Town fans caught up

HUNDREDS of Ipswich Town supporters were inadvertently caught up in the row between Wigan Athletic and Greater Manchester Police, on Saturday.The customary police escort which meets away fans' coaches on the outskirts of town failed to show up, leaving some buses stranded with drivers unsure if they should leave the rendezvous, while others that tried to get to the stadium were seriously delayed.

HUNDREDS of Ipswich Town supporters were inadvertently caught up in the row between Wigan Athletic and Greater Manchester Police, on Saturday.

The customary police escort which meets away fans' coaches on the outskirts of town failed to show up, leaving some buses stranded with drivers unsure if they should leave the rendezvous, while others that tried to get to the stadium were seriously delayed.

Some fans were advised to leave the coaches and jog to the JJB Stadium, many arriving after the 3pm kick-off, while others made it just in time.

Richard Townsend, chairman of the Halesworth branch confirmed: “Some of our members were caught in horrendous queues when the police escort for the coaches didn't turn up.”


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The dispute with the Greater Manchester Police over the cost of maintaining law and order at the JJB Stadium, and surrounding area, could also have serious ramifications to Paul Jewell's promotion hopes.

The GMP have said they will today apply to have Wigan's safety certificate withdrawn as they no longer intend to police games until a £300,000 bill has been paid.

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The worst case scenario for Wigan is that they can not fulfil their remaining home fixtures, although it is more likely the remainder of their home Championship games are played behind closed doors and they could still get enough points to win automatic promotion.

The problems could come when they actually apply to enter the Premiership and they still have not settled the dispute.

The Premier League could refuse them entry and the third-placed team, which at the moment is Ipswich Town, would go up in their place.

So while the Blues may not bar Wigan's way, the boys in blue could.

The Football League will meet on Thursday in Walsall, where all 72 clubs will discuss the matter along with other issues.

Ipswich Town chairman David Sheepshanks said: “This will be something that we will discuss. On the face of it the costs seem unfair, but I will reserve judgement until we know all the details.

“What I can say is that we don't suffer such problems with Suffolk police, with whom we have a very good relationship.”

Wigan chairman Dave Whelan has called on Tony Blair to intervene, comparing the Wigan situation to Iraq.

He said: “Wigan is now a police state.

“If we fought and lost soldiers for democracy in Iraq, why can't we have it in Wigan? We are so close to doing something monumental for this town, so why are we being singled out?

“Our policing bill for the Leeds game was £43,995. Preston's was £7,700. How can that be right? Who is behind it?”

Wigan's game with Millwall on Saturday will go ahead but if the safety certificate is rescinded then the following five games will be under threat.

Whelan said: “If that match next Saturday is the last at this stadium then it is going to be a sad thing for this town and a very sad day for football. If it is allowed to happen then the Football League in this country is dead.

“All we are asking for is fairness and democracy. I'm prepared to go to court and let a judge decide. If we are in the wrong we will pay.”

It is easy to understand why Whelan is upset with the bills Greater Manchester Police have been presenting the club, but he might also ask if they are getting the job done properly and not just in connection with the coaches fiasco.

Not only was a male streaker allowed to run onto the playing surface on Saturday but no police, or stewards moved to remove him.

Only when he got bored and cold did he wander up to a policeman, shake his hand and turn himself in.

derek.davis@eadt.co.uk

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