Ipswich Town fans aged under five banned from Portman Road lower tier sections next season
- Credit: Archant
Ipswich Town fans aged under five will be banned from lower tier seating sections at Portman Road from next season due to safety fears.
Several youngsters sitting close to the pitch have been hit by “footballs flying into the crowd” this season, while stewards have also turned away young families who have brought babies into pitch-side seating areas.
The decision comes amid plans to improve the “matchday experience” for children at home games next season, with more activities on the Fieldturf pitch before kick-off and all family areas only being in the East of England Co-Operative Stand.
There are 76 children aged under five who are Ipswich Town season ticket holders. It is thought only around 20 of these attend home games regularly.
Every season ticket holder affected has been informed by the club and urged to contact the ticket office. Season ticket prices for those affected are being frozen in most cases.
But Blues fan Richard Moss said the decision was “bizarre” and “frustrating”. The 39-year-old takes children Elliott, 10, Oliver, seven, step-daughter Lexie, five, and son Archie, four, to every home game in the Sir Alf Ramsey stand.
Archie turns five in November, meaning they may have to move to the Co-op stand.
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Mr Moss, of Bury St Edmunds, said: “Health and safety has gone mad in many aspects nowadays. In the Co-op stand, there will be a lot of stairs for children under five, and that is quite dangerous.
“I would be disappointed if my son got hit by a football, but I would be blaming myself, not the club. They could have put in a disclaimer that you go at your own risk.
“I’ve been to Wembley countless times to the family section behind the goal – so what does that tell you?
“It is an overreaction, and I want to know how it will be policed on match days. They are getting into very murky waters.
“But I am happy they are holding the prices, which is fair.”
Liz Edwards, chairman of the Ipswich Town Supporters Club, said: “The club have recognised that fans affected by their decision would be concerned, especially over potential increase in costs of moving to middle or upper tiers, so they wrote to every individual affected and asked them to contact the club to discuss how they can be accommodated.
“Several fans contacted me personally about this and I have advised them to get in touch with the club as per the letter. In each case that I have been involved with, I have been able to help fans to suggest a reasonable solution that does not involve them in additional cost.
“There is, though, no single solution, hence the desire on the club’s part to speak to everyone individually.
“It is also relevant that the club have been very heavily criticised for organising childrens’ events pre-match on the field turf by the East of England Co-Op stand, but not permitted kids in other stands to take part; a stadium design/logistics issue.
“This move will mean that families will all be in the East of England Co-Op stand, and thus able to take part in family activities.”
An Ipswich Town spokesman said: “The decision was made for safety reasons. We have had incidents of children being hit by flying footballs this season and had incidents of babies being brought to the ground aiming to get access to lower tier seating, so the decision was made to put an age line on it.
“We took advice and under-fives was the figure we agreed on.
“We are only talking about a very small number of people affected by the decision and we urge them to contact our ticket office to discuss the options for next season.
“In most cases, there are no additional costs involved for one season only.”
A club statement added: “The club carried out a survey amongst supporters in the family areas in both the Co-Op Stand and the Cobbold Stand at the start of this season, outlining plans for a change and it received significant support.
“So for 2015/16, blocks T, T2, U, U2 and U3 in the Cobbold Stand will no longer be designated as a home family area.
“The club has written to all current season ticket holders in the Cobbold Stand, lower tier, explaining the reasoning behind the decision, with the club working with those fans to relocate them within the Co-Op Stand for next season. “The club will continue to welcome families and junior fans in the Cobbold Stand, should fans not wish to move to the Co-Op Stand. However these areas will no longer benefit from preferential pricing as a ‘family area’.
“Meanwhile children under the age of five will need to sit in the upper tiers of the stadium only. This is for safety reasons, with regards to footballs flying into the crowd from the field of play.”