Birmingham City Football Club WM Police and Supporters’ Forum: December 2017

Joys and Sorrows were proud to attend the most recent Supporters’ Forum on 7th December  2017.

I brought my Dad along for the experience too!  Thanks to Rachele for arranging it and making us all feel so welcome…

Location: The City Room, St. Andrews.

Chair: Rachele Johnson, Supporters’ Liaison Officer.

West Midlands Police Representatives: Sgt Mick Wilkinson, Force Football Unit, PC Colin Barlow, Dedicated Football Officer.

Supporter Group Representatives: Lynda Courts (Redditch Blues), Dave Smith (BCFC Fan Forum), Chris Sinclair (Northside Blues), Bik Singh (Blues4All), Linda Goodman (Birmingham), Tony Routely (Central Blues Travel), Nick Glynn (East Midlands), Russell and Patrick Dempsey (Joys and Sorrows), Steve Portman (Accessiblues), Margaret Decker (Blues Trust).

All in attendance were in full agreement, that our January dialogue went well.  We all wanted to capitalise on previous positivity.

CB: The two clubs met in July, Safety Officers, senior officials and WMP, agreed the allocation, kick off time and alcohol prohibition in the stadium.  Both clubs were in full agreement.  After the success of last season’s away matches, with impeccable behaviour from fans, a rise in allocation was suggested.  Birmingham offered 2,500 but Aston Villa – for a number of reasons – such as seat kills, etc, wanted it limited to 2,100 so both clubs capped the allocation to this figure.  Good ideas from last season’s meeting (January) were taken back to Aston Villa, and there was lots of ‘give and take’.  Blues only approached from one area of the ground, for instance, and so it was easier to police at Villa Park.

CS: The setup was good.  From the Great Barr side, there was no aggression, it was very well policed.  The 12 p.m. kick off doesn’t stop drinking though!?  Couldn’t we look into a 3 p.m. kick off again?

DS/RD: No negative comments at all…

CB: In 2016/17 there were executive, independent and club coaches all leaving St Andrews…

RJ: Ian Dutton has suggested pricing at this stage is likely to be lower than previous years, at £8 return, though there’s a possibility 888 Sport and Heineken could offer a similar deal to last year’s free away travel.  This is being looked into, and at present remains only a possibility.

LG: When the coaches were free, dozens of people were missing, as there was no incentive to arrive, or even to get on the return journey!  It was hard to know whether or not to wait for fans.

LC: It will be £7 for children, £3 for children return on Redditch Blues package.

CB: British Transport Police arranged trains direct from New Street to Witton last season, it worked well and is being done this season for Millwall fans also.  It will be looked at again for Blues fans.

TR: Praise for West Midlands Police, and their ability to diffuse potential flashpoints.

CS: What pubs will be open to away fans?

CB: We will be asking the licensees.  It is their decision about opening and publicity…

MD: Will buses be running to the ground?

CB: Blues fans can approach via the Witton Arms end, so the 7 route should be fine, and perhaps even the 11 route.  We will publish guidance in advance of the game…Pub wise, the Sun on the Hill, Briar Rose in Birmingham City Centre will be open ahead of kick off.

RJ: Tickets will be available to buy online from 5 p.m. the night before phone sales open.  Ticketmaster will be spoken to about technical issues to reduce disappointment.

CB: Executive boxes had obstructed views due to away fans standing, this explains why Villa had blocked off the back two rows of seats for away fans, thus restricting numbers to 2100.  This on top of previous disorder at Villa Park (WBA match) that meant higher away attendances unlikely.

SP: Amir has suggested some disabled fans will need holding back to avoid selling out, can the club make sure this isn’t conflicted by the ‘online sale the night before’ policy.

RJ: Of course.

CB: Moulineux will only offer 2,500 Blues fans tickets, hence only 2,500 Wolves fans coming to St Andrews last Monday.  Credit to Birmingham City who could have ‘cashed in’ on 4,000 or more Wolves fans to the detriment of Blues fans who wouldn’t have been allowed as many.  Thirty five banning orders were issued after last season’s game at Wolverhampton for missile throwing, so it isn’t going unpunished on either side.  There is no room for more than three or four visiting coaches at Moulineux, hence the walk to and from coach park for Birmingham fans who tend to bring six or seven.  We will still ask if there are any alternatives…

LG: There has been a lot more disorder recently, at Hull, Barnsley, Sheffield Wednesday…

CB: There has been a drop in the levels of behaviour.  There are a number of enquiries going on with various forces, around the country.

MW: With regards to the 74 images in the Birmingham Mail, of wanted suspects, it was nothing to do with ‘clappers’ more to do with thousands of other items thrown onto the pitch, at Villa players and management staff.  There were bottles and coins thrown, including at injured players.  We want the local derby to be an occasion where we can enjoy ourselves, where nobody can get hurt.  The people that throw those kind of things are not true fans of BCFC, they simply found a vehicle to aggravate issues, and probably won’t come to another fixture for another twelve months!  After the game, there was significant disorder.  Aston Villa had asked for a ‘holdback’ which – last year – was 45 minutes.  This year it was 90 minutes, due to the disorder on Coventry Road.  Footage not part of the investigation can be shared with the Forum at a future time, so they can see how troubling it was.

LG: We were amazed there was no police presence on Coventry Road.  There were hundreds of people hanging around.

CB: The reasoning was, if people saw no police, they would have seen no reason to hang around.  It has worked in times and places before.  Sadly, this time, it didn’t work.

MW: Last year’s fixture fed into our ideas for this year’s.  We sadly ended in a stand off where an officer pushed some people over, and it was circulated on social media.  We identified some people intent on causing problems.  We deployed officers to deal with them; this generated further disorder, missiles were thrown and officers were hurt, down Coventry Road, Digbeth High Street, Fazeley Street and Great Barr Street.  A claw hammer was even thrown through a police vehicle window, so it wasn’t isolated pushing and shoving.  This isn’t typical of Birmingham City supporters.  It is not acceptable, and simply tarnishes the reputation of true Birmingham fans’ reputation.

CB: Some of those hundreds won’t have been to the game, though most did, they were just seeking disorder.  Lots of out of date legislation doesn’t help, a lack of consistency in court sentencing adds to this.

NG: Regulations around the midday kick off belong to an era when pubs opened at 11, yet they now open at 7 a.m.!

MW: We take on board learning comments from the FSF about how we deal with young people and we’re happy to continue engaging with BCFC fans in these forums.

RJ: No other force does advisory groups or speaks so candidly to fans as these gentlemen here tonight.

CB: I attend almost every home and away Blues match, please come and speak to me if you have any issues you need help with.

TR: Over-the-top stewarding and policing due to our ‘reputation’ – even leftover from the 80s!

CB: I send assessments to clubs prior to each game.  Away clubs DO hear of recent issues, so concerns are elevated of late, but 4,000 Blues fans will travel to Fulham, and if it passes peacefully there is no reason why a bad reputation needs to persist.

RJ: Any issues with away stewarding / policing needs reporting to away clubs’ safety officers.  If it’s not dealt with at all, please bring it to Rachele’s attention as a matter of urgency.

It was a pleasure representing this Forum, and with my Dad who set me off on this Long, Long Road…

Good to see Police Officers who truly do seem to understand the nature of us as football fans, and – whilst they have public safety at heart – also wish to do all they can to allow fans to continue to enjoy their footballing experience.

If you have any comments, please leave them below or post them in the Forum!

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