The decision to call for the change of the February derby match to a lunchtime slot was taken by the multi-agency statutory Ground Safety Advisory Group (GSAG), which includes clubs, police and fan group representatives, after Merseyside Police voiced their concerns and reservations about their own ability to police the match and the city centre thereafter.
The GSAG was advised by police that they believed their resources were not adequate enough to cope with what they considered would be extra strain on them on a Saturday night. The Group accepted the police concerns that people would drift into the city centre after drinking before and after the game stretching their limited resources.
The city council communicated the GSAG’s decision to the Premier League requesting the fixture be made an early kick off. Other cities I believe have taken this step in the past because of similar concerns.
I would make it clear that I personally do not support the decision, for many reasons, but as always the council has to listen and take advice from those professionals who are closest to such matters. Ultimately it is a decision for the Premier League and the GSAG will consider the matter further once they have taken a decision. Let me be clear however, the city council will not be taking legal action to challenge any decision, under any circumstances.
As Mayor of Liverpool and someone who attends football matches regularly, I hope that the best way forward can be reached, but I would reiterate that the city of Liverpool is home to the best football fans in the world and I am very proud that they represent us in huge numbers travelling all over the country and overseas passionately supporting their teams.