The price the innocent pay because of football thugs

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LESLEY KEATING: A white-knuckle pursuit ending with a lesson in trust

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T he police have a lot to endure every time Pompey play Saints. They are confronted by dull-minded louts on both sides, spitting venom and bent on violence and mayhem.

That boorishness also has to be endured by thousands of decent people – namely the true fans of these two proud clubs.

For them, the excitement of the south coast derby is marred by the fear of, or even worse the witnessing of, terrifying hooliganism.

Many simply decide not to attend these matches – particularly if their favourites are playing at the opposition’s ground – so missing the biggest match of the season in favour of staying safe.

So it is not surprising that the police try all they can to prevent trouble.

For that reason, we do not criticise their latest tactic against the thugs – although we do question the price that all fans will have to pay as a result.

When Saints come to Fratton Park in December, those travelling to support them will be required to do so by coach as a condition of receiving their ticket to the match. Police will then shepherd them in and out of the ground, preventing any contact with Pompey fans.

This is a good way of further thwarting the intentions of those who seek violence, but we note two things. First, a lot of troublemakers who seek confrontation in a rival football city never go to the game itself anyway – they will be unaffected by this particular crackdown.

Secondly, and even more importantly, this move takes away the ability of thousands of decent people to travel freely. Many will be families and friends who wish to make the journey by car or train, either for convenience or to avoid the moronic ‘welcoming committee’ which will inevitably gather to hurl abuse as coaches pass through Portsmouth.

Logic says that repeat restrictions will apply to Pompey fans travelling to Southampton for the return fixture next April.

The infringement on decent people’s rights worries us. Better to really – and we mean really – punish the hooligans, to a degree that their like are too scared to offend in future.