We told you, says police chief after Aston Villa crowd trouble

Supporters came onto the pitch during and after the FA Cup tie with West Brom

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The Independent Football

English football’s top police officer has said that the ugly scenes which marred Saturday’s FA Cup quarter-final between Aston Villa and West Bromwich Albion were drink-related and prove why forces want a right of veto over televised weekend night matches.

The Independent revealed last week that senior police officers were dismayed to discover that an additional 10 Friday evening matches had been added to schedules under the new £5.1bn TV deal, without being given any advance notice by the Premier League. Police believe there is no recognition of the extra demands being placed on city centre police forces.

Mark Roberts, Cheshire Police assistant chief constable and Association of Chief Police Officers football lead, has told this newspaper that Saturday’s disorder, which included Fabian Delph being bitten by a fan and seats being thrown from a stand by Albion fans, stemmed from the late kick-off, making alcohol the cause of the problem.

Roberts said that a number of early evening derbies is becoming a trend, though the Premier League has indicated that it does not expect the Friday night games from 2016-17 to be top-pick fixtures. “If you look at the quarter-final fixtures, [the BBC] could not have picked a worse one for the 5.30pm kick-off,” he said. “If you look at the pattern of which Saturday evening games have been scheduled, they were initially not contentious fixtures. But they are becoming increasingly so.

“This was an FA Cup tie but it demonstrates why we just want that dialogue with the Premier League. We don’t want to stop Friday and Saturday night football but we are looking for a mechanism where police can say a game is high risk and consideration can be given to when it is played.”

 

A number of fans were arrested for drunk and disorderly behaviour and three men were charged by police last night with offences connected to the match.

Local police leaders say that it would have been impossible for the West Midlands force to have prevented fans spilling onto the pitch because clubs do not wish to pay for police officers to circle the pitch, wanting to use their stewards, at far lower cost, instead.

“Police forces are paid for officers deployed in the footprint of the stadium but we can only allocate officers where they [clubs] say they want them,” Roberts said. “These are not high-risk clubs. They would not usually give us trouble. But with this sort of fixture, late on a weekend, there will be drinking. There is bound to be a highly charged situation when people have six hours’ more drinking time and it is a derby game.”

Villa issued a statement yesterday, which read: “Aston Villa, West Bromwich Albion and West Midlands Police are all working together to investigate events which took place both during and after Saturday’s FA Cup match. The club will also cooperate fully with the Football Association.”

The FA said it had contacted both clubs, described the trouble as “disturbing” and said offenders will face “appropriate punishment”.

West Bromwich midfielder Chris Brunt was yesterday charged by the FA with  verbally abusing match  officials after the game.

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