measures are necessary to ensure it. Whilst we are deeply disappointed that neither our club nor the police sought to engage fans in discussions prior to announcing these methods, we do applaud the Silver Commander for promising fan involvement in a review of the success or failure of the first 'bubble'.
As a final thought, with less than a week to go, neither side has sold out of tickets. Has the negativity surrounding the news of 'bubbling' the fans had an effect? If the hordes of away supporters are seen as needing to be contained in such a draconian manner in the name of safety, does that have a subconscious effect on the average law-abiding supporter who was going to take the wife and kids?
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