It’s no secret that when it comes to Villa vs Blues derbies, their reputation precedes them and has in recent encounters prompted the WM Police to make special provisions.
Last season, we saw the holding back of Villa fans at St Andrews followed by a police escort away from St Andrews. While at Villa Park, the police managed to segregate the area around Villa Park to such an extent, Blues away fans almost had to apply for visas just to visit Aston for 90 minutes.
Of course, supporters’ safety is paramount and at the moment such restrictions on personal movement have been seen to be a necessary evil, as both clubs and the local police increasingly evolve better solutions to deal with matches between the two teams.
Progress has been made and last season’s two games were seen as a success, with the reduced away allocations seeing a slight increase this season of 5%. A further increase, could be in the offering in future seasons, if and when the two teams meet again.
For the upcoming fixture at St Andrews, MOMS has been involved in a Villa supporter think tank meeting with WM Police and then a further Away Fan Consultation meeting discussing ways of improving the experience of Villa supporters going to St Andrews and ensuring their safety.
Throwing more police officers and resources at the game is not the approach the police ideally want to take, for obvious reasons, so better strategising and common sense is increasingly sought.
Most Villa and Blues supporters enjoy the prospect of the games, so you don’t want to curb that spirit and dampened the excitement surrounding the game.
12 o’clock kick-offs, being held back, police escorts and the like, make the game feel very last century.
With that in mind, talks with the police were very progressive. There was talk of removing the need for the holding back of away fans at the end of the game, finding a safe and workable alternative to a police escort, and staggering the departure of coaches (so there is no bottle necking when they arrive at St Andrews).
Talk of various routes of entry to the game were also considered. Although practically, they couldn’t be implemented this time round.
Last Minute Problem
Unfortunately, a last-minute spanner was thrown into the proposed arrangements for this Sunday, when Network Rail informed Villa on Wednesday that there would be no trains on the day going to Duddeston before 1.30pm due to engineering works.
It’s all in the timing.
An eleventh hour solution to help at least some Villans get to the game safely was arrived at by the club in the form of providing an additional coach service from Villa Park.
Supporters could park at Villa Park for free and then take a coach to St Andrews for the cost of
Coaches will leave Villa Park before 11am and drop fans off near St Andrew’s.
While the cost is nominal, MOMS thought the club may have missed an opportunity to provide supporters with some good will by laying on such coaches for free.
After all, due to the late train hitch, the police also announced they would have to abandon potential new plans and again this season hold Villa supporters back 30 minutes after the game (the police have promised there will be better communication at the game, after the game, then last time).
— Aston Villa WMPolice (@WMPVillaFC) October 26, 2017
If you want an example of good practice, you only have to look back to last season where the Blues rallied their sponsors to provide free coach travel and even a free beer to travelling Blues away fans coming to Villa Park.
It’s a simple good will gesture that provides practical value to the supporter at a relative low cost to the club.
I contacted the club to ask if they had considered such a move, and was told that one of the issues was the last-minute nature of the situation and the need to find a solution.
Understandably, it was far from ideal for all parties concerned to have the engineering works curveball thrown at them at the last-minute
So, granted, there’s little time to rally the sponsors in time to undergo an initiative in the same way the Blues did.
Also, the club stated they were uncertain about the demand and expected a limited uptake, and at least paying in advance ensured there was a booking and a confirmation of usage.
However, it is still possible to book something without a fee, although the point that someone is more inclined to use something, if they have paid for it, does have some credence.
It seems to MOMS at least, that offering up the coaches for free was a no-brainer decision and a reasonable course of action in the circumstances. Also, such a gesture would have been beneficial to all concerned. A win-win.
Still, since reaching out to the club, it’s been noticed that the price of the coaches seems to have dropped from the initially advertised £3.50* to £2, so posing the question seems to have had at least some positive effect for travelling supporters.
For those asking about the best parking spots, MOMS had requested a map of such locations, and we were today informed by the WM police that tomorrow (Friday) they will issue a map of recommended parking spots for those who want to drive directly to the game. So keep your eyes peeled for that.
Enjoy the game… and the hopefully the three points!
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