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Arsenal admit: we can’t make the Emirates secure and safe

By Tony Attwood

From a security point of view Everton v Arsenal was a security disaster.  Everyone knew that Everton fans would bring flares and/or smoke bombs just as they and their Liverpool FC counterparts had done before.   We all knew that Tottenham fans had been able to throw coins and other missiles at medical staff and there had been no obvious response.

Anyone interested also knew that some Everton fans justified the setting off of flares and/or smoke bombs on the grounds that Arsenal fans did the same at other grounds and/or Arsenal fans threw missiles at Everton fans.

Everyone knew that the response of security staff and stewards at Arsenal at previous games involving Liverpool and Everton in terms of flares and smoke bombs had been minimal.  The sight of a handful of stewards trying to push past hostile fans after the event was to say the least embarrassing and ineffectual.

The single response of the Arsenal had come from the Safety Committee made up of the police and club representatives, which cut Everton’s seat allocation very slightly on safety grounds.  Everton appealed against this but it has been impossible to find out what the basis of their appeal was.  It had to be something to do with safety, but it was impossible to see what.  All the publicity about the appeal I said spoke of “playing fair” – nothing about keeping the stadium safe.

True Everton did issue a warning on their web site about not bringing flares and smoke bombs.  They did the same last year but obviously their action, like Arsenal’s is having the opposite effect.  Neither gave reasons as to why they had appealed against the reduction in numbers.  The warnings and the appeal appear contradictory.

So today we had the game – and even before kick off the first flare was ignited.  Security staff flapped around, and the response was clearly inefficient, since when Everton scored flares or smoke bombs went off across the area that housed the Everton fans.   Arsenal FC had been utterly incapable of securing the area.

Now you might expect, in the light of this disaster, the fifth break down in good order within the stadium this season, there would be immediate enquiries, questions asked of security staff and stewards.

By chance I can say that there was nothing of the kind.  Walter and I stayed on in the upper tier after the game, comparing our thoughts on the game, exchanging family news and so on.   We moved down from the upper tier maybe an hour or so after the final whistle and we passed the security staff gathered together.  Were they in debriefing meetings?  Were they answering enquiries on why they had utterly failed to secure the ground and stop the flares and smoke bombs going off – given that they had known this would happen?

Not a bit.  They were chatting happily, and as we passed, were given the all clear to leave the ground.   They seemed thoroughly jolly.

So why is it that the control of away support at Emirates has now broken down?   Four domestic matches with flares and/or smoke bombs going off and one with coins and other objects being thrown at ambulance staff.  (I’m excluding stories I have been told of other outbreaks of trouble at the Emirates this season simply because I am writing about what I have seen either in person or on TV in relation to domestic games.  If there have been other problems involving supporters of Arsenal or the away teams, these are to be condemned as well – but one outbreak does not excuse another.)

For the moment it seems Arsenal have no response.  Reducing the number of supporters apparently happened at the Tottenham game, and this match against Everton, but it just made the matter worse.

I suggested before that each time there is an incident like this the number of supporters for that team for the next game should be cut in half – clearly the reductions we have seen thus far have been nothing like that.  As it stands I can’t think of what else can be done.

It was interesting that when I have covered this topic before some Everton and Tottenham supporters wrote in and said that the number of tickets available for away support is only reduced because Arsenal are afraid of the volume of noise generated by the away support.   It seems a silly argument to me, in that it has no evidence to support it, while the existence of the flares or smoke bombs is there for all to see.  (It is a bit like the people who wrote in suggesting that this site’s protests against the problems generated by Everton supporters were invalid because I didn’t know the difference between a flare and a smoke bomb.  I guess if someone died they might argue that debate about the point was invalid if the weapon wasn’t correctly defined.  The reality is that the effect is the issue.  Smoke bombs and flares are dangerous.  Throwing coins in dangerous.  Who cares if blindness is caused by a smoke bomb or a flare.  Who cares if the perpetrator threw a pound coin or a two pound coin?)

