The Thundercliffe Files: kicking off

Cod Almighty | Article

by Paul Thundercliffe

6 March 2020

How effective is the 1pm kick-off for managing crowd behaviour?

Thundercliffe Files

The one statement that’s bound to cause an eye-roll at the start of the season is the 1pm kick off tweet. Although a mainstay in the top divisions, its a signal that there's a 'Big Game' on the cards, with either it being televised or there being rivalry.

Bringing the start forward from the traditional 3pm is seen as a necessary evil in the war against anti-social behaviour at football matches. Early kick-off = less time to drink. Although you cannot argue with the fact that there are 120 less minutes, the idea that people will not start drinking at, say 8am, is fanciful at best.

This weekend’s 1pm kick off is the third of the season following the return Scunny fixture in Cleethorpes and the arrival of Bradford in August. Interestingly, West Yorkshire Police were of the mind that they could cope with an extra two hours and February’s match kicked off at the normal time.

Town fans not being welcome to Scunthorpe's finest drinking hostelries has the mark of tarring us all with the same broad brush. I get it. Even with a designated away pub such as at Valley Parade it was better walking a little further and finding an alternative. That large volume of mainly males, tanked up and chanting can be intimidating for many. Having followed Town to all corners of the Football and National Leagues, there is an element that enjoys a drink, a song and, occasionally, a pyro.

More often than not, these fans have a good time and support their team vociferously whilst posturing at home fans and police alike. It's mildly annoying but hardly ever spills into violence – more a game of who can gurn biggest whilst standing with their arms splayed.

Town stadium manager Nick Dale courted controversy on the eve of this season with his comments about Town's away support. "Grimsby Town is the one club in the English Football League that people don't want to play because it comes at a cost," Dale said. "The one club they do not want visiting is Grimsby Town because of such a small minority. They feel they have a right to cause trouble."

That Town sit second in the Banning Orders league table (61 last season) would seem to back up the claim. Certainly this could point to more raucous behaviour, although it could also be a sign that the club are more intent on going through the courts than other clubs. There were just six arrests in 2018-19 - only 27 teams had fewer - down from 36 in 2016-17 and 35 the year after. This could point at a new tolerance to disorder, better-behaved fans or, of course, that the early kick-offs work. It certainly appears to show that Dale’s words have little substance.

Dale was forced to apologise, saying "My frustrations with a very small minority of supporters who spoil the matchday experience for others went too far. It was disrespectful to the 99 per cent of law-abiding, passionate fans of the club. We have some of the most dedicated and passionate supporters in the country who will not identify with my comments.”

The truth is somewhere in between and we all hope that every Town game is played to a backdrop of loud, proud and well-behaved Mariners. The only kicking off we want to see is at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon.