Having read Joseph Tilbury’s blog re. moving the away fans I’d like to tell you about my experiences of the German Bundesliga whose fans are generally recognised as the most organised in Europe.
Obviously this problem has raised it’s ugly head due to a Portsmouth idiot throwing a flare onto the Sunderland fans below, as well as various bits and pieces launched by Coventry fans a couple of weeks ago. I was sitting in the Black Cats Bar section of the seating with three of my German mates on Saturday and so could have easily become a victim which got me thinking if this could ever happen in Germany.
Firstly, it’s impossible to stop fans taking flares into the stadium if they are determined to do so. Everyone gets frisked at a Bundesliga game but (pardon the language) nobody‘s going to have a look up your backside or feel between a woman’s legs.
Secondly, the away fans are usually placed at the opposite end of the stadium to the home fans to avoid any direct contact and are usually put in a corner with an area left vacant all around which is controlled by security personnel. The home end, and the terracing (in Germany fans are still allowed to stand) which the away fans occupy have nets suspended from the roof to the floor to prevent anyone throwing anything onto the pitch. They are not a hazard to Health and safety as they are nets, not cages, and can be quickly removed in an emergency. I can’t think of any ground in Germany that has away fans above home fans.
Lastly, we did the stadium tour on Sunday and I was talking to John Willis, our guide, and he said that the away fans wouldn’t be moved for next year because people have already renewed their season tickets and the club would be very reticent to move them. I would suggest that the way ahead (short term at least) is to put up nets to prevent anything that is thrown going anywhere. I’ve stood behind nets plenty of times and after a couple of minutes your eyes adjust to the nets and you don’t see them anymore. The first few rows at the top of the North stand are always left empty even when the Mags come to town, so there would be no danger of the fans trying to tear them down.
If this system is tried next season and found to be successful then there would be no need whatsoever to move the away fans in future. As for moving them down to the bowl for more atmosphere, the Pompey fans were loud enough from where I was sitting on Saturday and I though it was a cracking atmosphere.
All the best for the future and let’s see if we can break the recent (I saw us win there in `73) Wembley jinx at last, (providing we get to the Play off finals.)