Before starting this piece, I would like to remind readers that any opinions expressed within this article are solely of the author and not of Morecambe FC.
Ever since Bolton Wanderers travelled up to the Mazuma Stadium in early February of this year. Fans have voiced their concerns following several isolated incidents. The game itself was action packed; a missed penalty, a red card, and a late equaliser. However, following the conclusion of the game, there were reports of two incidents involving home and away fans. The atmosphere around the ground and in the stadium was far from welcoming with many voicing their concerns. One fan stated later that this game was “the most uncomfortable I’ve ever been at a game.” Obviously, these incidents and events are uncommon and isolated, but fans have an inalienable right to feel safe within and around the ground during games.
I was fortunate enough to speak with Morecambe’s CEO Ben Sadler regarding these issues. Many fans have suggested that the club hold back fans to limit them mixing and reduce any potential for conflict. However, Ben stated, “this is simply not permitted by regular law” and further research suggested that only police have the jurisdiction to hold away fans if they believe it to be in the best interest of all fans’ safety. Ben also highlighted how the stewarding strategy on full time has changed, “following the [Bolton] game last season, we now put our response and steward teams out front as a presence for any issues.” This increased presence at the front of the stadium on full time has certainly deterred a lot of potential incidents. There have been no reports of any further incidents within the club’s grounds after full time following the change in procedure. The main problem with these issues is that they arrive as a result of the stadium design only allowing for one entrance/exit for all fans. Therefore, every fan leaving the ground must be funnelled through Christie Way before spreading outwards. “Unfortunately, we have no jurisdiction after the forecourt/Christie Way” Ben continued, “public order issues off our footprint are a police matter and whilst, of course, none of us want to see this occur as it is awful, the club have no power to involve ourselves beyond what we currently do.”
Regarding incidents that happened off site as a result of rogue ‘supporters’, Ben Sadler communicated “there is limited thing we can say and reassure as the incidents happened off site on this occasion and as such it is for the police to comment on.” After there were reports of trouble off site after Fleetwood came up this season, the club further committed to promoting the wellbeing and safety of match going fans. “We continue to try to improve and develop the matchday experience for all, and whilst some of these incidents aren’t what anyone wants or nice to see (which we hear many other clubs face as well), we do hope they remain isolated and don’t spoil the day for the supporters.” Ben said upon the conclusion of Saturday’s fixture against Fleetwood. For anyone looking to have a further and more in-depth update of certain points, you can look at Ben’s monthly update, a sign of the ever-growing transparent communication between the club and its fans.
When actively looking at the stewarding procedure, the light number of police seemed intriguing. Against Stoke I saw a total of 2 officers and only 3 against Fleetwood. This is obviously not the total law enforcement presence and being situated in the Bartercard Terrace myself opposite to the away fans, I will have noticed less than others. This is clearly a decision the police and local council authorities make before a game of which the club itself has no authority over. Co-Chairman Graham Howse stated “Our safety team are aware and I am in constant dialogue with the police as they become public order issues once people have left the footprint of the ground. It is important that any concerns are reported directly to the club, we have put notices around the ground to highlight what to do.”
As stated at the start, any opinions and beliefs expressed here are of the author and not of Morecambe FC.