CHRISTMAS shoppers looked on in horror as parts of Swindon town centre were turned into a war zone following violent clashes between Swindon Town and Bristol Rovers fans.

Trouble flared throughout the afternoon with some fans even throwing seats at each other as the animosity reached boiling point inside the County Ground.

But the trouble spilled outside the stadium both before and after the game with several altercations taking place in many streets around the town centre.

By the end of Town's 2-1 win 11 fans had been arrested for assault, public order and drug offences, only one short of the total arrests for the whole of last season.

During the day there was a massive police presence in the town centre as 130 officers held groups of fans in pubs to avoid trouble.

The club said that supporters from both teams were involved in the fracas at the County Ground.

STFC's acting chief executive Martyn Starnes said: "What a regrettable incident. We had a bumper crowd and supporters have been absolutely fantastic, turning out in their numbers.

"Then we get a small element deciding to throw seats and it was coming from both sides.

"Bristol Rovers supporters were culpable, but so were ours judging by the damage to the furniture we've got in the Arkells Stand."

Mr Starnes said the club would take a firm stance. He said: "Obviously we're extremely disappointed and unhappy with that and we're going to have to deal with it.

"We'll get a report from the safety officer as soon as possible. He will view any pictures they've been able to get from the CCTV cameras and we'll deal with our own supporters, if they need to be dealt with, in the appropriate way."

Nigel Bennett, chairman of Swindon Town Supporters Club, said he had not seen such clashes for several years.

He said: "Fortunately, incidents such as this are extremely rare.

"It is always very disappointing when incidents like this do happen.

"I am sure that the club and the authorities will be looking very hard at the videos from the inside of the ground to ensure that they deal with the perpetrators."

Chief Inspector Adrian Griffiths, of Swindon police, said that officers from Swindon, Avon and Somerset and the British Transport Police had their work cut out.

He said: "A crowd of 10,000 attended the football match.

"There were several public order incidents involving rival supporters before and after the game in the town centre, and there was minor disorder at the ground that was brought under control by the police and club stewards.

"This was a challenging day for us. A large number of people who claim to be fans of these two teams gathered in the town but did not actually go to the game.

"They were intent on fighting each other no matter what we did, and whether we were there or not."

Shoppers looked on as up to 40 fans clashed outside The Bedroom bar on Bridge Street.

Bristol Rovers fans were kept inside the pub as officers moved Swindon fans on towards the County Ground.

Inspector Paul Hawkins said: "We had a small incident earlier involving 30 to 40 fans in total.

"There were both Bristol and Swindon fans involved in a confrontation, but no one was hurt."

But at the Merlin pub on Drove Road, manager Jay Cutler said the police presence made for a good day.

He said: "We didn't have any trouble with the Rovers fans, they were very respectful to my staff.

"We had a few officers on the door before the game, and during it 30 odd Rovers fans came in for a drink with a police escort.

"They were perfectly well-behaved and I have no complaints."

Another incident

THE TROUBLE between Bristol Rovers and Town fans at Saturday's game is the second major episode this year.

Twelve people were arrested on March 4 at the Queen's Tap pub, opposite Swindon railway station, when Bristol Rovers supporters smashed windows and threw cans and bottles at Swindon fans inside.

Around 100 people were involved in the clash that occurred when Bristol Rovers' game away at Oxford United was cancelled on Saturday morning.

Rovers fans got off the train at Swindon and met Robins fans that afternoon. Town's game against Tranmere had also been cancelled.

Sergeant Carly Stevenson, from Swindon police, said at the time: "Every single window in the pub was smashed and upon arrival there was about 50 to 100 people still outside showing signs of disorder."

Nine men, seven from Bristol and two from Gloucestershire, appeared in court in Swindon in July to face charges of affray.

David McMurrough, 26, from Bristol, and Ian Price, 25, were given community orders in August.

The landlord, who had only opened the pub two days before the trouble, said it was the worst violence he had seen in 12 years in the trade.

Fans' views

After the game many fans discussed the violence on Swindon Town supporters' websites.

On one forum,, there was argument between those who condemned the violence and those who supported it.

One posting said: "Who started it?

"I didn't even think things were that heated and then all of a sudden seats are being thrown.

"It's a sad story really. It's a shame people have to do this at football matches."

But another member was more enthusiastic.

He said: "Hahaha can't beat a bit of festive coin dodging.

"Fair play to the Rovers headcase who started marching across the netting!

"What with Millwall coming back t'other way, could be a few feisty encounters around Town tonight, poor coppers."

At the Bristol Rovers site,, there was similar disagreement. One member posted: "The seat throwing and bottle and coin throwing was also a complete embarrassment.

"Why do these people actually think they can achieve something through this? The only thing they will achieve is getting banned from footie for life.

"I know for one that this is the last thing I would ever want and would never do anything to risk this."

But again, many fans were more intent on retaliating.

Another posting said: "After the Swindon fans started throwing stuff I was half tempted to lug a few things back.

"There were not enough police. Too many young chavs are running around, I have to say some of them could do with a good slap."

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