Date: 22nd January 2009 at 3:23pm
Written by:

This is the first of a two part Q&A with NFFC’s Safety Officer Alan Bexon, in which he’s kindly agreed to answer your questions on everything from the removal of bottle tops, to standing at football matches.

Q) Why under the P.A.C.T. scheme, are those accussed not allowed to give their side of events or see the evidence against them when a ban is issued? If a banning order was sought for in the Courts, be it Civil or Criminal Court the person accussed would have an opportunity to question the evidence against them. With P.A.C.T its all done behind closed doors and the first the person hears about it is when they receive a letter off you saying their banned. Hardly seems a fair system is it? (Chilwell Red)

Police And Clubs Together (PACT)
Initiated in 2003, the PACT agreement is where Nottinghamshire Police, Nottingham Forest, Notts County and Mansfield Town consider the behaviour of individuals with the purpose of reducing violence or anti-social behaviour at football matches.

The parties involved follow an agreed protocol and the scheme has been very successful to date.

Although the details of individual cases cannot be discussed on this forum, anyone who has been affected by this scheme can, if they wish, contact either the Safety Officer at the football club concerned or the Nottinghamshire Police Football Intelligence Officer.

Q) Can you tell us why the club & police insist on having the away fans situated in the lower tier of the Bridgford stand.
This area would be much better given to the Forest fans & would give the team a distinct advantage at home games.
Surely any health & safety concerns could be dealt with by keeping away fans back after the final whistle etc. From what I see when I leave games, there are still the occasional problems when the away fans leave.
Are you any nearer solving this issue?
I seem to remember some years back Leeds taking the entire lower tier of the Brian Clough stand & there were no problems then also away fans have been situated at the bridgford end of the lower Brian Clough before. (Gary Clarkson)

The safety of all supporters attending The City Ground is our main consideration. This factor is a major part of the planning when constructing any new stand.

A large part of any ‘match day risk assessment` focuses on the visiting support. Unfortunately segregation of the two sets of supporters is still necessary at football matches and is one of the main aims of the Police and club stewards in the build up, during and after the game.

The Bridgford Stand gives us this control far better than any other area of the ground.
?Visitors` coaches can drop off supporters close to the turnstiles.

?Visiting supporters accessing the stand can be monitored and controlled far easier and without interference from the home supporters.

?Using this stand gives us greater flexibility when allowing supporters of both teams to exit this stand. Home supporters in the upper tier have 4 stairways that can be used, one into Colwick Road, one at the opposite end of the concourse near Capital One Corner, plus two others in the middle of the stand. At the end of games when there has been some tension between opposing supporters, we can, and do, close the middle two stairs from the upper tier. This allows the Police to cordon and filter the visiting supporters into the car park and helps to prevent any disorder.
This procedure has been used successfully on many occasions and complies with the safety certificate.

?Segregation within the lower tier also allows more flexibility without compromising safety. Allocations of 1500, 2500, 3200, or 4600 can be considered depending on the number of visiting fans attending and the demand for tickets from home supporters.
It has been suggested that we should use the Lower Brian Clough stand for visitors and a similar situation that arose at Aston Villa recently was used as an example of where this change had happened.
We have, and can, use ‘T` block in the lower Brian Clough stand if the number of visiting fans is expected to be low, although this is not ideal. If the visiting fans were to be given all of the lower tier of Brian Clough stand it would create far more problems for us with opposing fans mixing both on entry and when leaving this area. Visiting fans would leave through gates at the rear of the stand into the middle of the car park with home fans leaving at either end of the stand.

As there are only two stairways from the upper tier it would not be possible to close one stairway without reducing the capacity of the upper tier substantially to comply with safety regulations and the ‘Green Guide` in relation to evacuation.

Unlike us, Aston Villa have around 9 exit stairs from their stand and can segregate supporters both inside and in the street outside without having any detrimental effect on capacity or safety.

Q) Why do Stewards ban plastic drink bottle caps? Do they consider them a serious weapon which could be hurled at visiting supporters? I sit in the upper Bridgford and fans there could cause more serious damage to those in the lower section by actually throwing the bottle, empty or full. I daren’t think what damage could also be done by a hot meat pie dropped on the heads of those below. But are these banned? (Nanpantan red)

The decision to remove tops from drink bottles was made 5 years ago after incidents where bottles were used as missiles during disorder. We have been reviewing this decision recently and have relaxed this rule for ‘soft drinks` with immediate effect. Tops will still be removed from beer bottles and there may be certain areas for specific games where we will request that tops are removed from all bottles.

Q) Why, when I’d moved seats to the A Block from my usual season ticket seats in upper Trent End ,was I forced to move away from the area & into the front row of B Block when it was heavily raining?

They claimed it was for safety issues because it’s easier to steward people in large groups rather than small pockets of people scattered around & was threatened with being removed & banned if I didn’t move.(Galaxy 42)

Not sure about what happened here but if a person is sold a ticket for a seat, that person will usually be allowed to sit there, if for some reason that seat is unavailable an alternative seat/ticket will be provided. I would be happy to discuss this matter with the person involved so that I can understand the complaint fully. Could it have been that this person had wanted to sit in an area that had been kept clear at the front of ‘A` block, which we sometimes do and that they thought they were spare seats? If so they would have been moved.

Q) Is it a good thing that stewards take banners down that do not agree with the management of the football club? (blustone)

? They do not cover customers advertising boards or similar.
? They do not block the view of others.
? They do not block any exit routes or signs.
? They do not create a safety hazard.
? They are not racist, obscene or abusive in content.
? They do not create conflict between supporters.

Large flags should be fire retardant material.

Poles that may be used as a weapon or that could compromise public safety are not permitted
(Ground regulation No 6)

A decision on suitability will be made by the Safety Officer or Police Commander if required.

Q) Why do we have a private security firm running the security rather than stewards? How do you select the security firm in question? (blustone)

The safety stewards, managed by their area supervisors, are responsible for safety at the event and enforcement of the ground regulations, under the direction of the club safety officer.

At Nottingham Forest, security officers have been employed to support the club stewards with the ‘search and eject` role, which helps to ensure we comply with legislation. The Steward Supervisor is responsible for managing the security staff in their area and will liaise with them on any security matters. Police officers are in attendance to support both the safety stewards and security officers and to prevent a breach of the peace.

A good working relationship between the three organisations is crucial and continuity is a huge factor in ensuring this is in place. However it is good business practice to see what other security companies have to offer in what is a very competitive market.

Thanks once again to Alan for taking the time out to answer the questions. In Part 2 of this Q&A, Alan will answering your questions on the issues surrounding standing at games.