Merseyside Police notes the decision of the court today and will provide a professional policing response to ensure that fans attending the game on Saturday, 7 February, can do so safely.
Merseyside Police has today withdrawn its appeal at South Sefton Magistrates Court following an undertaking by Everton Football Club to enforce segregation at the ground on the day of the game.
A consent order was also approved by the court and this has set out a way forward for the force to work with Liverpool City Council and the clubs to address concerns in relation to kick-off times, particularly for fixtures that the force deems to be high risk. The aim of this is to prevent such issues arising again. All parties have agreed that this meeting will take place within 28 days.
Deputy Chief Constable Andy Cooke, said: “Our opposition around the late kick-off time has been constant throughout and our paramount concern has always been the safety of those attending the game.
“Ideally we would have preferred that this situation could have been resolved much earlier and we have pressed throughout to get the time changed. The force accepts that any change to the kick-off time at this stage would have considerable inconvenience for those fans who were going to the game. But unfortunately we were given no option but to appeal to the courts and today we have been able to come to agreement about the way forward.
“The force asked Liverpool City Council to review the Ground Safety Certificate as a result of our concerns and requested that the game be moved to a 2pm, or earlier, kick-off and that home and visiting supporters be segregated, in line with other fixtures.
“Following the decision by the licensing committee not to amend the conditions of the Safety Certificate, the force sought to appeal the decision of the licensing committee through the courts.
“Our primary concern has always been the safety of those attending the ground and the decision to go with a 5.30pm kick-off for this game creates unnecessary risk. We have tried to do everything possible to get this situation resolved as quickly as possible.
“Unfortunately our hands were tied and this was the first available opportunity, following our representations to the club, Premier League and Ground Safety Advisory Group to appeal the decision in a bid to make sure that the game did not go ahead without unnecessary risk.
“Our request to move the kick-off time is in no way a reflection of the behaviour of fans from either club, as the majority of people who attend the games are genuine fans who go to enjoy the football and have a good time.
“Unfortunately, there is a significant minority who take the opportunity to drink and cause problems, and the additional hours before the game give these people the opportunity to spoil what should be a good afternoon out at the football.
“We have always enjoyed good working relationships with both Everton and Liverpool Clubs and their respective supporters associations and in the run-up to the game this will continue. But again we must stress that the people who we are concerned about are not those genuine fans who actively support the clubs and join the supporters associations. We want people to enjoy the game in safety.”
“In previous seasons this particular fixture has never been subject to a 5.30pm kick-off, as we have always been able to liaise (in advance of the season) with the club and Premier League to ensure an early kick-off to avoid conditions that can place unnecessary demand on the emergency services. The majority of people who attend the derby game are generally from the Merseyside region and the later kick-off time gives some people, who are not necessarily true football supporters, the chance to take advantage of the early pub opening times and this can lead to potential disorder. In previous years we have had experience of policing 5.30pm kick-offs at both Goodison and Anfield, involving clubs from other areas, and these have not been without issue due to behaviour being affected by alcohol.”
He added: “Whilst it is accepted that the safety certificate addresses issues inside the ground it is only right that we consider the effect of the fixture on the policing of Merseyside. The plan for a mid-afternoon kick off requires the deployment of 83 officers to police the area close to the stadium for an eight hour period. The costs of these resources would be recoverable from the club.
“The 5.30pm kick off time presents different challenges for the force and the club and increases the impact of the event, not only to the city centre but across Merseyside. The plan for a late kick off requires 254 police officers covering the area around the stadium, inside the stadium and also the city centre. The operation would be extended to 17 hours, which would result in valuable resources being displaced from their ordinary duties from across Merseyside. Additional resources would also be deployed to police licensed premises across the county. The cost of that operation to date would be £78,500 and at least £50,000 of that would not be recoverable from club. There is no doubt that the late kick off, to facilitate the match being played on live TV, would significantly stretch our resources. Going forward cognisance needs to be taken in relation to the timings of these games and the extra burden on police resources and the public purse when forces are seeing unprecedented cuts to their budgets.”
March 2014 – A letter was sent to the Premier League categorising different matches and recommending start times, this included a recommendation for an early kick-off for both Derby games. That letter was a joint letter signed by Merseyside Police and both clubs following risk assessments and categorisation of all games
2 December, 2014 – Everton Football club e-mailed Merseyside Police’s Force Co-ordination Unit to advise us that there had been a request from the Premier League to change the kick-off to a 5.30pm start. On the same day the force the force put together an initial risk assessment, which was e-mailed to the club. That risk assessment explained that there was an increased risk to the safety of those at the ground and therefore the force would not support a 5.30pm kick off
4 December, 2014 – Everton contacted the force to say that the Premier League were still insistent on a 5.30pm kick-off. A more comprehensive risk assessment was produced and sent back to the club again stressing that the match should not go ahead at that time
8 December, 2014 – A comprehensive risk assessment was sent to Liverpool City Council and Everton Football Club giving a detailed rationale as to why the game should not go ahead at 5.30pm
12 December, 2014 – the local authority Ground Safety Advisory Group heard submissions from both Everton Football Club and Merseyside Police in relation to the timing of the kick-off. Again the force stressed that the kick-off should not be 5.30pm. The concerns raised at that meeting were acknowledged by both the GSAG and Everton Football Club
19 December, 2014 – following recommendations from the GSAG the Mayor, Joe Anderson, wrote a letter sent by e-mail at 18.11pm to the Premier League asking them to review the timing of the kick-off and to consider an earlier start time as originally requested back in March. On the same date the Premier League confirmed publicly at 11am the fixtures (including times) of February fixtures
21 January, 2014 – Merseyside Police met with representatives from both Everton and Liverpool Football Clubs and the various supporters groups for each club (including Blue Union and Spirit of Shankly). The rationale for our appeal to change the start time was outlined and the timescales were explained to them. A further meeting is due to be held on Thursday (5 February)
23 December, 2014 – A full licensing committee was held by the GSAG and further representations were made by Merseyside Police with two requested changes to the Ground Safety Licence under the Ground Safety Act. GSAG deferred any decision pending legal advice and a response from the Premier League. The force could not take any further action until that decision was made.
29 January, 2015 – GSAG committee made a decision not to amend the conditions of the Safety Certificate.
30 January, 2015 – Merseyside Police made an application to the courts to appeal the decision and court date was set for Tuesday, February 3
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