Hampshire police could phase out ‘bubble’ coaches for future south coast derbies

CONVOY The buses taking the Pompey fans to Southampton.  Picture: Daniel Rayner
CONVOY The buses taking the Pompey fans to Southampton. Picture: Daniel Rayner
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FANS could have the choice to use ‘bubble’ coaches or make their own way to watch Pompey face Southampton in the future.

Superintendent Rick Burrows, of Hampshire police, revealed his hopes to reduce the use of the controversial method of transport after it was deployed for the derby game on Saturday.

He hopes the police, clubs, the FA and fans’ groups can work together to promote respect among rival supporters.

Police made five arrests on Saturday for low-level disorder offences.

Supt Burrows said: ‘The use of the coach bubble is used on a threat and risk basis and is not automatically a tactical response.

‘My experience of the last two bubble fixtures is that they have been extremely successful in denying fan disorder, hugely successful in denying cost and damage related to disorder and hugely successful in denying injuries to members of the public and stewards.

‘But I am hugely conscious about restricting the freedom of choice and movement of football fans.

‘There could be a voluntary bubble for the safety and security of away fans to travel.

‘We need to look at the threat of disorder and make a decision about the tactical plan we need. In some of the feedback I received, fans were hugely supportive of the bubble – it was quick, cost-effective, safe and secure.’

He defended the route the coaches took around St Mary’s Stadium, adding it avoided ‘pinch-points’ with rival fans and was the fastest route to the ground, despite fans being taunted at various points on the journey.

One fan who hopes the ‘bubble’ system goes pop is Ken Malley, vice-chairman of the Pompey Supporters’ Trust.

He travelled from Bude in Cornwall to Portsmouth to get to the convoy but fears the method stokes up resentment.

He said: ‘I’ve always been convinced that they’re not doing anything about getting to the cause of the problem. I’d be delighted if they do wean off the bubble idea.

‘Police have now conducted two matches with military precision but if anything they are creating an “us v them” attitude.

‘Two lads in front of me were only allowed to go because their parents said they were safe in the bubble, but those kids are going to grow up thinking of red and white shirts as the enemy.’

WHO FITS THE BILL

THE Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) says clubs should foot the bill for trouble caused away from stadiums on match days.

Research carried out by the University of London – commissioned by ACPO – shows disorder occurring beyond stadiums and in surrounding streets could be sparked by football matches.

Clubs are responsible for the cost of policing in and around stadiums but clubs only pay for the coverage at the stadium.

Speaking to BBC Radio Five Live, assistant chief constable Andy Holt, who leads ACPO on football policing, said: ‘My view is that clubs should bear a greater burden of the costs.’