Controversial crowd control methods to be used again, police say
4:07pm Wednesday 27th June 2012 in Where I Live
Controversial crowd control methods will be used again when Crystal Palace play fierce rivals Brighton this season, police warned.
Police caused uproar among fans in January after erecting a steel wall at the top of Holmesdale Road, Selhurst, to separate rival sets of supporters following the game.
It meant thousands of supporters were diverted down a different route which severely delayed people’s journey home.
After a meeting with fans and club representatives last week, Croydon’s outgoing Chief Superintendent Adrian Roberts and his successor Ch Supt David Musker, said they would continue to police the game accordingly.
Stephen Browett, co-owner of Crystal Palace FC, said there was a nasty element of fans who go to derby games solely to cause trouble.
"They had 250 police officers on duty for the Brighton game, which is a lot," he said.
"They agreed communications to the fans had been bad but on the other hand they said if you are using certain policing methods after a game, you aren’t going to publicise what you are doing.
"There are a small amount of hooligans who want to get to Brighton fans and if they know what the plans are they can make alternative arrangements to ambush the Brighton fans as soon as possible.
"There used to be serious trouble between Brighton and Palace fans in the past. People would turn up just to cause trouble.
"There is a little element now though, in Croydon and possibly in Brighton, who see this game as an opportunity to be really nasty."
Mr Browett said police uncovered a stash of weapons before the visit of south-coast rivals Brighton on 31 January 2012 which led to a higher police presence.
He said: "The aim of the police is to keep the two sets of hooligans from both sides apart. It is only a small number, police say 99.9 per cent of fans are genuine fans.
"Their principal objective is not to help the revenue of Crystal Palace FC or help people get back to their cars, they have to make sure violence is averted.
"The fact no one was stabbed after the game, justified their police tactics."
Croydon Police Borough Commander, Chief Superintendent David Musker, said: "With regards to the 2012/2013 season, decisions about the policing tactics used at games, as was the case last season, will be made based on the risks identified, the intelligence picture for each individual match and after discussions with the club.
"We always keep an open mind about what these tactics will be. My primary duty is to keep people safe I will continue to use any legitimate tactical option to accomplish this.
"I want to be clear that the objective of Croydon Police is to deliver a safe environment for all fans that go and watch football at Crystal Palace."
He said last season's policing operation for the Crystal Palace vs Brighton match on January 31 prevented any serious public disorder before or after the game.
"However, there are always lessons to be learned," he added.
"A full debrief has been held and Croydon Police recognize that our communications, particularly with the fans, can be improved.
"As a result, we are now committed to meeting with fan groups at least three times a year to enter into dialogue, get feedback, and further our joint understanding of policing football."
James Daly, editor of the Five Year Plan fanzine, said it was beneficial to have clear-the-air talks with police.
He said: "It was a step forward in the sense that there was an understanding about what the police need to do and what issues we as fans have.
"The fact that they gave over two hours of their time to come down and talk to us suggests how important they view it.
"Not many clubs do it. It was a step in the right direction but there are still a lot of issues that fans have so there is a long way to go.
"It can only be viewed as positive so far though."
Crystal Palace have derby games against Brighton, Millwall and Charlton Athletic this season.
The Brighton game takes place on December 1, Millwall is on October 20 and Charlton on February 2.