Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Fans segregated over riot fears

Eleven officers were hurt in the trouble in March
A segregated fan zone has been set up for Northern Ireland football fans going to Poland amid fears of trouble at a World Cup qualifying match.

Polish authorities have built the area in Katowice in a bid to ensure the event passes off without incident.

Eleven police officers were injured during rioting between rival supporters at the corresponding fixture at Windsor Park in Belfast in March.

Coaches have also been put in place to take supporters to and from the match.

The Irish Football Association (IFA) said fans who had decided to stay in Berlin and Krakow would also be bussed to the match at Slaski Stadium in neighbouring Chorzow.

The Amalgamation of Official Northern Ireland Supporters Clubs (AONISC) has set up a special mobile phone network service to inform its members of places to avoid during their trip.

Rival fans threw bricks, bottles and traffic cones on their way to Windsor Park
IFA officials recently travelled to Poland with PSNI officers and representatives from the AONISC to seek safety assurances from the host nation.

Raymond Kennedy, president of the IFA, said he hoped the measures would result in a trouble free occasion.

"These activities have been organised with the fans' safety of paramount importance and should ensure the safety of the Northern Ireland supporters," he said.

"We would urge all supporters to be aware of the fan zone and not to meet anywhere outside of the dedicated area.

"I think it is important to let the fans know that plans are in place and if they are followed will provide some form of comfort for our travelling support."

Gary McAllister, from the AONISC, said: "The Irish FA and PSNI have worked tirelessly on behalf of Northern Ireland's fans in the months running up to Saturday's game, and the Amalgamation and its members are extremely grateful for their efforts."