Match ban for fans in policing row
Football fans have been banned from attending a match between League Two clubs Gillingham FC and Swindon Town amid a row over policing costs.
A prohibition notice has been issued preventing supporters from attending Gillingham's Priestfield Stadium in Kent on April 21 following "serious concerns" about potential public order at the ground.
Intelligence suggests that the risk is so serious that fans will not be able to attend the match unless a dispute between Kent Police and Gillingham over the costs and number of officers needed is resolved, said Medway Council.
Councillor Mike O'Brien, whose responsibilities include community safety, said in a statement: "Due to a dispute between Gillingham FC and Kent Police about the costs and number of police officers needed at Priestfield Stadium for the match against Swindon Town on April 21, we have unfortunately been left with no alternative but to issue a prohibition notice on the game preventing supporters from attending.
"We have done this following advice from Kent Police that they have specific intelligence concerning the match and its fans.
"We are satisfied that the intelligence provided shows the police are clearly right to have serious concerns about public order at the ground and that the risk is so serious for fans that, until steps have been taken to reduce it to a reasonable level through agreeing adequate policing levels, spectators will be prohibited from attending the match.
"We fully sympathise with all the fans that want to watch this match and we sincerely hope that Gillingham FC and the police can get together urgently to resolve this matter and enable the match to go ahead with supporters from both clubs able to watch an exciting football match in a safe environment."
Kent Police said it was "not acceptable" to expect taxpayers to subsidise a commercial event. Gillingham FC must foot the bill to ensure the right number of police officers are inside the stadium, the force added.
Chief Superintendent Alasdair Hope said: "The safety of all fans attending this football match is our main priority and we are not prepared for their safety to be compromised. The provision of an appropriate number of police officers inside the stadium is essential, and the cost of this must be met by Gillingham FC.
"Commercial enterprises across the country pay for the policing of their events, including football matches, and no-one is exempt. Medway Council as the licensing authority has served a prohibition notice on Gillingham FC and discussions are ongoing between Kent Police and the club to address the safety issues."