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April 2021

The Vanarama Conference rule changes but the flare problem grows

By Tony Attwood

If you’ve been reading Untold for a while you might have noted that part of our philosophy is that although we are Arsenal fans, we should all support grassroots football in our area.

Thus although Drew and I are season ticket holders at the Ems, we also pop off and see other games during the season – mostly lower league and non-league games involving clubs in our area.

We reported on some of our adventures last season, and we’re expecting to make a few trips once again this season.   We have one adopted club – Guernsey – and I’ve a long history with Torquay, now sadly in the Conference (the fifth division) and Poole Town (of Southern League Premier).

Our nearest Football League club is Northampton Town, and they are already in the news after just one match when a Mansfield Town fan threw a flare onto the pitch.   You might recall that the use of flares exercised me quite a bit last season, as we saw supporters of foreign clubs and those from Merseyside using flares.

Stewards at the Ems seemed (from my vantage point in the upper tier directly opposite the away support) to be incapable of solving the problem – the stewards at Northampton’s game against Mansfield had an easier time of it, but didn’t stop the away support damaging the advertising signs around their end of the ground.

As a result the football officer for Northamptonshire Police, said after the match: “One male was arrested, one male was reported for a public order offence and one male was issued with a section 27 Violent Crime Reduction notice.”

We’ve not heard anything about how the Emirates staff will be dealing with foreign and Merseyside support this season – but I continue to believe that flares are dangerous.  As are the objects thrown at ambulance staff by Tottenham supporters. Hopefully something is going to be done.
Meanwhile the newly named Vanarama Conference is changing a few of its rules this season – changes that might well be picked up in the Premier League in the not too distant.

The first is that non-playing staff have been instructed not to enter the field of play at half-time or full-time. They are asked to allow match officials to return to their dressing room unimpeded.

This reminds those of us with a spot of memory of 17 March 2009: when the Arsenal 2 Hull 1 score in the sixth round of the FA Cup was of minor importance compared with the wild and extraordinary claims made by Hull City after the match.  What particularly exercised them was the arrival of the non-playing Cesc Fabregas on the pitch at the end of the game.

The second initiative is the reinforcement of a practice introduced by the Conference six years back which says that anyone dismissed from the technical area by the match referee, must be taken to a location that is does not afford a view of the pitch, for the remainder of the match.

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Meanwhile bad language and confrontation on the field with match officials is being targeted.

I do hope that if you have the opportunity to do so you’ll not just support Arsenal, but also your local teams.  Or even if you can’t support them emotionally, at least go and watch them.  Without lower league clubs there could be no Football League and no meaningful Premier League.

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