Rochdale Football Club would like to apologise to any supporter who got caught up in, or witnessed any of the unsavoury incidents that occurred at Spotland Stadium during Saturday's match against Oldham Athletic. With a season's record crowd in attendance, sadly a small number of individuals provoked unwelcome scenes, where the vast majority of supporters were well behaved and were trying to enjoy the atmosphere of a local derby.
Planning for this match commenced back in June when club officials met with representatives of Greater Manchester Police (GMP) following the release of the fixtures ahead of the new season. Previous meetings between the two clubs and up to date intelligence were key factors in identifying this game as Category C fixture, which is the highest category of policed games at Spotland Stadium. It was agreed that the match would also be categorised as “all ticket” for Oldham supporters only, and that just over 3200 tickets would be made available to Oldham supporters in the Willbutts Lane away stand. These arrangements were agreed between both clubs and GMP, and as always, are made with the safety and enjoyment of all supporters uppermost in our minds and treated as a priority. The 3000 plus tickets were printed and delivered to the Oldham ticket office for them to sell to their supporters. It should also be noted that in addition to the highest police presence, additional contract stewards were ordered for this fixture to help support the work of Rochdale’s own stewards and the Greater Manchester Police officers.
A number of questions have been raised as to why the match was not made “all ticket” which means tickets are not sold on the day of the game and there are no cash turnstiles on the day. Making the game “all ticket” would not have prevented Oldham supporters buying tickets in the home areas of the ground once the Oldham allocation had sold out. Given the close geographical proximity of Oldham to Rochdale it would be very easy for an Oldham supporter, who was unable to buy a ticket from the Oldham ticket office, to call at the Rochdale ticket office to purchase a ticket.
Aware of the fact that the Oldham allocation became sold out in the run up to the fixture, warnings were issued to Oldham supporters not to buy tickets from the Rochdale ticket office or attempt to pay cash at the turnstiles on the day. Rochdale ticket office staff were vigilant in trying to ensure that Oldham supporters did not purchase tickets in home areas, and indeed some sales were refused. The difficulty given the geographical closeness of both clubs is that both sets of supporters share OL- Oldham postcodes, indeed Spotland Stadium itself has an OL postcode.
In addition to other warnings issued, all home turnstiles carried signs advising Oldham supporters not to enter these areas of the ground or they would be ejected. The majority of the ejections that took place on the day were where visiting supporters had not heeded these warnings.
Rochdale Football Club condemn any act that places the safety of spectators at risk and this includes the igniting of flares. There were a number of arrests at this game and one such arrest was made as one supporter was found to have a flare in his possession after being searched upon entry to the ground.
Rochdale Football Club will hold a debrief this week with GMP officers where further examination of CCTV footage will be viewed to identify anyone who has acted in a manner deemed to endanger the safety of supporters. Rochdale AFC along with Oldham FC and GMP would welcome any information from the majority of genuine supporters who may assist them in identifying offenders and we will have no hesitation in ensuring the appropriate charges are brought before the courts.
It should be noted that these incidents are extremely rare at Rochdale Football Club and we are very proud of the reputation that we have of being a family friendly club, which was highlighted recently in a Football League Family Excellence visit. This where an independent family is commissioned by the League to visit all Football League clubs and report on all aspects of the match day experience. We are particularly pleased with the following quote, which we believe truly reflects the ethos of Rochdale Football Club:
“What came across most powerfully from this visit was the friendliness from everyone encountered. That’s not just in reactive terms, but in the way they went out of their way to make this family feel welcome. The club shop probably topped the list of friendly folk, but it made a lasting impression on the family”.
Rochdale AFC v Bristol City FC – Sky Bet League 1 - Saturday 23rd August 2014