Here is a post from Peter Lloyd, Manifesto Club member and football supporter, on the new phenomenon of ‘bubble matches’ – a ban on fans’ independent travel which amounts to a gross intrusion on freedom of movement…
I am a close follower of football and a regular attendee at professional football matches. I have experienced being body searched as an “away” fan at a number of grounds including Brighton and Birmingham, the latter just a few weeks ago.
This is an intrusive, excessive, disproportionate and unjustified interference with ordinary people going to a football match. Incidents which could be considered dangerous at football matches are now very rare and usually involve throwing a coin or empty plastic bottle on the pitch in the direction of a player or official. Even these are rare and it is extremely rare for any serious injury to occur. Coins are, for obvious reasons, allowed into grounds as are plastic bottles which are also sold in the grounds (after the tops have been removed because they are considered to be a potential weapon, though you’d be hard pressed to injure someone with one).
Violence around football grounds has declined markedly – it feels like 90%+ – but the intimidation from heavy handed stewarding and police presence, is if anything, more intense than ever.
There is now an even greater interference in the peaceful activities of ordinary people going about a perfectly normal activity. The control involves a relatively new phenomenon called “Bubble Matches” or “Bubble Trips”, where all away fans must travel on designated transport – usually club coaches, from specific pickup points. This effectively bans you from travelling in your own car, or making your own way on the train.
Amanda Jacks of the Football Supporters’ Federation makes some good points in this article on ‘bubble matches’.
This regulation is objectionable for a number of reasons:
1. Innocent people are targeted, rather than known offenders;
2. There is a presumption of guilt, just for being in a herded group;
3. No rational argument is used – the measure is for the convenience of the Police and “Safety” officers who are in charge on matchdays;
5. No amount of disruption and interference is regarded as excessive if it might reduce the chance of ANY incident;
6. A person really determined to cause trouble probably couldn’t be stopped anyway.
Having been involved for decades in football I know that this is the greatest interference in ordinary people taking part in a legal leisure activity since the 1970s, when high level club football matches usually had some element of hooliganism and violence.