A North London derby debrief

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A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece about the experience of travelling to White Hart Lane as an Arsenal fan. Those of you that were at White Hart Lane for the League Cup match in September will remember that that fixture was slightly more fraught than usual. The police made the decision to hold the travelling Arsenal fans inside the ground for around an hour after the match, before cordoning them up the Tottenham High Road to Seven Sisters station. Needless to say, it made things rather tense outside.

In response to that article, I was kindly invited by Black Scarf to attend a meeting with representatives from Arsenal (two from Black Scarf and Supporters’ Liaison Officer Mark Brindle) and Spurs (two members of the Tottenham Supporters’ Trust and Spurs’ Supporters’ Liaison Officer) as well as Amanda Jacks from the Football Supporters’ Federation. The meeting was led by the Dedicated Football Officers for Arsenal and Tottenham. The meeting took place at New Scotland Yard. With their kind permission, I reproduce below some of the key points from the meeting.

The first thing to say is that the two officers were candid about the handling of the Capital One Cup game in September. They admitted that it wasn’t quite policed as well as it ought to have been and the main purpose of this meeting was to ensure that there was no repeat. They are investigating the events of the evening and the policing of it.

The officers said that, ordinarily, holding supporters back in the stadium is an absolute last resort and not something they usually like to do. In the 20 or so times I have been to White Hart Lane, I don’t recall ever being held back for longer than 5-10 minutes on a couple of occasions. On this occasion, they took the decision to do so because of extensive disorder around the stadium before the game and a little inside the ground too (I’m sure you all saw the pictures!).

They said that a small group of 100-200 Arsenal fans, some of whom are known to the police as potential troublemakers, were in the area on the night of the game. Most of these supporters have been apparently “out of circulation” for some years in terms of match attendance. But they reappeared in the locale on this evening and caused a lot of disorder around the ground prior to the match.

The decision to hold the Arsenal fans back was made by the police at half-time. The officers admitted that the communication of this fact to Arsenal fans had not been good enough on the night. But it did rather illustrate how a small minority really can balls things up for a much larger body of people. The officers stressed that the reputation of Arsenal fans is pretty impeccable most of the time.

The police are approaching tomorrow’s match as something of a high risk game, the officer said that they are “planning for the worst and hoping for the best.” There is a fear that there will be a measure of “retribution” planned. There will be a bigger police presence than usual, but the officers stressed that those on duty would not police non troublemakers ‘aggressively.’

All pubs in the Islington area will open at midday on match day.

Much of Islington operates no drinking zones on the streets, this will be enforced much more readily tomorrow. If you usually find you can sneak a tinny of Red Stripe under your jacket on your approach to the stadium, don’t be surprised if you aren’t able to do so tomorrow!

Police could use Section 35 powers to disperse troublemakers as an option, where high risk groups of individuals likely to act anti socially can be banished from the borough for a period of up to 48 hours. Section 35 has replaced the old Section 27 powers, which were a little more controversial.

Arsenal fans that have been in the police escort of away supporters towards White Hart Lane have often complained of getting into the game after kickoff. Apparently, Spurs fans have similar complaints over their police escorts to the Emirates. I asked whether this was a deliberate ploy and the officers said that it wasn’t. They said that the earlier fans are inside the stadium, the better for them. But in practice, it is difficult to get fans to leave pubs early enough because escorting large groups of people is not exactly a swift undertaking.

Alcohol will be served inside the ground tomorrow up until 15 minutes before kickoff. It will be served in the away end too, save for half time, when no alcohol will be served to Spurs fans.

The last post will be played before kickoff tomorrow followed by a period of silence for Remembrance Sunday. Fans are encouraged to be inside the ground by 3.50pm to take part and, also, not to disrupt the period of silence.

The half time interview with an Arsenal legend will take place on the pitch as usual, but he will be joined by a Spurs legend too.

Police will advise St. John’s Ambulance to try and avoid stretchering injured players off past opposition supporters where possible! It may be that players will just have to be taken off across the pitch, unless there’s a good medical reason not to.

So, there you have it. Let’s hope for an Arsenal win tomorrow and that everyone behaves as they ought to! Many thanks to Black Scarf for the invite and especially Amanda Jacks from the FSF for facilitating the meeting.

Follow me on Twitter @Stillberto

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