A police boss is urging Wrexham and Chester fans to be on their best behaviour ahead of the derby match on Saturday.
North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones would like to see a lifting of restrictions on fans next season – but that will only happen if there’s no major trouble
The cross-border Conference Premier clash at the Racecourse has been designated as a so-called “bubble match” for the fourth season in a row.
As a result, away fans can only attend the televised game if they travel on officially organised coaches.
The same will apply in reverse for the return fixture at the Deva Stadium later in the season.
According to North Wales Police and their counterparts in Cheshire, it’s being done in the interests of safety.
In a joint statement last month, the two forces and the two clubs revealed the restrictions could be reviewed with a possible return to normal policing arrangements if there’s no trouble at the two games this season.
Mr Jones, a former police inspector, said: “I’m hoping both sets of fans will behave and ensure that the rivalry remains good-natured on Saturday and at the return game at the Deva Stadium.
“If things go well, it looks as if this bubble business with the restrictions on travelling fans can be lifted which would be great news.
“However, it’s clear, if any trouble kicks off on Saturday, the bubble will continue and will continue to spoil the atmosphere at these derby matches.
“Football has changed a great deal over the years and there’s a lot less trouble now than there was in the 1980s.
“Clubs have tightened their procedures and the law has been strengthened so a lot of hooligans have been banned from football matches, many of them for life.
“These days the hooligan element is small but every single fan who goes to the match is subject to civil and human rights restrictions on their ability to move freely around.
“My view is that we should seek to normalise the arrangements and go back to traditional policing.
“We should be targeting any hooligan elements and getting football banning orders on them rather than punishing 99 per cent of law abiding fans by restricting their movements by the use of the bubble.
“This is now the only fixture in all the tiers of English and Welsh football that is a bubble including Premier League and Championship derby fixtures and I think it is risk averse and disproportionate in terms of policing.
“I have had meetings with chief officers at North Wales Police who have told me that they are looking to normalise this match next season.
Last month the statement issued by Wrexham AFC, Chester FC, North Wales Police and Cheshire Police said: “”Following joint planning meetings in relation to the Wrexham AFC and Chester FC fixtures for the coming season, all parties, including Chester and Wrexham Football Clubs, Cheshire Police and North Wales Police have agreed that in the continued interests of safety, both games will remain all ticket, with supporters travelling to the matches on officially organised coaches.
“It must be stressed that all parties are committed to working towards returning these fixtures to ‘normality’ with standard kick off times and independent travel.
“For this coming season, progression towards that end has resulted in all parties agreeing that the Wrexham home match will take place with a 12.15pm kick off (due to live TV coverage) and that the Chester home fixture will have a 3pm kick off.
“Both games will remain subject to ‘safe transport’ arrangements. The driving factors behind the implementation of these conditions remain to reduce the potential for disorder, ensuring the safety of fans, residents and visitors to Wrexham and Chester town/city centers and minimal disruption to local communities and businesses.
“During the last three seasons, with these conditions in place we have continued to see a decline in the number of people arrested at the fixtures and there has been a noticeable absence of any disorder or disruption to the communities outside of the two stadiums.
“Two well contested and incident free fixtures will see these arrangements reviewed and will further support consideration of a move towards 3pm kick offs and independent travel.”