Police chief queries kick-off time

Published: Monday 9th March 2015 by The News Editor

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The national lead officer for football policing has questioned the scheduling of Aston Villa’s FA Cup quarter-final against West Brom on Saturday after the match was marred by crowd disturbances.

Villa fans invaded the pitch on two occasions while seats were torn out and thrown from the North Stand which was housing the Albion fans.

The Football Association is launching an investigation while West Midlands Police made 17 arrests related to the game and are also seeking witnesses to a disturbance at the Witton Arms pub before the game, which kicked off at 5.30pm.

Four of those arrests were for drunk and disorderly behaviour and Mark Roberts from Cheshire Police believes more consideration should be taken over the scheduling of potentially heated fixtures.

“Saturday night football is here to stay, we appreciate that, Friday night football is due to be coming in,” he told BBC Radio Five Live .

“When you have these fixtures you have to be careful about which ones you play. All games have potential (for crowd trouble) but clearly some games have more potential than others.

“They are big clubs, not clubs that particularly have a troublesome following but when you have that sort of fixture, late on a weekend in particular, alcohol is a factor.

“If you give people four, five, six hours more drinking time, don’t be surprised if in a highly-charged atmosphere, their behaviour isn’t good.

“If you’re looking at whether alcohol was a factor, there was disorder at a public house near the ground before the game, people being arrested coming into the ground for being drunk and disorderly, being drunk seeking entry to a football ground.

“If you looked at the people who came onto the pitch, a few of them looked like they were worse for wear from some substance and I don’t think there is any coincidence that where there’s alcohol involved, people’s behaviour tends to deteriorate.”

He added: “I do think there is an issue here for the broadcasters because that game was scheduled for a 5.30 kick-off to meet the BBC’s scheduling.

“Broadcasters as well as the football authorities need to start taking these issues seriously.

“What we want is a sensible dialogue so that we schedule the game appropriately. If you look at the four games for the FA Cup quarter-finals this week, you couldn’t probably have picked a worse one to have on a Saturday tea-time than a local derby between two big clubs.”

Villa issued an apology for their fans’ behaviour while West Brom vowed to take a “zero tolerance” approach after promising to co-operate fully with the FA inquiry.

And Baggies boss Tony Pulis has called for a lifetime ban for any of the club’s fans who were found to be responsible for throwing seats.

“If that was the situation, and they’ve got CCTV cameras up there, those supporters should never come into another football ground. It is like people coming into someone else’s house – you have to show respect.”

Pulis was also concerned about the ease with which spectators were able to get on to the pitch.

He added: “I am old enough to have seen isolated incidents happen like that. I don’t want to have a go and take anything away from what happened on the pitch and what happened in the game.

“If one thing, Villa should look at the stewarding because with a game at this time of night, 5.30pm, you need to police it properly, and I am sure Villa will look at it.”

Published: Monday 9th March 2015 by The News Editor

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