Thursday, January 22, 2009

Crosby's Marine FC fear battle zone for FC United of Manchester match

Source: Crosby Herald

Jan 22 2009 by Mark Johnson, Crosby Herald

MARINE FC officials were yesterday meeting with officers from Merseyside Police to discuss ways of preventing Crosby’s streets being turned into “a battle zone” by football hooligans from Manchester.

Their safety fears stem from the next UniBond Premier League game with FC United of Manchester.

Tensions between some fans are running high after a controversial match in Greater Manchester last month.

Following that clash, Marine player John Lawless had his contract terminated for allegedly making an aeroplane motion – felt by some to have been an insult referencing the 1958 Munich Air Disaster in which 23 people died – before taking a corner at the home end.

Footage of the incident has recently appeared on YouTube.

Now police and Marine FC are looking into introducing additional security for when FC United, formed as a breakaway club by fans furious at Manchester United’s takeover by the Glazer family, play the return fixture at College Road on Saturday, March 28.

On Internet message boards, fans are already warning that it could be “the game to miss” after emotions ran high during the December 20 fixture.

During the game, at Gigg Lane, Bury, Liverpool-based footballers sustained a tirade of abuse from the home supporters relating to their backgrounds.

Mr Lawless’s solicitor, Ged Nolan, from firm Canter, Levin & Berg, said the team suffered a “torrent of abuse” with some songs mocking the 1989 Hillsborough Disaster.

The management of the Edinburgh pub on College Road, Crosby, is among local businesses considering closing for the day, as they seek advice from police over whether they would be safer shutting their doors.

The forthcoming game is likely to see a bigger crowd because it lands on the weekend when England play Slovakia, meaning the North West’s top flight teams including Liverpool, Everton and Manchester United won’t be playing.

Mike Smith, assistant manager of the Edinburgh, told the Herald: “We have been warned by a regular that there could be trouble. It’s something we are working on at the moment.

“We will have to have discussions with the police and Marine to get advice.

“We don’t know if we are opening or not. We have been told of the possibility of trouble and some hot heads.

“We have only ever experienced trouble once from fans from one club about four years ago. Other than that the away teams’ fans are brilliant.”

On YouTube one football fan wrote: “I was toying with the idea of going to the return fixture in the New Year, but it sounds like the genteel suburbs of Crosby could be a bit of a battlezone.”

Another member posted: “We've played on Merseyside before with no problems, but this match could be one to give a miss.”

An FC United spokesman told the Herald: “We will take between 500 and 600 fans to the game. We have a brilliant relationship with Marine and what’s happened after the last fixture has been over-played. Our record has been impeccable and there is never any trouble, only the odd incident in Leeds.”

A spokesman for FC United said they “categorically denied” allegations their supporters mocked the Hillsborough Disaster.