A guest post by Peter Lloyd: There has been some welcome reduction in the number of football matches subject to the draconian restrictions on freedom of movement that make them ‘bubble’ matches, as their discriminatory approach and blatant unfairness have become better known and objected to by clubs and fans alike. But already this season supporters of Burnley, Bristol City and Wrexham have been forced to travel on official coaches and severely restricted if they wanted to watch their team play at Blackburn, Cardiff and Chester respectively. Match kick-off times have been moved, pat-down searches carried out, roads closed and fans filmed by police. Bristol City supporters had just a 30-minute window to exchange their match ticket vouchers for the real tickets at a motorway service station near Cardiff on 26th October 2015 ahead of the match. The reverse fixtures involving these clubs scheduled for later in the season are planned, or likely to have, the same unnecessary restrictions for away supporters. In a poll in the Chester Chronicle, 88% of respondents said that derby matches had lost their sparkle since ‘bubble’ matches were introduced. In total there have been at least 61 full bubble matches over the past 13 years, with many more carrying partial but often onerous restrictions.
Worryingly, the excuse for imposing the restrictions, which are now generally opposed by the clubs but insisted upon by the police, is changing from being the ‘prevention of disorder’ to ‘safety’, which means a broader, less well defined remit and more discretion for the authorities. With the rapid decline in supporter arrests and absence of serious trouble at matches, it’s time to consign this most extreme measure in the curtailment of personal freedom for law-abiding citizens to an unpleasant, unnecessary curiosity of football history. We must encourage the football authorities and the police to focus on the relatively few real troublemakers rather than the totality of away supporters whose matchdays have been blighted. These fans have been made to feel more like criminals than the law-abiding football football fans they are.
You can read the original Manifesto Club report on “Bubble” Matches here.