Did The Bubble Work?
My thoughts on the Police operation for the derby game.
Prior to the match yesterday, I made myself clear that I didn't believe that the Pompey fans should be treated like criminals or hooligans from the 1970's and be forced to enter the police "bubble" to go to the game.
I still stand by those comments as I believe that all football fans should have a choice in how they wish to travel to a game of football, no matter who the opposition are on the day.
It's not as if the "bubble" succeeded in preventing fans from getting tanked up on booze before getting on the buses either. As I made my way to Fratton Park from the train station I passed many empty bottles and cans of various alcoholic beverages lying around.
Upon approaching the very front bus of the bubble, I was "searched" by the voluntary steward for the operation before being let on. By "searched" I mean I was asked what I had in my pockets before being let on the bus.
I could have lied and I might have gotten away with it, apparently this wasn't the only coach where the security was relaxed, which is a little strange given that there were no searches at all carried out at St. Mary's Stadium.
He said he didn't agree with the whole operation after reading out the standard security brief, noting that if the police did decide to spot check the bus and found alcohol, the vehicle would be stopped and we wouldn't see the game.
I'm not so sure that it was such a wise thing to mention that the police would send us away from St. Mary's on their say-so, and anyone not on their respective vehicle would have to make their own way back from Southampton. I wonder if any fans did "sneak out" and what happened to them if they did?
The bubble finally began to make its way to Southampton much after the scheduled time of 10:45 and with the bus doing a whopping 20mph on the M27 there was some time for the fans to have a good chat and get hyped up for the game.
It was also good to see people with Pompey flags and banners stood on top of the bridges and waving us off on the way to enemy territory, complete with police supervision, of course.
As the escorts made their way into Bursledon the singing started and as we got deeper into Southampton territory, there was some humourous abuse being slung back and forth by the Pompey fans and the Scummers that we passed on the way.
The funniest incident of the journey there was some old lady at the bus stop putting her hand out to signal the bus to stop. I don't know what she was thinking but maybe one of the other 40-odd buses behind us let her on?
It wasn't long before the cavalry arrived into Southampton and were greeted by various Saints "welcoming committees" who were more than happy to return the gestures many of the Pompey fans gave to them.
Thankfully there were so many police there that nothing was thrown at our bus, although I have read that one or two things had been thrown at the others behind us, although no damage was done.
We eventually arrived at the stadium and were allowed straight in. No security checks and no checking for tickets. I suppose that the authorities assumed that everyone on the bubble had been thoroughly searched and issued a ticket whislt travelling.
After a cracking south coast derby, fans were kept behind for a while before leaving for the same bus/coach they boarded. There were no fence rattling Neanderthals to "donate" money to us this time around and it was simple enough to send the Pompey fans on their way back home.
The journey back was the same as it was there. Pompey fans were in high spirits, exchanging banter with the Saints fans with some of them taking it in good spirit and others, well... not so much!
We all arrived safely back at Fratton Park in time to go to the local bars and pubs to check out what was happening in the 3pm kick-offs and to have a celebratory drink or ten.
So, was the bubble operation a success?
The police will undoubtedly say "yes" as there has been no reported scenes of major incidents and if there were any arrests then they were few and far between.
From a fans' point of view I didn't think the overall experience was all that bad. The stewards did a good job and there was plenty of laughs to be had on the journey there and back.
However, this is not something I would like to see made compulsory in the future. The result probably took the attention off the operation and had it not been for David Norris' magic moment in stoppage time, there may have been many more complaints about being "held against our will".
After all, watching football is not a crime and so we shouldn't be treated like criminals.
The choice to travel to the derby games should remain in future as otherwise there is surely a degree of abusing human rights here?
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