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Policing the south coast derby

Joe Crowley | 19:39 UK time, Monday, 15 February 2010

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Pompey arrive in Southampton

It's rare to see so much aggression in a town centre on a Saturday before midday.

Yet somehow a derby game between the old foes Southampton and Portsmouth provided an excuse for a few individuals to take to the streets looking for trouble.

If I'm honest, I still don't really understand it. I've heard people tell stories of rivalries between dockworkers on the two coastal towns that go back generations.

But so what? What relevance does that have today and, in the end, how can anyone justify some of the hatred and abuse witnessed on Saturday.

In one instance a young lad, probably about eight years old, wearing his team colours on the way to the ground with his dad was spat at and verbally abused in the most horrible way.

It's not even that I'm easily offended. As a football fan I really enjoy a bit of rivalry and healthy banter at games.

And far from oozing tribal hatred, in my experience the genuine fans often come up with some pretty funny stuff. For some reason, I'll always remember Chelsea fans taunting a losing Norwich City team (where Delia Smith is majority shareholder) with the chant: "you're going down with the soufflé, down with the soufflé..."

The vitriol and irrational hatred just comes from people who want the adrenaline rush of a fight. The football itself is an irrelevant excuse.

So how do you police those idiots when the majority of Saturday's sell out crowd just wanted to watch football?

I'd be keen to hear your thoughts. With police horses, dogs and 270 officers on the streets I've heard one or two people say they thought the law was too heavy handed.

And yet those resources seemed very justified as trouble flared up at two key moments either side of the game.

There were a few close calls and yes at times the thin blue line was probably stretched a bit too thin as groups of Southampton lads seemed to come at their contained rivals from nearly every side.

But the police seemed to keep their nerve. Instead of banging heads together some of the offenders caught on CCTV before the game were located during the match then quietly arrested, minimising confrontations between fans and police.

And now hopefully the police can go back through all the other evidence they gathered on the day and make more arrests.

Only then, with banning orders in place do the real fans and families have a chance of following their side without the distant threat of violence or intimidation.

Tense times as the two side are kept apart

This will make your blood boil...

Joe Crowley | 18:54 UK time, Monday, 1 February 2010

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Unofficial Blood PosterNow as scams go, an unofficial 'give blood' campaign hardly sounds like the most devastating development to hit the UK in recent years.

You might wonder what, indeed, could be wrong with a few posters that urge people to open up a vein and keep the nation's blood bank topped up.

After all, giving blood is not just generous and selfless, it's a vital contribution to ensure the NHS keeps functioning: just 4% of us donate the blood that the other 96% of us rely on.

Sadly, and somewhat predictably, the problems begin when money is involved.

What else would motivate a private company with seemingly no links to the Blood Service or the NHS to nobly take it upon themselves to increase stocks of the red stuff?

If Barracuda films, which trades under the name Town and Country Publications, did have any links to the National Blood Service, they'd know their cash-related efforts are not welcome.

Aiden Feerick, Managing Director of Town and Country PublicationsSo what is going on?

Well Town and Country Publications produce their own little blood posters and they generously leave lots of blank space around the outside so that other companies can buy adverts and, effectively sponsor the posters.

Ok, they don't pretend any of that money goes to the NHS, however we did film their sales agent claiming they work on behalf of The National Blood Service and saying their posters are all officially approved.

Definitely a misleading sales pitch. But why is The National Blood Service so angry? After all, these posters are still giving out the correct message, right?

Wrong. Not only does it seem that very few of these posters actually get put up in public, but Town and Country's antics cynically exploit the good name of the Blood Service and the benevolence of people that want to help.

In the end, the Blood Service doesn't function on cash. Its currency of choice is goodwill. It relies on public-spirited people to get up off their sofa and make their way to a blood donation clinic.

Yet, sadly Town and Country Publications have found a way of making money from people who care about the blood service. Certainly, the individuals I spoke to would never have bought an advert on one of the unofficial posters if the salesperson had told them the truth.

I doubt that will trouble Town and Country Publications though. After all, those people have already paid for their advert.

And if you'd like to make a difference and give blood, please see the official website to find your nearest location: www.blood.co.uk

Undercover filming of salesman Tony Hazelwood

A 'hole' lot of problems on the regions roads...

Joe Crowley | 10:26 UK time, Tuesday, 26 January 2010

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It seems, just as the recession exposed dodgy lending and unsound business practices, so the cold weather has exposed the lack of investment in our road network.

Yes it has been cold and yes, the freezing temperatures were here for weeks, not days.

But even so, is that any reason for our roads to start falling apart? I mean, is this Sussex or Senegal, Dorset or Djibuti, Berkshire or Botswana...?

To be fair, I've never been to any of those countries but I have heard people here in the South grumbling that our region's roads are worse than those in the so called 'developing world'.

That might be a slight exaggeration but ironically, part of the problem is that we are so 'advanced'. Most of us have the option of cable TV or high speed internet, and we've all got the basic water, gas or sewer pipes channelled straight to our homes underground. So, there's plenty of work going on but it's often not the councils fixing the roads, it's utility firms digging them up.

Once the surface is disturbed to install cable TV or fix a water mains then it's resealed with a patch of tarmac. The problem is that often water gets in between the patch and the rest of the road and once that happens it's game over - with just one heavy frost and plenty of regular traffic, Potholes can appear almost overnight.

The slightly frustrating fact is that we have too many roads that need repairs and not enough money to go around. And it's not just a losing battle but a costly one too. As potholes get deeper and the damage to vehicles gets more serious, councils are having to cough up compensation for suspension and wheel problems.

I completely understand that if you hit a pothole and it ends up costing you at the garage, then you'll want some kind of compensation. To be honest, I would also put a claim in but it does seem ridiculous that as a result councils are left with even less money to fix the problem.

However, if there's any argument that should get councils filling their potholes in a hurry, it's the fact they put cyclists and motorbikers in serious danger. Compensation for buckled wheels is one thing, serious injuries are quite another.

And if you want to do your bit and flag up any bad potholes near you, just fill in the details at potholes.co.uk

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