Published on January 19th, 2017 | by Bill
With the news that, at last, the ‘bubble’ restrictions in which Wrexham vs. Chester derby games have been played out in recent times may be close to an end (read more here), we thought we’d publish the tale of Wrexham and Den Haag fan, Kev_Cockney on attending a similar bubble match in the Eredivisie.
This was first published in Issue 20 of the fanzine – still on sale here.
Its 11th September, 9 o’clock in the morning outside the Kyocera Stadium and I’m having to go through a turnstile so I can go out another one! Welcome to the bubble trip par excellence…
For several years supporters of my club, Wrexham FC have had to endure the famous bubble trip when travelling to near rivals Chester FC (they are no longer city!). Supporters have campaigned long and hard against the North Wales and Cheshire police who insist that is the only way that they can guarantee safety. Not being able to police a 6-7K crowd safely is laughable in my opinion but it seems at the moment they have us and the clubs over a barrel. They offer to keep the costs down by having these restrictions for travelling supporters. For those not in the know basically a fan wanting to visit as an away supporter must travel via designated coaches from their ground to the ground 12 miles down the road. Travelling on the coach is the only way to receive a match ticket and at the moment I think it is the only fixture in the top 5 leagues that have these restrictions. The restrictions have had a big impact on attendances and this year Chester bought less than 500 to the racecourse.
This brings me back to that early Sunday morning, as most of you know I fell in love with FC Den Haag (now ADO Den Haag) when I lived out there in the mid 90’s. I try and get out to a few home games every year but the 11th was different, it was the derby away at Feyenoord. Currently all Den Haag away trips are bubbles or ‘combis’ of some kind either bus or car (for car you have to go to the ground at a specified time, handover ID and car details, drive to the game to a designated car park only and then collect your match ticket!). This year Feyenoord away was a bus bubble and Den Haag had sold their 900 allocation. Luckily my good mate Koos had managed to sort me and Gill a ticket (we still had to provide ID to buy the combi tkt.) So at 9 a.m. we all gathered outside the stadium ready to go through the turnstiles. Passing through we showed our ticket, ID and were searched. We were then offered free coffee (typically Dutch!) and directed to walk towards the away supporters section or VAK and here we were handed a green or yellow wig (unfortunately I lost mine!). Exiting the stadium through the normally visitors turnstile we were searched again…That was 2 searches already and we hadn’t even left the Hague! We were then put on one of 15 buses and set off for the 25km journey to the Kuip. It was about 10 o’clock and the game started at 12.30… the coaches were escorted by loads of Police, they even stopped cars coming on to the motorway as the buses passed… the whole journey was accompanied by some young lad playing gabba music from his phone down the mike! We were given our match tickets on the bus, 14.70 EUROS!!
Arriving at De Kuip we parked up in the coach park and then had to go through another turnstile and search! The coach park was on the other side of the road to the ground and from the away coach park there is a covered bridge (only for away fans) that takes you from the coaches directly to the away end! By 11 we had scaled the steps to the away seats and not come into contact with any Feyenoord fans. The smell of skunk wafted across the section as the teams came out for the game and Den Haag let off the obligatory pyro (how did they get that past 3 searches…?) The actual game was best remembered for the Den Haag fans throwing soft toys on the home sections below that were occupied by children from Rotterdam’s children hospital. This gesture was warmly received by the Feyenoord fans in the ground but didn’t stop them putting a few windows in on the coaches. Den Haag lost the game 2-1, the away fans were constant in their noise, flags and support though…
We were held after the final whistle for about 20 minutes which gave the police time to move on the Feyenoord fans. We boarded the buses and made our way back to The Hague, amazingly the bus had beer for the journey back subsidised by the supporters club!
I asked a couple of the lads about the bubble trips. For them it is the only way to watch the team away, almost all fixtures in the top division are ‘combi’ trips and all Den Haag’s are, but it has affected away support numbers. On average Den Haag take about 300 fans away from a home crowd of 10-11K but many of the Dutch stadiums only have away sections that hold about 5-600. This is for top flight Dutch football.
The ‘combi’ trips were started as a result of widespread trouble and Den Haag were involved in a fair share of it. Den Haag fans are banned from A**x because they set fire to their supporters club building! Koos said the authorities are trying more ‘car-combis’ as a way of relaxing measures but the bus always remains for the big fixtures. Visiting supporters to Den Haag even have a carpark within the away end and a dedicated road from the motorway!
Koos is now a supporters link on the ADO Den Haag board so is working hard with the club to have some of the travelling restrictions lifted and this has been reflected in the number of ‘car-combis’ now being used. I wonder if this is something that could be used instead of the Wrexham bubble, one to put forward perhaps…