By Greg Barrie
Police Scotland insist that they will be able to prevent trouble ahead of Scotland’s friendly match against England tonight whilst causing minimum disruption to the public in Glasgow’s city centre.
More than 200 fans were arrested the last time the two sides met in Glasgow in 1999 after clashes both at the stadium and in the city centre.
Fears of violence were fuelled yesterday when police confirmed known troublemakers from both sets of supporters were travelling to the match.
However, Chief Superintendent Andy Bates, event commander for tonight’s match, today insisted that policing will not be excessive. He said: “The approach we will take to the game will be proportionate and based on the threat presented at the time.
“The number of resources deployed is less than there were in 1999. We anticipate arrests, but not as many as in 1999. It’s a high-risk game with an increased risk. That’s what you would have with an Old Firm game.
“It is not about a massive oppressive police presence, it’s about preventing crime and keeping people safe; as well as minimising disruption to people in and around the city centre.”
Around 5,000 England supporters are officially due to attend the match at Celtic Park, although the actual figure could be significantly higher with reports of England supporters acquiring tickets for the home end.
Chief Superintendent Andy Bates yesterday revealed that Scottish and English police forces had identified groups of supporters that were possibly looking for trouble. Public concerns about potential trouble were heightened when he said the contest had been given the highest possible UEFA security risk rating.
He said: “There may well be some troublemakers travelling from England. We’ve been working very closely with the UK football policing unit and colleagues from across Police Scotland to monitor the activities of these groups that might want to cause trouble.
“We have intelligence about people from all over the UK travelling to this game, but we are on top of it. I have an intelligence-led operation that will engage with these people and prevent any disorder taking place.”
Security steps have been taken to prevent groups of troublemakers from causing violence in the city. Police officers from a number of forces, including the Met, have travelled to Glasgow to assist Police Scotland in identifying groups of hooligans.
England supporters have to collect their match tickets at a special venue in the city centre which will enable the police forces to identify known troublemakers and monitor their movement.
Chief Supt Bates insisted that with the additional support of English officers the police were confident of maintaining control before and after the match. He said: “We’ll be using officers from down south who have been policing England games for many years. They bring a lot of skills and experience with them.
“If we identify these risk groups of supporters, we will be having conversations with them, letting them know we know what they’re up to and will not be letting them out of our sights. We have been successful with this in the past.”
Tonight’s fixture follows the clash at Wembley between the two sides in August last year, which England won 3-2. The fixture passed without any significant crowd trouble or violence, despite close to 20,000 Scotland fans attending the match.
Police have urged supporters to make their travel plans in advance for getting to and from the stadium. They also reminded supporters that if they are consuming alcohol they should do so responsibly to ensure that they are granted access to the stadium.