Following on from events at our last home fixture versus East Stirlingshire, I write to clarify the situation with regards to arrangements for housing supporters in the West (Home) Stand.
For part of last season, following discussions with the Police, our Stadium Safety Officer and our stewarding company, it was agreed that we would trial housing home and visiting fans in the West Stand for games where it was considered the capacity of the Stand would comfortably accommodate everyone. The main driver for this decision was to cut down on costs.
We had planned to use the last section of seating at the Monument End to accommodate visiting fans only but with season tickets already sold for this area, it was considered inappropriate to ask fans to move mid-season.
Given this and the fact that it is not practicable to segregate toilet and refreshment facilities, the decision was taken (again following discussion with the relevant parties) to allow fans to sit where they wanted, aside from encouraging visiting fans to use turnstiles 3 & 4 and to sit in the end section as described above.
The above position was reviewed at the end of last season and whilst there had been no incidents of any major concern reported by the Stadium Safety Officer or stewards, we had received a number of complaints from home supporters that they were unhappy about the non-segregation of the seating arrangements for visiting supporters.
Taking everything into account and again in consultation with the Police, the Stadium Safety Officer and our stewarding company, it was agreed that the last section of seating at the Monument End of the West Stand would be designated for visiting supporters only. In order to make this possible, every Season Ticket holder that had a seat in this section was written to, during the close season, advising them of the new arrangement, apologising for the inconvenience and asking them to select a new seat. All supporters who renewed their season ticket complied with this request.
For the first home fixture versus Peterhead, a sign was in place at the end of the entrance tunnel directing visiting supporters to the end section and this, along with the stewards being briefed to appropriately direct fans to the designated area was considered sufficient, given the anticipated small number attending.
A further review was undertaken following the match and taking on board the recommendation of our Stadium Safety Officer it was decided that only visiting supporters would be permitted to sit in the end section. This arrangement was in place for the East Stirlingshire fixture and stewards were briefed not just to direct visiting supporters to this section but also to direct home fans away from it.
In hindsight, to visibly identify this area, it should have been cordoned off using barrier tape and I unreservedly apologise that this was not the case.
During the course of the match, stewards identified that some home supporters were occupying seats in this section and having sought guidance from the Stadium Safety Officer, they asked these fans to move to another section. Unfortunately some of those requested to do so, refused to comply. It is inappropriate to publicly detail any of the subsequent events that took place with regards to individual supporters but suffice it to say that a refusal to comply with a request from a steward, acting on instruction from the Stadium Safety Officer, is grounds in itself for the offenders to be removed from the Stadium. On the day, following consultation between myself and the Safety Officer, the decision was taken not to remove anyone from the ground and to allow the game to run its course.
THE WAY FORWARD
A debrief meeting was held at the end of last week between the Club, the Stadium Safety Officer and a senior representative of the stewarding company and the following will be in place for all home games unless otherwise notified in advance:
• Visiting supporters will be directed to use Turnstiles 3 & 4
• Signage will be in place inside the ground to inform all fans of the designated area for visiting supporters
• Barrier tape will be in place to identify the perimeter of this area
• Stewards will be briefed to direct visiting supporters to this area and home supporters away from it
• The catering and toilet facilities at the Monument End will remain communal
• Any variation to the above for operational reasons will be communicated in advance via the Club Website and signage / barrier tape will clearly identify the designated visiting supporters area for that particular fixture
Please be aware that anyone refusing to comply with a request / instruction from the Police, the Stadium Safety Officer, a match-day steward or a Club Official to move from the “wrong” seating area will be removed from the Stadium.
Whilst I appreciate that these arrangements will not meet with universal approval, they have been put in place with the best interests of everyone in mind and I would ask everyone attending Forthbank Stadium to comply. Please note stewards are acting under the instruction of the Stadium Safety Officer who has ultimate and complete responsibility for all matters pertaining to crowd control and safety.
I repeat my apology that better communications were not in place prior to and during the East Stirlingshire game. As ever, I am happy to discuss this or any other pertinent matter – please contact the Club by telephone, e-mail or in writing to arrange.