Ignore that headline for a minute, it seemed a good idea nine seconds ago when I typed it and I’m sticking to my guns. Anyway, gather round everyone, I’ve a quick story for you all. I went to Doncaster’s match at Forest last season, as, with it being Boxing Day, so did much of my immediate family. Sat with my then girlfriend we could see a Vicky Pollard-esque character bounding about somewhere near the front few rows of Rovers fans shouting and gesturing at the home supporters to our right. “I bet your sister has probably wound up sat next to her” joked my girlfriend. Inevitably she was right, and midway through the second-half my sister and my mum had to move from their seats to enable the stewards and the police to deservedly drag the foul-mouthed Pollard and her equally unpleasant parents from the away end.
When you consider this incident, from a family no less, played out against a background of festering miners strike vitriol and inevitable ‘scab’ chants it comes as quite a surprise that Nottingham Forest would choose this fixture, eleven months on, to pioneer a new ‘mixed-zone’ for supporters. When Rovers go to Forest at the end of November supporters of both clubs will be able to buy special and impressively cheap ‘Family tickets’, costing £25 for two adults and two children. These tickets though are only available for a special family enclosure in which, according to the Rovers official website, “home and away supporters’ families can integrate and enjoy the match together”.
Now don’t get me wrong, I think this is a great idea. If fans can mix freely and relatively incident free at rugby and cricket fixtures then why not at football? I used to genuinely enjoy those rare Rovers away games in the Conference when the grounds were not segregated, and even those like Hayes which had segregation haphazardly thrust upon them mid-match. I think this is a scheme which is entirely plausible for a number of matches, however I feel it is especially brave of Forest to try it for this particular game. Surely Plymouth was the obvious option for tension free visitors.
Aside from upset on the inside the family enclosure faces another daunting prospect and that is its location. Whilst I’m pretty confident, especially assuming Doncaster’s Pollard clan is banned from returning this year, that families can be trusted to mix and watch football, can the same be said of those either side of this enclosure. With opposing supporters less inclined to watch their Ps and Qs on either side then families may be advised to purchase some ear muffs from the Forest club shop before attending. Speaking to the BBC website Forest’s Safety Officer Alan Bexon said “It’s something we have been considering for some time… Football has evolved since the days when hooliganism was at a peak and we believe the initiative could be a step in a very positive direction.” Its a bold move by Bexon and his staff and I sincerely hope it pays off, but they have a lot to be wary of, most notably that football can often attract followers who are less Bisto Family and more like Biffa Bacon.
Doncaster fans can find out more about the Forest family enclosure, who is eligible and how they get tickets within it, from Rovers’ official club website (no, I’m serious) by clicking here.