With Arsenal.com confirming Arsenal Ladies v Spurs will take place at Borehamwood FC on Sunday 19 March at 2pm, the question has to be asked if segregation should be in place.
The tickets for the FA Women’s Cup Round 5 tie are on sale now. There is no mention of ticketing for the away fans or even segregation. Traditionally, there is no segregation between fans in women’s football in England.
I don’t remember any game with fans being properly separated except for the FA Women’s Cup final where they allocated each team a half of the stadium, but it allows fans to go in the wrong end and there are many neutrals anyway. I have certainly seen segregation as recently as last week in France for Juvisy v Lyon in the D1 Feminine. I also witnessed it a few years ago in Glasgow when Glasgow City were at home to PSG in the UEFA Women Champions League and I believe it also happened for Wolfsburg v Chelsea and Wolfsburg v PSG.
So although, it is uncommon in women’s football, it can happen. As we all know the North London Derby brings the worse out of the fans with abuse, fights and everything possible and that’s why there is always heavy stewarding and policing for those game either at the Emirates or at White Hart Lane.
Now, in term in supporters from the men’s team turning up on the day, the Arsenal will be at home to West Brom on Saturday 18 March at 12.30 live on Sky Sports and therefore some of the fans will be available to come to the Ladies game.
On the other side, Tottenham Hotspur will be at home to Southampton on 19 March with a 14.15 kick-off, which is a good news as it means less Spurs fans potentially turning up at Borehamwood FC.
Meadow Park has an away section with the entrance next to the main car park, so there is no problem for the club to just open it as they do for Borehamwood FC games and separate the Arsenal and Spurs fans.
I know that all the women’s game so far have been peaceful enough, although I have witnessed some incidents that could have been classed as more than banter, with fans abusing opposition players or coaching staff.
There is a certain fan section at Borehamwood which does not reflect well on the club to be honest and you know that they will be the first to try to antagonize the Spurs players and fans alike.
On the other side, I still remember going to an away pre-season friendly game between Spurs Ladies and Arsenal Ladies’ Reserves on a Sunday morning with a 10am kick-off. They had a lot more security than usual, many stewards, but it did not prevent the Spurs fans from abusing our young girls aged 17 – 20 at the time during the game.
The fans from both sides are no saints and having them sitting or standing next to each other abusing the opposition players is not a good idea. In a North London Derby, it does not matter if the opposition are first team, u21, u19 or Ladies, fans from both teams will be up for it.
Will it stay at the banter level only? You would hope so, but why risk mixing up fans when you can easily separate them? I know it is totally the opposite of the values Women’s football should promote, but it is the first Ladies North London Derby in many many years.
The last one was probably six or seven years ago and it was in the London FA County Cup, where Arsenal sent a mixed team and easily beat their rivals who were at the time three or four divisions below.
The rivalry will be a lot more intense with a place in the FA Women’s Cup quarter-finals up for grabs and Spurs also on a great run of form – they could potentially get promoted to FA WSL 2 at the end of the season. It should be a tight game.
Will the Arsenal segregate fans or will they take the risk of mixing them up? Answers on a postcard or on 19 March.