No fans in the ground, the game’s not even on TV… but police fear Watford v Luton on Saturday will spark trouble across Hertfordshire as they draft in more officers – and Graham Taylor’s statue is boarded up at Vicarage Road
- Watford face rivals Luton Town on Saturday for the first time in 14 years
- Matches between the two sides have previously been marred by trouble
- A 2002 League Cup match at Vicarage Road resulted in 29 prosecutions
- The statue of Watford legend Graham Taylor was being boarded up on Thursday
Hertfordshire police have drafted in extra numbers on Saturday amid concern of trouble ahead of Watford’s clash against rivals Luton Town – even though fans are not allowed inside the stadium.
Clashes in the past between sets of supporters have the local police force on red alert ahead of the behind closed doors Championship game, kicking-off at 12:30pm, yet the match is not even on TV and therefore fans won’t be able to congregate in pubs to watch the action.
No chances are being taken though and pictures have emerged on Thursday of the statue of Watford legend Graham Taylor being boarded up outside Vicarage Road.
Police are not taking any chances ahead of Watford’s game against Luton on Saturday
There is a statue of Watford legend and ex-manager Graham Taylor outside Vicarage Road
However, that statue was being boarded up on Thursday amid concern of trouble on Saturday
The match is being played without spectators due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the government ban on mass gatherings.
Chief Superintendent Matt Nicholls said: ‘We will have a high-visibility police presence at train stations and in city centres across Hertfordshire to make sure the match goes ahead peacefully as planned.
‘Anyone who comes into Hertfordshire to cause criminal damage, violence or anti-social behaviour can expect to be arrested.’
Just 18 miles separate Watford’s stadium to Luton’s Kenilworth Road, with the rivalry between the two sides being described as the ‘M1 derby’ or ‘Beds-Herts derby’, with Luton located in neighbouring Bedfordshire.
Police have drafted in extra numbers despite the fact no fans are allowed inside Vicarage Road
The two teams have not met in competitive competition for more than 14 years but in September 2002, a League Cup clash was marred by hooliganism with 25 Luton supporters and four Watford fans prosecuted.
Kick-off was delayed by more than 15 minutes that night as Luton fans invaded the pitch at Vicarage Road before the game and an intended one minute’s silence for the first anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in the United States did not take place.
One fan was reportedly taken away on a stretcher as a result of the violence after receiving treatment for a head wound.
Hertfordshire police have insisted there will be a high police presence throughout the county on Saturday.
Marlon King scores for Watford during the last game between the two sides, in April 2006
Nicholls added: ‘I want to reassure our local communities that we are working closely with our colleagues in Bedfordshire, Watford Borough Council and the respective football clubs to limit anti-social behaviour and disorder.
‘I would like to remind supporters of both teams of the new Government rules of the “rule of six” – no more than six people can meet in a group indoors or outdoors.
‘If you have any information about supporters who intend to cause disruption, please report online at herts.police.uk/Report/ or call 101 in confidence.’
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