I suppose much of the trouble does go back to Jamie Carrigher, who threw a coin at the crowd from the pitch in January 2002.   The coin had been thrown by a member of the crowd, and he was duly arrested and charged.  Carragher’s offence – much more serious as it was much more likely to cause personal injury – which indeed it did – resulted in a sending off, but there was no subsequent police action of ban from the ground (which happened to the member of the crowd).

The failure of Arsenal to take action then was a sign of significant weakness by the club, and here we are now 12 years later once again dealing with Merseyside clubs over issues of danger.

The situation is escalating, and we can expect at the next Merseyside match not five or six devices being ignited but many many more.  Indeed given the copycat nature of many supporters of lesser intellectual ability, we can expect the problem to spread – until such time as Arsenal take activity.

Watching stewards trying to push their way into the packed crowds at the away end, long after the incident, only for the incident to be repeated from the same spot a little later, is a supreme embarrassment.   We are supposed to be proud of the Emirates stadium – but the fact is whenever they want to be, the away fans of Everton, Liverpool and Tottenham, are out of control.   Just like Carragher was when he threw a coin at the crowd, 12 years ago.

If Arsenal had a solution, they would have introduced it for this game.  That they did not shows they absolutely have no way of making the Emirates a safe stadium for the watching of football.

31 comments to Arsenal admit: we can’t make the Emirates secure and safe

  • Paul efc

    Go on tell me I’m right , your not married and you still live with your mummy and daddy .tool

  • Cou

    The reason they appealed and the reason Liverpool appealed is because they are allowed 15% of the seating by FA rules. They don’t need to supply a reason in their appeal because the reason is inherent in the rules of the competition.

    Furthermore, the assertion (by you) that the allocation was reduced “very slightly” is absurd. It was reduced by around half of 10’s of thousands of tickets. If you’re going to write about it at least get the facts straight.

  • Bif

    Wow, whine whine complain bitch …..sitting for an hour afterwards, get a life! Seems you really hate Liverpool teams, Carragher 12 years ago, he was probably sick and tired of your bloody fans pelting him wtith coins, stop putting yourself on a pedestal, Arsenal fans are just as bad as other fans………Go buy a nice dress to go with your bitching.

  • JOHN

    Arsenals security have a lot of questions to be answered ! I’m guessing 10 flares/smoke bombs went off ! thats 10 people out of 10 thousand ! presumably these same 10 people would of got in the stadium even if the allocation was 15 thousand. so the reductions had no impact whatsoever, only peeing off Everton. Needs another answer !

  • RP7

    Having sat near the Everton fans today I can also say that there were a number of bottles thrown from their area into the Arsenal fans. I even saw one of there fans try to threw a bottle of water into one of the boxes, which hit the boarding and then fell into their own fans which lead to an almost riot as they were claiming the bottle had come from the box, luckily the stewards had seen what had happened

  • blue wharfe

    What a load of sanctimonious nonsense.

    I was in the away section. The atmosphere on the placid end of football spectrum.lovely stadium but feels much more like a visitor’s centre than a football ground. Ssshh..

    You come across as the new breed of football fan the clubs want.. Monied, older and middle class. The game has been stolen from the rest of us…

    Pyrotechnics? All part of the fun.. They are not bombs but mini colourful fireworks.

    Get over yourself or you will spend far too much of your retirement penning tersely worded letters to the daily telegraph..

    You obviously

  • blue wharfe

    By the way fella.. If you’d looked down at half time you’d have seen me and many other blues loudly applauding pat rice.

    Oh and you near halved the allocation on us

  • jambug

    Bif

    You’re the sad bastard on an Arsenal blog at this time of night. If anyone needs to get a life !!!!!

