Police will be out in force at Swindon Town clash with Bristol City
POLICE will have a large presence in the town centre as Swindon Town take on near neighbours Bristol City – and officers hope there will be no repeat of ugly scenes that have marred previous encounters between the teams.
Today marks the first time the two teams have met at the County Ground in almost eight years, since both teams find themselves in the same division of the Football League again.
Both Wiltshire Police and the club have been in discussions to plan how they will manage the 12,500 fans, including 2,500 City supporters, expected to make their way to the stadium for the 3pm kick-off.
But Chief Inspector Keith Ewart admitted the length of time that has lapsed since the two sides last faced each other has meant there was an element of the unknown in what officers expect.
He said: “Of course it’s a local derby and there has been some history of disorder in games involving Bristol City, but it’s been a while since they played each other so it’s a little bit of an unknown quantity.”
In previous matches at SN1 fans have clashed, most notably before the last league game between the two sides in 2005 when around 30 Bristol City fans heard singing by Town fans at the Merlin pub, in Drove Road, and broke down the wall from the house opposite before throwing stones and rocks at the pub and smashing windows.
More recently, City supporters clashed with their Bristol Rovers rivals following the sides’ Johnstone’s Paint Trophy tie earlier this month, with 12 arrested after three police officers were left needing treatment, while also 10 Swindon Town fans are currently facing court action over a violent disorder in Brentford in May.
Chief Insp Ewart said: “This is a category C game and will be appropriately policed.
“We have spoken with the club and based our staffing on previous history, intelligence that has come into us and other factors including the numbers of people attending.
“The message is it’s a high-profile game and we will have a visible police presence in the town centre - many fans will be enjoying the game and we hope that nobody engages in altercations or inappropriate conduct.
“There will be a large police presence in the area all day and evening and we are conscious of the impact it will have on the local community. We are optimistic and have the resources in place as appropriate.”
Mark Isaacs, operations manager at the football club, said: “We had a planning meeting with the police on Tuesday for around three or four hours, making sure our plans are set for the City game and also the Chelsea game on Tuesday so we are well prepared.
“We have plenty of stewards on and we hope the fans enjoy what should be an interesting derby.”