Police rule out ‘bubble operation’ for Saints fans in derby clash

HAMPSHIRE Police has confirmed there will be no repeat of the so-called ‘bubble operation’ when Pompey host bitter rivals Southampton later this month.

The Carabao Cup match at Fratton Park on Tuesday, September 24 will be the first time the two teams have met since April 2012 –the Championship clash at St Mary’s where David Norris was the Portsmouth hero with an injury-time goal to ensure the game ended 2-2.

In the home game in December 2011, the ‘bubble operation’ saw 3000 Southampton fans holding vouchers bussed into Fratton Park in a convoy of coaches, with a police presence of 250 officers in and around the ground. They then swapped the vouchers for match tickets.

The idea minimised potential flashpoints between the two sets of fans by keeping them apart prior to kick-off. Southampton supporters were then bussed back to St Mary’s straight after the final whistle.

While not revealing their plans for the evening kick-off later this month, Hampshire Police confirmed they will not repeat their previous operation for the south coast clash.

A police spokeswoman said: “We know what this match means to both sets of fans and we are working closely with both clubs to help make sure that the fans are able to enjoy this much-anticipated cup tie.

“We have to make sure our policing response is proportionate, able to deal swiftly with anyone looking to cause trouble and, at the same time, not disrupt the lives of those who are not going to watch the match.

“We have significant experience of policing matches involving these two teams over the years and we will be drawing on these experiences and the different approaches we used to ensure it is a safe match for all those attending, as well as those living and working around Fratton Park.

“Having met with both clubs and shared our initial plans with them, we are now in a position to confirm that our policing operation will not mirror what was done in 2012 when the clubs last met.

“Our priority, as always, is public safety and we are confident that we have a wide range of different tactics available to us to best tackle any disruption by those who are intent on causing disorder. We also feel that these tactics need to suit the timing of a match that will be taking place on a Tuesday evening.

“As with any policing operation of this nature, there will be some elements that people will not be able to see but as our plans progress, we will be able to share more details of our more visible tactics.”

• Season ticket holders will be able to purchase their usual seat for the Southampton clash from 9am on Monday, September 9 until 5pm on Wednesday, September 11. Unsold seats will be available to members and former shareholders with a previous purchase history – must have purchased a ticket since August 2017 – from 9am on Thursday, September 12; one ticket per person. Subject to availability, tickets will go on sale to any supporter with a previous purchase history from 9am on Friday, September 13.