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Police chief reveals the months of planning that goes into policing the East Anglian derby

PUBLISHED: 06:00 03 February 2019 | UPDATED: 10:22 03 February 2019

npower Championship; Ipswich Town v Norwich City Football Club at Portman Road; East Anglian Derby game; Police keeping Ipswich Town supporters away from travelling Norwich fans.; Picture: James Bass

npower Championship; Ipswich Town v Norwich City Football Club at Portman Road; East Anglian Derby game; Police keeping Ipswich Town supporters away from travelling Norwich fans.; Picture: James Bass

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2011

The officer who will be bossing emergency services on East Anglian Derby day has lifted the lid on the months of planning it takes to police the big match.

Police at Ipswich train station following the East Anglian derby at Portman Road. PIC: Steve Maddams.Police at Ipswich train station following the East Anglian derby at Portman Road. PIC: Steve Maddams.

Some 250 police officers will be pounding the streets of Norwich on February 10, when Norwich City welcome Paul Lambert’s Ipswich Town to Carrow Road, with the specific aim of keeping supporters of both sides safe.

Officers will be on hand to help signpost Town fans to the stadium, some even shipped in from forces across the country - from places such London, Cambridgeshire and Essex.

The match itself, kicking-off at 12pm, lasts just 90 minutes, however, for many of the officers it will mean long shifts of 10 hours or more.

Chief superintendent Dave Marshall, said months of planning goes into policing the event, due to the sheer volume of eventualities that have to be considered.

He said: “I started planning for this game in October and I probably have around 70 pages of typed up plans for dealing with it. There are just so many things that have to be thought about - from how many officers we use, where we place them and what we do in every eventuality.

“One of the big challenges is reading the dynamic of the day, which can change so many times without warning.

“We have to think about how each situation could unfold - how each twist and turn can change how each sets of supporters are feeling.”

The last East Anglian derby at Carrow Road illustrated this point perfectly for Chief Supt Marshall, who said the approach changed numerous times in the space of minutes.

He said: “Last time, neither team had much to play for and it looked as though it was going to be a drab nil-nil draw - so we were planning for a situation when both sets wanted to leave at the same time.

“With just a few minutes left, Ipswich scored, so we then were looking at a situation where their fans would likely want to stay and soak up the atmosphere - then we all remember what happened next. Suddenly we are in a position where they would want to get out as soon as possible.

“In that short space of time we had to keep on adjusting what our plan was - where officers needed to be, what they needed to do. It’s a challenge, but it’s also pretty exhilarating.”

Chief Supt Marshall added that even the way seasons pan out impact on the plans for derby day.

“Everything down to league position comes into my thoughts,” he said. “Last season there wasn’t very much riding on the game, but this year Norwich are in a position where they could realistically be promoted, whereas Ipswich are in real danger of being relegated, so that all has an impact on the dynamic of the day.

“We understand it is always a really big game that both teams want to win, but what else it means also comes into the conversation.

“When the two teams met in the play-offs a few seasons ago we knew we would be in a position where one set of fans would be elated and the other distraught - it was a life or death situation for both teams so that has to be accounted for.

“We have to use all the intelligence that is available to us in the planning process and on the day - and must be aware of any factors that could influence to mood.”

Chief Supt Marshall added that the familiar figure of Paul Lambert in the away dug-out is among these factors - though downplayed the impact it could have on fans around the city.

He said: “Paul Lambert being Ipswich manager is the kind of thing we do think about, but that will likely be centred around the reception he gets from Norwich fans and how it affects the atmosphere in the stadium.

“Obviously Paul Lambert is not going to be outside of the stadium impacting fans there, but little things like this that can affect the mood are things we must be thinking about.”

February 10 will be the Chief Supt’s fourth East Anglian derby with Norfolk police, and his third commanding the day’s policing. In this time, while there have been arrests, there has been very little by way of major incidents.

Officers will work long through the day, many beginning work at 7am and not finishing until several hours after the dust has settled on the match itself.

They will then be distributed across a number of significant spots across the city, including the stadium itself, the rail and coach stations, Riverside and the city centre.

He said: “The most important thing for us is that whatever happens, at the end of the day it is the football people are talking about.

“All we want is for people to have a great day out. Both Norwich and Ipswich do both have good reputations as family clubs with well-behaved supporters.”

Away from the derby, Chief Supt Marshall added that matters on the pitch can very much impact on policing of other games throughout the season.

He said: “At the beginning of the season we work very closely with the football club and agree on how much policing we need to provide and how much support they need.

“Some games they may decide they are happy with what they have, others we will be keen to provide more support.

“However, this becomes a rolling plan which we will continually look at throughout the season and adapt depending on how high stakes each game becomes.”

And while the majority of people at the stadium on the day will be hoping for a Norwich win - Chief Supt Marshall has a far more open preference.

“For me, the final result doesn’t matter too much, but it would certainly be helpful if the score is the same at full time as it was at half time,” he joked.

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