Political rally force Everton to reschedule gameFebruary 21st, 2009 - 1:23 pm ICT by IANS
London, Feb 21 (DPA) Everton have had to delay their Premier League game against Stoke City scheduled for March 14 to avoid a clash with a British National Party (BNP) rally.
The game will be played March 15, as police could not staff both the match and a mass rally by the BNP in Liverpool city centre, organised as part of their campaign for the forthcoming European elections.
The rally had already drawn criticism from community leaders and a local MP, Louise Ellman, while fans who had already made travel plans have inundated message-boards with complaints.
“We have had complaints from supporters that the BNP supporters have been put before Everton supporters,” said club spokesman Ian Ross.
“This is a matter for Merseyside police to comment on and not Everton Football Club.
“In the interests of public safety we had no option but to accept the change of date.
“The first priority is public safety and Merseyside police are taking that into account.”
Chief Superintendent Steve Watson, the police area commander for Liverpool North, said: “There were several events scheduled for Saturday, 14 March, which would have required intensive policing.
“If they had all taken place at the same time it would have placed extraordinary pressures on demand and would have affected the ability to police those events effectively.”
The complaints of fans were put by Steve Farley, the chair of North West Trades Union Congress, which opposes the BNP rally on political grounds.
“The TUC do not believe the BNP should be welcome in our city or our region. It is disgraceful that Everton fans find themselves forced to watch their team on a Sunday in order for the BNP to march in our city on the Saturday. Over 35,000 football fans are being put out for the sake of a few hundred BNP members,” said Farley.