Wrexham Football Club’s first ever derby game against the new Chester FC could be deemed a ‘bubble’ match by police.
Yesterday lunchtime we confirmed that North Wales Police had said it would be a bubble match via the below tweet from Inspector Mark Williams, however the source of the information was removed from public view later this afternoon after they queried the source of our tweet.
Chief Inspector Dave Owens said later yesterday afternoon “North Wales Police are in dialogue with Wrexham Football Club ahead of the forthcoming game with Chester. Ticketing arrangements are a matter for the club and as yet details have to be finalised.”
A so called ‘bubble match’ is one where away fans are instructed to gather at a certain point, likely to be Chester’s ground, where they will board official coaches for the trip down the A483 to the Racecourse. Tickets are usually handed out once on the journey, to ensure that no away fans can attend outside of the ‘bubble’.
Thankfully local fans are not subject to such bubbles that other clubs, for example Cardiff City, are often forced to endure. The Football Supporters Federation (FSF) are running a campaign entitled “Watching Football Is Not A Crime”, which is critical of such policing tactics.
The FSF have said “Bubble matches also mean disorder can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The implication is that many in attendance are potential hooligans. The welcoming party of police and stewards are therefore primed to views away fans as ‘trouble’. Tensions rise on both sides and the concept of policing by consent is lost.”
A fifteen year old Hull fan recently attempted to take legal action after a Hull City game was ‘bubbled’, however his case was dropped ‘due to a technicality’.
Recently the town has been host to large scale policing, with resources drafted in from Manchester and Liverpool, to help cope with football fans. In that instance it was to deal with a team from Oswestry playing a team from Warsaw in Poland (report here). For that game we were told that local police leave had been cancelled and up to 250 people were placed on duty to cope with the influx of fans.
Tranmere Rovers visited The Racecourse, and like Legia, they managed to use smoke bombs and the like inside the ground. Outside, as we commented at the time on our @wrexham twitter, there was a visible police operation. One strategy struck us as odd as fans were kept apart via police lines yet by the time home fans had walked a diverted route to a carpark the cordon vanished allowing fans to mix.
Amanda Jacks, who deals with policing and stewarding at the FSF says of ‘bubble’ matches “They automatically label every fan a hooligan. It’s not in anyway ‘policing by consent’ which is what the police claim is their preferred method.”
“If your club backs bubble matches, will the board be joining normal fans in the police escort? If not, why not? We have no doubt you intend to cause no problems at the game. Well neither do the overwhelming majority of your fans.”
We understand further clarity could be given after meetings take place over the coming days.