Chester FC ’s derby clashes with cross-border rivals Wrexham AFC will not be subject to ‘bubble match’ restrictions this season.
Following a joint planning meeting between both football clubs, Cheshire Constabulary and North Wales Police, a decision has been taken to remove the ‘Safe Transport’ arrangements that have been in place for the fixture for the past four seasons.
Since 2013, both sets of fans could only attend the game by travelling on a coach convoy under police escort, a strategy implemented in an attempt to reduce the threat of crowd trouble.
The measure have been criticised by supporters of both clubs as well as here at The Chronicle , with many fans believing the restrictions to have been overbearing and unnecessary.
The two clashes between the clubs this season, however, will have the ‘Safe Transport’ element removed although the game will remain an all ticket affair with the first clash between the two, at the Swansway Chester Stadium, being rescheduled form 7.45pm on Friday, November 10.
The hope is that the fixture can return to a Saturday 3pm kick-off in the future.
A joint statement from Chester FC, Wrexham AFC, Cheshire Constabulary and North Wales Police read: “The intention has always been to return the fixtures to 3pm on a Saturday afternoon, with independent travel for supporters.
Following a considerable reduction in arrests and disorder at the matches since the arrangements were introduced, all parties have agreed that this season the ‘Safe Transport’ element will be removed, allowing fans to make their own way to the games. In the continued interests of safety, the games will remain all ticket and the initial match at Chester will take place at 7.45pm on Friday, November 10.
“No arrangements for the return fixture at Wrexham have yet been confirmed and will be reviewed following the match at Chester.
“Two incident free fixtures will see these arrangements reviewed further and will support consideration of a move towards 3pm kick-offs, also with independent supporter travel. However, it remains the responsibility of all fans to conduct themselves in an appropriate manner. Any inappropriate behaviour, incidents of disorder or damage to either stadium will not be tolerated and will give grounds for concern that the games cannot take place without continued safe transport arrangements.
“The driving factors behind the planning for these fixtures remain to reduce the potential for disorder, ensure the safety of fans, residents and visitors to Wrexham and Chester and to minimise disruption to local communities and businesses.
“Planning for the fixtures continues and the clubs will announce detailed ticketing arrangements in due course.”
The decision to remove the restrictions is likely to be welcomed by both sets of fans, many of whom believed that the ‘bubble’ only ever served to heighten tensions between rival fans.
Chester chief executive Mark Maguire has welcomed the decision but acknowledges that it comes with ‘significant responsibility’ and called on ‘right minded’ fans of both clubs to ensure that the restrictions become a thing of the past.
“From when I first arrived at Chester FC twelve months ago the ‘bubble fixture’ has been a significant talking point, and it has been very clear that the vast majority of fans have felt that it inhibits a great fixture,” said Maguire.
“Equally I have been impressed by the consistently expressed wish of both police forces to return this match back to a ‘normal’ fixture with a 3pm kick off.
“To get there everybody concerned needs to take responsibility, and having pushed for this to happen we will now be calling about all right minded fans of both clubs to ensure that nothing takes away from what should be one of the highlights of the football calendar.
“The atmosphere on and off the pitch should be passionate, feverish and will mean the world to all concerned but it should stay within the rules and, particularly during a period of remembrance we hope that both sets of fans will create an atmosphere which convinces all concerned that this was the right thing to do.”