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Chairman's Statement

21 August 2015

Port Vale chairman Norman Smurthwaite has made the following statement...

"Due to the impending sale of the Co-Operative building next door to our stadium, the Co-op understandably decided not to extend Port Vale’s use of its car park on match days.

In view of the lost income to the Club, the Club undertook to make some operational changes which effectively was to have home fans only parking on the Hamil Road car park, with home and away fans using Vale Social (formerly known as Tommy Cheadles) on match days.

Regrettably the police in reviewing the operational changes above, and the Club being unable to agree with the police categories for the coming season, Mr Matthew Ellis, the Crime and Police Commissioner, requested that a Safety Advisory Group meeting be called for them to arbitrate what course of action, if any, should be taken in view of their concerns regarding public safety.

The initial category of the Doncaster game on Saturday was one of a low risk but, due to the proposed changes to match day  operations by the Club, as referred to above, it was stated in the SAG meeting “it is the view of Staffordshire Police that the admission of spectators to Vale Park during the Port Vale versus Doncaster Rovers football  fixture due to take place on the 22nd August 2015 and the Port Vale versus  Millwall fixture due to take place on the 5th September 2015 will involve a risk to them so serious that, unless steps are taken to reduce the identified risk to a reasonable level, the admission of spectators to the ground ought to be prohibited or restricted”.

Certain proposals to reduce the risk element and, in turn, the policing costs to the Club were put forward by Staffordshire Police and reinforced by Matthew Ellis.  These included putting a double skinned high security anti-climb mesh fence system across the Hamil Road car park between the Club shop and Gate B and the same fence along the full perimeter wall of Hamil Road, up towards High Lane, that Vale Social (Tommy Cheadles) was to operate as an away only licensed premises on match days and that, on games designated by the police, the Hamil Road car park be used solely for the use of away spectator parking of coaches, mini buses etc. 

The sole intention of the Club’s decisions was to manage the stadium footprint and to protect its commercial income following the loss of revenue from the Co-op car park. The Club did not consider that at any point would there be any compromise or reduction of the safety requirements to any spectators, staff or third party agencies visiting Vale Park.  Regrettably due to the powers that the police hold, certain concessions have had to be agreed in order for games to be allowed to continue without any prohibition notice or any other relevant action and these concessions are as follows:

•    There has now been the a fence installed on the Hamil Road car park from the Club Shop to the boundary wall.
•    For the Doncaster Rovers game and other games to be advised during the course of the season the Hamil Road car park, segregated by the new fence, will be used for away spectators mini buses and coaches to park.
•    Vale Social on designated games, starting tomorrow with the game against Doncaster Rovers, will be an away fan venue only.

I would like to thank the senior management of Stoke City Council for its advice and support along with the Clubs senior safety team and Club Secretary for their continual professional conduct in dealing with what has been a very challenging few weeks.

I ask you, our fans, to understand and accept the changes that I have had to implement on match days and personally request that you enjoy the game tomorrow and it be remembered for what happens on the pitch."

Norman Smurthwaite

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