Huddersfield Town ‘faced points deduction’ if Hull game not on Sky

RELEGATION-haunted Town faced a Football League points deduction if next month’s game against Hull City was not screened live by Sky.

RELEGATION-haunted Town faced a Football League points deduction if next month’s game against Hull City was not screened live by Sky.

The Examiner can today reveal the background to a tickets row which has left fans seething.

Under the Sky TV contract all clubs must host at least one live game per season.

But Town were at risk of breaching that because of a hardline stance on costs taken by West Yorkshire Police.

The force had already refused permission for Sky to screen the home games against Leeds United and Cardiff City.

Senior officers also planned to block the Hull game on March 30, which could have meant Town becoming the first club to breach the Football League’s contract with the pay TV giant.

That would have exposed the club to various sanctions including a loss of vital league points.

The Examiner can reveal how Town officials were summoned to a meeting at the Football League HQ in Preston and warned of the implications of the Hull kick-off not being switched to 5.20pm for Sky.

That led to the club pleading with police to let the game go ahead.

Senior officers agreed but imposed strict conditions. These included issuing just 1,500 tickets to away fans and banning independent travel, forcing them to use official coaches only.

Both Town and Hull fans attacked the decision, which could now lead to a legal challenge backed by the Football Supporters’ Federation.

Town chief executive, Nigel Clibbens, told how the club was approached by the Football League in January to say the Hull game had been chosen by Sky.

Mr Clibbens said: “We contacted West Yorkshire Police to inform them as usual but they requested a meeting and subsequently two days later they informed us they would not sanction the change in kick-off time due to their risk assessment and the additional financial burden this would place on them.”

Town informed the Football League of the decision and were called to Preston.

“At the meeting we were told that Huddersfield Town has a contractual obligation as a member of the League to facilitate Sky TV games under the Football League contract,” said Mr Clibbens.

“If we couldn’t fulfil this, we could be subject to sanctions including a possible points deduction.

“We informed West Yorkshire Police of the implications for us of being unable to stage the game at the requested kick-off time.

“We were pleased that West Yorkshire Police showed a willingness to reconsider the position and work with us to find a solution.

“In conjunction with the police, we discussed options and solutions to reduce the policing costs and risk associated with the game.

“Together we agreed a series of stipulations, which the police and Huddersfield Town were prepared to move forward together with and we sought agreement from Hull.”

The original conditions were:

Limiting Hull fans to 1,000 tickets;

Making the game the highest Category A* with ticket prices costing up to £32; Imposing a Category CIR policing plan based on the stadium footprint, similar to the Leeds game when 4,000 away fans attended;

Having a ‘bubble travel plan’ where away fans could only buy tickets with the official travel club;

Making the game all-ticket;

Insisting that only home fans with ticket purchasing history could buy home tickets.

At a later meeting the police were persuaded to increase the away allocation to 1,500 but the other conditions stood.

Mr Clibbens said Town had every sympathy with the fans but their hand had been forced.

He said: “Being faced with the unenviable prospect of not fulfilling the Sky TV contract and the huge potential implications for the club, we are just very relieved the game is to be staged.

“The real people who suffer are the normal everyday Hull fans who just want to support their team but have to abide by the restrictions.

“We are really grateful for the support of Hull City in helping us deal with the issue and agreeing to the conditions, which meant that West Yorkshire Police was willing to move from its original position to sanction the game.

“The Football League also told us that no club in the history of all the Sky agreements had failed to fulfil its TV obligations – every team must have one live televised home game.

“At the same time we recognise the issues and difficulties faced by the police.

“The football club and the police have worked together to try and resolve the issues.

“The circumstances are difficult for everyone but we are pleased that the game is set to go ahead.

“As a club we try to ‘make the difference’ in our community and our working relationship with West Yorkshire Police has been very good.

“We look forward to this continuing and hope that the game goes ahead as a great advert for both clubs and their supporters.”

Supt Ged McManus, of West Yorkshire Police, said: “Due to intelligence about some of the supporters planning to attend the match, restrictions are necessary to allow the match to be policed safely and effectively.

“The safety of those attending the match and of those in Huddersfield is of paramount concern to West Yorkshire Police.”

NEITHER Huddersfield Town nor Hull City have bad records when it comes to soccer hooliganism in the recent past.

Police made 27 arrests at Town games last year (seven at home, 20 away) and just 14 at Hull City games (seven home, seven away).

By comparison there were 65 arrests at Birmingham City games, 62 at Leeds United games, 48 at Sheffield United games and 62 at Sheffield Wednesday matches.

Town currently have 41 fans subjected to banning orders while Hull have 55. Leeds have 91, Leicester 46 and Birmingham 77.

HULL City fans have threatened legal action if West Yorkshire Police do not back down over ticketing arrangements for the game at Huddersfield.

The Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF) is backing fans left angry by West Yorkshire Police restrictions.

The police have insisted only 1,500 Hull fans can travel – and they must use official coaches from the KC Stadium.

Amanda Jacks, director of casework for the FSF, said yesterday she had received 125 e-mails and they were still coming.

She said West Yorkshire Police claimed to have intelligence that Hull fans were intending to “turn up at 11am and go on the beer all day”.

She added: “The idea that all these 1,500 fans would do that is insulting.

“You only have to look at the Home Office website to see that last year only 14 Hull fans were arrested home and away, and not one for alcohol-related offences.

“And what we don’t know is whether any of those arrests led to convictions.

“Huddersfield Town fans have a similar good reputation.

“We’ve had e-mails from supporters who are travelling from Spain and Norway to the game, whose plans have been scuppered because they have got to go to Hull to pick up an official coach.

“There are fans who live in Huddersfield who are having to go to Hull for a coach to take them back to Huddersfield.”

Ms Jacks said solicitors had been consulted and legal action was likely.

Ms Jacks urged anyone who wants to object to the ticket restrictions to e-mail her on amanda.jacks@fsf.org.uk.

The e-mails will be forwarded to West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson.

Mr Burns-Williamson was again unavailable for comment yesterday.

 

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