by The Boy Holty
(February 9, 2016)
Bury FC have announced that following trouble during the Hull City FA Cup match between home fans in the Cemetery End and away fans in the South Stand, away supporters will now be housed in the Manny Road End for the rest of the season.
As usual, this decision was taken 'on police advice' which shows that what I said earlier is true, that the club do not know how to handle crowds.
The crowd management in some higher profile recent games has been a disaster and it not only makes us look like idiots, but it is destroying the already poor relationship between Bury FC and its supporters. There is a growing sense of distrust, suspicion and doubt over the capability of the current club management to run this club successfully. It is quite apparent that they have done well in improving the income of the club and the squad is better than anything we have had for years (although if Bury FC are self-sufficient then I'm a Chinaman), but when it comes to managing the match-day experience, they have proved that currently they are not up to the task.
However, despite all this, we need to remember one important thing. The current management set-up at the club (i.e. Stewart Day, Glenn Thomas, Geoff Durbin, Ian Kendall and all that lot) have only been running a football club for two and a half years and until this season the biggest occasion they have had to deal with was Rochdale at home, usually fairly quiet affairs.
Suddenly they've got Blackpool, Wigan, Oldham, Rochdale, Sheffield United and two big FA Cup games to deal with and it isn't surprising when you consider it that way, that they've made mistakes.
Its easy to forget that we've been watching Bury for years, and we think we could probably give them better advice than the police seem to be doing, but they're in charge not us, so perhaps a more patient and constructive approach is needed from us, the supporters.
Being kind to the board, all we can hope for and expect, is that they are learning from all these events and the evidence is that they are doing so. They gave Bradford both ends on the understanding that they would bring three or four thousand supporters, which they did, but it wasn't a great solution. They then gave Hull more or less half the ground (and in doing so ruined the atmosphere) on the incorrect advice that 5000 Hull fans would come and when just 2700 bought tickets and they started chucking flares at the Bury fans, a further re-think was called for. Hence the recent announcement where away fans are to go in the MRE where they are just as capable of throwing things at Bury fans (and vice versa) as anywhere else in the ground, but at least the people at the front will have a rubbish view, which is some consolation.
To my mind, the Cemetery end is perfect for away supporters, as long as the segregation between home and away is properly managed (which it wasn't when Hull visited) because they entry and exit points are well away from where the majority of home fans enter and leave the stadium. The stand holds around 2800 I think which is enough for most visiting teams with the option of using the east end of the main stand for an additional 500 or so seats. That's 3300, which is around 25% of the total capacity of the ground, and which is more than generous.
The segregation issue bugs me. For starters, the Bury fans need to learn to behave, and Bury FC need to start banning supporters who don't but I watched MOTD last weekend and at the Etihad stadium, there is nothing more than a narrow line of stewards separating the two sets of supporters. No ridiculous plywood walls, no disorganised crowds of confused and frightened policemen and no fences. If crowds of around 50,000 can be managed like that, then why can't we deal with six or seven thousand once in a while?
The club are, quite reasonably, keen to maximise revenue and that was why the Hull match was such a shambles, but I think they perhaps need to say to clubs, "We can handle 3300 away fans. Here's the tickets. When they're gone, they're gone." and risk missing out on potentially a bit of match-day revenue for the sake of minimising confusion, disruption and supporter unrest. The knock on effect would be that before long, the police would start to trust the club to manage crowds themselves and that would cut policing costs.
I once again reiterate my fear that if we end up playing Bolton next season, and if Bury FC don't get the crowd management issue right then the occasion is going to be deeply unpleasant for everyone involved. I dread it, I really do.
Up the Shakers.
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