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February 8, 2011

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SecuriGroup stewards Scotland’s first police-free SPL match

History was made at the Motherwell versus Inverness Caledonian Thistle match on Saturday 15 January as SecuriGroup’s Events Division operatives stewarded the first ever Scottish Premier League (SPL) game at which there was a zero police presence.

John Malcolm QPM, chairman of SecuriGroup, said: “We are delighted to have been involved in the first ever police-free SPL match and we hope that the success of the match, with no incidents reported or arrests required, will encourage other clubs to look at this model.”

According to Malcolm, Motherwell Football Club “has made fantastic strides” over the last few years and its pre-match, during match and post-match organisational set-up is “exceptional”.

“Effective preparation has allowed for a situation where Strathclyde Police is fully confident that, between Motherwell FC and SecuriGroup, we can run games without any problems or the need for police intervention,” urged Malcolm.

The Steelmen and Strathclyde Police have their say

Motherwell’s chief executive Leeann Dempster added: “I would like to pay tribute to some of the excellent work that has gone on in the last two years involving SecuriGroup, Strathclyde Police and our own Safety and Facilities team. With Scottish football facing some challenging questions, it’s most certainly something positive when we can highlight a significant increase in standards and Best Practice in this area.”

Chief superintendent Graham Cairns, the divisional commander at North Lanarkshire, stated: “The policing of football matches can be costly to the tax payer, and we would much rather our resources were directed towards policing issues in communities.”

Cairns continued: “For some time now, we have worked very closely with the staff at Motherwell Football Club and SecuriGroup to refine their policing needs without detriment to safety. This has been a positive step forward.”

The chief superintendent was quick to point out, though, that each game is risk assessed on its merits and that his force will continue to work with clubs to ensure crowd safety.

“Despite there being no police officers within the stadium, we still retained a presence in the vicinity, so officers were in a position to respond to any incidents. I would also like to thank the Motherwell fans for working with us, and for their good standard of behaviour at the games.”

Qualification in spectator safety management

Sue Watson from Watson Associates explained: “We have been working with safety officers through the Football Safety Officers’ Association (Scotland) to deliver a nationally recognised qualification in spectator safety management. This has enabled safety officers to use a planned, auditable safety structure in all grounds and, as a result, has improved safety management.”

Safety Advisory Groups and police forces have recognised this, and duly assisted in the reduction of policing at football grounds around the country.

“Alan Marshall from Motherwell FC is one such safety officer who has worked very closely with SecuriGroup and Strathclyde Police to deliver an event without a police presence in the ground,” said Watson.

What happened in the match?

In the event, Motherwell and Inverness played out a 0-0 draw at a rain-soaked Fir Park in what was the proverbial game of two halves.

The second half belonged to ‘Well but, despite both teams creating decent enough chances to score, it was both teams defenders who were on top as Stuart McCall’s men recorded their third clean sheet in four games.

An extremely quiet opening 15 minutes was interrupted by Chris Innes, whose foul on John Sutton on the edge of the box presented Ross Forbes with a chance to strike at goal. However, the youngster’s effort blasted off the Caley Thistle wall before being hooked clear.

The Highlanders replied immediately by forcing a couple of corners, but it was the fierce wind that was playing more havoc than any delivery of the ball, with Motherwell eventually managing to clear both efforts into the box.

Terry Butcher’s men did create three great chances to take the lead. Rooney broke the offside trap and, one on one with Randolph, crashed a shot at goal that the big Irishman did brilliantly to turn away.

The danger wasn’t over there though as, from the resulting corner, Ross Tokely’s shot was narrowly missed by Rooney, allowing Randolph to block. The ball broke out to Graeme Shinnie who blasted an effort at goal which was once again expertly turned away by the Motherwell goalkeeper.

Inverness Caledonian Thistle on the attack

Inverness continued to attack and Rooney’s shot from distance proved difficult for Randolph on the slippery surface but, again, the former Charlton man was on hand to catch comfortably.

Motherwell started the second half brighter and Murphy forced Esson into a decent low stop with a fizzing shot from the edge of the box. Chris Humphrey followed that with a terrific run and low cross across the face, but no-one was there to take the chance and Tokely hooked it clear.

The Steelmen continued to have more of the ball in the second half, with Murphy being the main danger. The former Scotland U21 man had another effort on goal after 65 minutes following some delightful approach work, but he dragged his shot just wide.

Motherwell were pushing and another good delivery from Humphrey almost created a golden opportunity for Ross Forbes. The Jamaican delivered a lovely bouncing ball towards the back post and, after being missed by a precession of strikers and defenders, the ball landed at the youngster.

However, it was a difficult ball to control and his effort was blocked by Esson at the expense of a corner.

The 3,728 punters inside Fir Park saw Motherwell make a few changes, with young Steven Meechan making his first appearance for over a year and Esteban Casagolda getting another run out.

Butcher’s men defeated by Rangers

It was the former Scotland U19 star Meechan who would bring ‘Well back into the game with a fizzing long range effort that dropped just over the bar.

Motherwell continued to push for a winner, and Murphy was almost the hero but, despite racing clear of the visiting defence, he could only prod a shot just wide with his right foot when an effort with the left may have brought more joy.

In the end, both teams had to settle for a share of the spoils. Probably a fair result in the end.

The following week, Terry Butcher’s men faced a daunting trip to Ibrox, the home of SPL champions Rangers.

Caley Thistle lost the game 1-0 to a decent strike from Northern Ireland international midfielder Steven Davis in front of a Govan crowd of 41,000.

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