  • johnnyday79

    I have seen the document sent to Everton and arsenals reason for not allowing our full allocation was that the upper section is dangerous is you persistently stand what a joke your club is etc spurs and lfc all with reduced allocation but Coventry were allowed the full allocation your club is a joke

  • insideright

    It appeared from my seat in the Clock End that the the front row of the Upper Tier above the Everton fans had been cordoned off. This, at very least, reduced the chance of Arsenal fans throwing anything onto their rivals – but not by much. Perhaps it was to protect the innocent from the rather acrid smoke that was predicted to come up from below.
    It was also fairly obvious that a number of policemen were drafted in during the early stages of smoke bomb throwing (at least one at a photographer behind the goal) but their presence semmed only to calm things down until Everton scored their equaliser.
    The fact that little Everton pressure ensued on the pitch (and certainly no goals to ‘celebrate’) probably accounted for the end of smoke bombs – or maybe they just ran out of them.
    If such behaviour cannot be stopped might I suggest that players being carried off (as with Theo v Spurs) be taken via the other end of the pitch or that the game be stopped for them to be taken actoss it. As for smoke bombs, I thought that there were cameras trained on everyone all over the stadium. Why haven’t culprits been identified?

  • jambug

    Bif

    And by the way it was actually Arsenal, or rather the stadium management, he was having a go at really. He rather conceded that if you fail to deal with it fans will take advantage.

    The tone was far more a condemnation of Arsenals failure to deal with the flare issue than anyone’s use of them, so why the hell you’re here getting your panties in a twist is beyond me !!

  • nicky

    Isn’t there some way a much closer check can be made at the entrances to the stadium…..on the lines of that made at airport terminals?
    It would take longer of course but
    safety first must be the object.
    Rival fans would soon get fed up with the wait.

  • GoingGoingGooner

    Do other premiership grounds have the same problems?

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    Tony, I’m with you the club should cite there incidents as a safety risk and reduce the ticket allocation by 50%for the next game due to the clear safety risks. The reduced numbers should enable a far more thorough search to be made of all away supporters. If it happens again then reduce the allocation by a further 50% and after that to nothing..

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    The only other thing I can suggest is to fit an automatic sprinkler system to douse the affected areas of the ground with sufficient water to put out the fire.

  • GoingGoingGooner

    How about putting police in amongst the allotted seats? Too dangerous?

  • nicky

    Or what about introducing dogs trained to sniff out smoke and flare bombs.

  • OMGArsenal

    Please,please DON’T feed the trolls like Bif! He’s a cretin who can’t understand what he reads because he has a mental age similar to his hat size and of course he’s probably a scouser which reduces his mental age by half again.
    There are countless ways of controlling such use of dangerous and disruptive devices and here are the most effective:

    1)Arsenal fans on block demand that these imbeciles be stopped from bringing in flares etc. OR they’ll not come to support the Club. when you threaten to hit the management in the pocketbook, you should get results.

    2)Flares and smoke bombs have to carried in under jackets, in knapsacks etc. Random inspections at the ticket stiles, once the spectator has passed through but is not yet in their seat will discourage these morons, especially IF they are prevented from taking their seats until they have given up their toys.

    3)All the stewards need to do is find one clown using a flare (quite easy to spot!!!) and take him out of the stadium to a room with the police there. They can threaten to have him arrested and to pursue him in court, as well as ban him from the Emirates for the rest of the season. They should announce this at half time and just before the end of the game to remind other idiots of what can happen.

    4)Using flare and smoke bomb sniffing dogs is impractical as they need to be trained up and they cost a great deal to use.

    5)Since the entire stadium crowd is on CCTV surveillance, the management could identify specific sections that are using such toys and literally target specific abusers to be expelled from the stadium. They don’t need to get all of them, just enough to make a lesson of.

    6)If none of the above work, then refusing away tickets to their entire fanbase is the last option. It is neither fair nor just but then the away Club has a responsiobility to collaborate in preventing such nonsense and the FA/EPL stuffed suits should also be involved.

    If a member of my family or a friend was injured by such behaviour, you can be sure there would be a lawsuit against Arsenal, the away supporters and the police for failing to protect the supporters from such high-risk ignorance.

