Wales fans complain of heavy-handed policing ahead of Ukraine match
Wales fans attending a gathering ahead of the World Cup playoff final against Ukraine on Sunday have complained about heavy-handed policing in advance of what was one of the most important games in Welsh football history.
The group who have organised the marches, Welsh Football Fans For Independence cancelled planned marches before the Nations League matches against the Netherlands last night and Belgium on Saturday.
They also released a statement condemning the actions of South Wales Police, who they say were overly aggressive in their policing.
South Wales Police told Nation.Cymru they had made no arrests, only issued Dispersal Notices.
Meanwhile, the FAW said they were disappointed to be told some fans were using flares and that they had been charged by FIFA with a “failure of Order and Security” during the Ukraine match. They had also been fined after the Austria match.
But a Welsh Football Fans For Independence statement read: “For the past five years as a group ‘Welsh Football Fans for Independence’ has organised marches starting at Womamby Street before Wales home matches.
“This was started to increase and normalise the dialogue around independence for fans of our national team.
“For five years we’ve had no major incidents of any kind, no police issues, no injuries with pyrotechnics being present at almost all of these events. With pyrotechnics only being illegal inside a football ground fans choose to do this on our marches and therefore won’t breach this law as it’s already been done.
“On Sunday with no prior statement or dialogue the South Wales Police changed their attitude towards this and behaved very aggressively towards fans who were enjoying themselves in a fantastic atmosphere on Womamby Street.
“The police then have passed on the details of these fans under the guise of them being a threat to bringing pyrotechnics into the stadium and the fans had their tickets cancelled not just for Sunday’s game, but also the match with the Netherlands. This is completely unjustified as over a five year period there has been nothing to show this is going to be the case.
“As a result of this unfairness we did not plan an event for the Netherlands match or on Saturday against Belgium because we don’t know what the policing situation will be like and whether fans will be left in peace or met with threatening behaviour.”
In response South Wales Police said that there were no arrests made on Sunday. However, a spokesperson confirmed that Dispersal Notices were issued to six people for being in possession of a lit flare.
Chief Superintendent Chris Truscott said: “South Wales Police is extremely experienced in policing major sporting events, including international football and rugby matches.
“The overwhelming majority of people who attend these occasions behave responsibly and enjoy a safe experience.
“Wales football fans have earned themselves an excellent reputation both at home and when visiting other countries.
“Everyone is rightly proud of the team qualifying for the World Cup so it is even more important that this deserved reputation is maintained.
“On occasions it is necessary to take action against supporters whose behaviour threatens the safety of others, which includes the use of flares and fireworks in or outside the stadium.
“Anyone who chooses to break the law will be dealt with robustly and run the risk of being arrested and made the subject of a Football Banning Order which will prevent them from attending future matches.”
Addressing the issue of cancelled tickets and the pyrotechnics, a spokesperson for Cardiff City Stadium said: “It has been noted that use of pyrotechnics has been on the increase in and around the UK and at Cardiff City Stadium.
“Cardiff City Stadium were disappointed to be made aware by South Wales Police of persons using and carrying flares in and around Womanby street.
“All devices have recommendations relating to safe working distances, which are not achievable in crowded places inside or outside stadia & therefore pyrotechnics use in such a manner is irresponsible.
“Head of Operations and premises supervisor Wayne Nash decided to prevent access to the persons identified by South Wales Police for such behaviour and the persons who behave in such a manner are not welcome at Cardiff City Stadium.
“As organisers, the Cardiff City Stadium have civil and legal liabilities and this relates to players, supporters and matchday staff, and will not allow persons to use such devices with impunity.
“During and following the match 11 devices were discharged at the stadium, three in the concourse that led to major issues with the fire alarm system, while five of these were thrown onto the pitch.
“FIFA have charged the FAW with failure of Order and Security, despite the fact that South Wales Police using CCTV footage (guidance and advice from stewards and fellow Wales fans) arrested three persons who acted in such a reprehensible manner.
“The Cardiff City Stadium will continue the policy of preventing entry to those discharging pyro and will work with South Wales Police to hold persons accountable for their actions not only pre and during the game but also retrospectively for actions that cause such charges and alarm and distress to supporters affected by the use of such devices.”
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