RESTRICTIVE ‘bubble match’ arrangements at the Chester FC v Wrexham FC derby in September were adopted at the request of the football clubs, a senior police officer revealed yesterday.
Inspector Paul Wycherley said the controversial policing and travel tactics, which sees away fans travelling to derby games on designated coaches only, were asked for by the clubs on both sides of the border at a recent meeting with police chiefs.
The bubble match arrangements are unpopular with some sections of supporters and a petition set up by a Wrexham fan calling to scrap the bubble match plan has gained more than 250 signatures from fellow supoprters.
But Insp Wycherley said: “We met with both clubs and both NWP and Cheshire Police and, at the request of both clubs we were asked to put in place the same safe transport arrangements as took place last season.
“Yes, there will always be some fans who are opposed to this, but from our point of view the arrangements worked well last season.
“The majority of fans said they felt safe at the games last year, which is the main thing.
“We also have to take into account there are other people who wish to use Wrexham town centre on the day of the games, they have to be taken into account, and safety is paramount.”
Insp Wycherley also warned football supporters they will not be allowed to attend the cross-border derby on September 22 if they are too drunk.
Some voiced fears over possible disorder and safety after the announcement that the game will be an 8pm kick off to allow it to be shown live on TV. Concerns were raised that the evening kick off would give away fans the opportunity to drink in Wrexham town centre during the day in the lead up the the crunch fixture.
But Insp Wycherley said his officers will take action if they find supporters drunk before the bubble match buses leave for Chester.
“I appreciate that a night time kick off does give supporters the chance to have a few more drinks than they normally would do before a normal Saturday match,” he said.
“However, we will have extra officers on patrols on the day in the town centre and they know their rights.
“If anyone is intoxicated in a public place we have the right to take action and our officers will be on the lookout for anyone who has had too much to drink before getting on the coaches to Chester.
“Wrexham and Chester are two great rivals and I just hope the game goes off without incident and is played in the correct spirit.”Insp Wyceherley confirmed he will be in charge of the operation for the reverse fixture at the Racecourse on March 7.