By Tony Attwood
During the match between Arsenal and Bayern Munich there were two separate disturbances that I noticed from my seat in block 99. I haven’t seen anything in the way of commentary on these – although obviously I don’t get to see all the media, so someone else may have picked up on them. Certainly both were rather worrying.
The first event was the letting off of flares by the Bayern supporters. As far as I know flares are absolutely not allowed within the stadium, not least because the flares can cause injury to those around the flare, and the flares themselves can be thrown towards other spectators, or onto the pitch. Certainly at entrance D where I enter the ground, there are stewards at every turnstile checking what we bring into the ground and I had assumed it was to check not just if we were committing the dreadful crime of bringing our own water bottle into the ground but to see if we were smuggling something more serious within the Ems.
Now we all know that flares can be dismantled and individual parts can be carried by different people who then re-assemble the flares once they are in position. That’s old news, and I am sure that the stewards are instructed to watch out for that at the away end. So clearly searching must have been done along these lines. But still the flares got into the ground. How?
I raise this point, not just because I don’t want someone throwing a flare at me but also because I have commented in passing over the years about the security in the ground, which includes (or at least in the past has included) the removal of the plastic tops from water bottles when sold in the ground.
Thus I am not only prohibited from bringing my own drink into the stadium, I am also prohibited from having very small plastic bottle top – presumably because I might be able to flick it 10 inches. Yet at the same time security at the away end seems to be so lax that people can just bring flares in, as and when they want. That is concerning. Concerning because the precautions seem to have been drawn up by a Jobsworth who has created a list of possible disasters that can be caused by water bottle tops but not by flares.
Worse, when the flares were lit, there were no stewards anywhere near the fans with the flares – and from the look of it from the opposite end of the ground, the stewards were utterly unable to get anywhere near the fans, even if they felt like it.
Yet this is in a ground where there are stewards all over the place. Two of them stand having a natter at the top of the entrance gangway for block 99, and I have to edge past them to go in and turn right to get to my seat. I am sure they are jolly nice people, but I am not sure why they are there. Especially when there is no one at the top of the next entrance, in front of the disabled supporters section, where fans sometimes crouch near the end of the game (effectively blocking the exits) waiting for the final whistle.
But back to flares. At least two went off, and stayed alight for some time. No one did anything, and I would like to know why not.
Near the end of the game however the stewards were very much in evidence at the top of the upper level fairly central behind the goal in the north bank. I don’t know what happened because I was watching the game, but when I looked behind I saw lots of stewards edging people one way and another, and a bit of pushing and shoving going on.
So it seems stewards can be detailed to get into the crowd of Arsenal supporters, but not be told to get among the visiting supporters. Again I would like to ask “why not?” in relation to the visitors’ end. If the fact is that the supporters are all standing and there are too many of them packed in there, then two options are available:
a) limit the number of visiting supporters as Aston Villa have done against Arsenal (on the grounds that people won’t sit down)
b) give everyone a notice that says, if you stand during the game you will be removed.
Do I want this to happen? Of course not, but I am getting concerned about the way this is panning out. Seemingly the club cannot stop flares coming into the ground and being let off, but they can stop people bringing their own water into the ground, and can insist on tops being removed from water bottles.
This shows something is seriously wrong. I don’t want more and more rules and restrictions – I actually want fewer rules and restrictions. I want rules and restrictions that stop really dangerous objects coming into the ground, but I don’t want rules and restrictions that stop regular fans behaving in a regular, reasonable manner.
Is that too much to ask for?
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