  • Bif

    Hey Jambug, very smallminded on your little island, expat living in canada quite a few hours behind you and you still need to get a life it’s past your bedtime now, LMFAO!

  • bjtgooner

    Arsenal would need to be able to show that they have taken all necessary steps to prevent the unlawful ignition of fireworks, pyrotechnics or equivalent devices in the ground/stands, including the prevention of such items being smuggled into the stadium.

    In the event of further devices being ignited Arsenal would again need to show that they have considered that eventually and have put in place effective means to secure public safety. I would have thought that a failure to proceed down this type of route would leave the club vulnerable should there be an accident.

    Obviously the safety Committee will be in the forefront of this effort. The exact measures introduced should be the result of an in depth study or risk assessment.

    Some of the measures suggested above seem sensible and helpful – but, from Tony’s comments it does look as if a lot more needs to be done.

  • Bif

    OMGArsenal, very original, playground bully where you? I stand by what I said……Also fix the problem don’t bitch on and on about
    other supporters when yours are very bad and have been reported doing lots of wrongdoings…..Deal with the problem!
    Also, go browbeat someone that cares, OMG=Valley girl speak.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Your local 4-1 boy is back home after a long but pleasant drive from London to Antwerp. 🙂

    About the smoke bombs. I was in the Clock end and the wind blew the smoke a bit in my direction. I don’t smoke and I don’t want to inhale more smoke and smog than is really needed. So sitting in a stadium and inhaling such smoke is not really my idea about spending my afternoon. It is the inhaling smoke thing that I dislike of course 😉

    The question I have is : does this also happen at Goodison Park?

  • WalterBroeckx

    Johnyday,

    please try to reread the article. Is it a coincidence that the Safety Advisory Group (SAG) has decided to lower the allocation.

    And who is in the SAG? The SAG is made up of services such as the LOCAL COUNCIL, POLICE, FIRE BRIGADE (smoke bombs anyone?) and the CLUB AMONGST OTHERS and issues the stadium’s health and safety certificate.

    So if you want to complain you might go to the police and fire brigade. They will love to know who set of the smoke bombs.
    And your idiots who took them to the ground have done a great job in proving the SAG right in reducing the allocation.

    You’re welcome as Everton fans and I even helped a few of your fans today but YOU MUST STOP BEHAVING LIKE LITTLE KIDS; as that is what little kids like to do: playing with fire. Once you become adult this period is usually over. Unless you are a pyromaniac of course

  • AL

    Good to hear you had a safe journey back home 4-1 boy, hope you get some good rest between now and Tuesday, as we need you in Munich to bring us another 4-1 score 🙂

  • Va Cong

    Bif who do you support?

  • WalterBroeckx

    maybe we should start a petition to ask Arsenal to…. article starting to brew 🙂 ….

  • Va Cong

    4 – 1 at Munich sounds good Al £10 on that then.

  • Sammy The Snake

    Solving this requires simple technology, readily available if Arsenal spend some money.

    Put a few extra security cameras facing the away fans, and record/monitor them. Then give a copy to the Police in the event of…

  • Gooner S

    I suspect that no club can ‘guarantee’ a secure and a safe stadium but they can take all reasonable precautions to do so. I think Arsenal do this. What legal right does a steward have to bodily search somebody because bags are searched? Airport style security? This would slow things up and be detrimental to safety. What is the cost vs. the benefit because that is what it all comes down to in the end. How much of a problem is this?

    I ‘sit’ down by the away support. Everton fans are no better or worse than any other clubs including our own!

  • WalterBroeckx

    Did anyone notice the changed header yet 😉

  • Micheal Ram

    The non Arsenal fans trolling here, please do write your comments with discreet and respect even though YOU BELIEVE the writer is distorting facts or speculating. Mr Walter did wrote this article with true facts as he was in the stadium and millions like me did saw the smoke from Everton section before the game. We all Untold fans have very high regards for Tony and Walter, so behave yourselves.