Football festival gets red card

IPSWICH: A massive World Cup event which was expected to host 20,000 England fans in Chantry Park has been shown the red card by police.

Amid concerns over the combination of alcohol and the intense emotions fuelled by such a large crowd, Suffolk Constabulary has decided it can not sanction the event going ahead.

The festival was due to be launched with England’s opening game against the USA being shown on a gigantic screen on June 12 at 7.30pm.

The organiser’s website was last night even boasting it had signed up R&B star Lemar to perform afterwards.

Plans were also being put in place for the games against Algeria on June 18 and Slovenia on June 23 to be shown at Chantry Park.

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However, police believe the potential for violent disorder and the possibility of anti-social behaviour in the neighbourhood is too great.

They are understood to have gathered intelligence that suggested a number of troublemakers could have been intending to turn up at the events, and were concerned what would happen should results go against England.

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Superintendent David Skevington, of Ipswich police, said: “I am of the firm belief that the showing of each England football match via a big screen in an open air park could have undermined and possibly derailed the good partnership work which has been done to reduce alcohol-related violent crime in the borough, as well as present significant community safety issues.

“I am clear in my own mind that these events can pose a significant threat to community cohesion as they present an increased risk of violence and anti-social behaviour.

“These are important issues that we and the council are very focused on working on in partnership to reduce, and we are making good progress.

“I strongly support events that are for the good of the town. However, I have listened to concerns and we can not support these events going ahead.”

Licensees in the town had expressed their disappointment when the news of the Chantry Park events broke.

They felt their opportunity to boost business on the nights of England World Cup games was being undermined at a time when the economy was in such difficulty.

However, Ady Smith, chairman of Ipswich’s Barwatch and licensee of The Dove in St Helen’s Street, was pleased with the police’s decision to cancel the festival.

Mr Smith said: “From a Barwatch point of view, we welcome the decision in light of the police’s concerns.

“We now urge all licensees to ensure that they manage their premises safely and look after customers.

“Hopefully this will secure a few more jobs within the hostelry trade for the long term, rather than short-term gain.

“Licensees are professional people and can ensure customers enjoy the whole World Cup and not just the England games.”

A spokesman for Ipswich Borough Council said it respected the decision of the police to cancel the event, but declined to comment beyond that.

n What is your reaction to the cancellation? Write to Star Letters, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN.

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