Police rest days cancelled to tackle boozy cup weekend

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POLICE officers are to work extra shifts over cup final weekend amid fears that football rivalry and all-day drinking could prove “an explosive mix” for the city.

The decision to cancel officers’ rest days forms part of the overall police strategy to manage the huge crowds of pumped-up Hearts and Hibs supporters flooding back into the Capital in the wake of the pressure-cooker final at Hampden.

It follows claims that emergency services could find themselves “stretched” during a ‘Super Saturday’ of sport that will also see Chelsea compete in the Champions League Final.

The News told on Saturday how several bars had applied to open at 9am to cater for Hearts and Hibs fans before they travel through to Hampden.

One member of the council’s licensing board, who wanted to remain anonymous, said that the cocktail of prolonged drinking and rival fans meeting on the return to Edinburgh could be a “nightmare” to control.

“It’s a potentially explosive mix and I think that’s fair enough to say,” they said.

“It’s a day for sport that we have not seen for a long time here. Antisocial behaviour could be mitigated by the fact the cup final is in Glasgow but they are likely to meet on the way back into the city.”

David Strang, Chief Constable of Lothian and Borders Police, said the buzz surrounding the all-Edinburgh cup final would ensure officers were kept busy.

“The months ahead are sure to prove busy for the force, with a number of high-profile summer events due to take place,” he said.

“The Scottish Cup Final on May 19 is a huge event for Edinburgh, the first time in over a century that the two Capital clubs have met in the final, so we can expect a busy weekend whatever the result.”

Councillor Iain Whyte, convenor of the Lothian and Borders Police Board, said having extra officers on duty “without going overboard on cost” was a “sensible option”.

He said: “It sounds like a pragmatic and reasonable step, keeping things within a reasonable cost without paying huge amounts of overtime but ensuring they have officers on duty for a busy day.

“I would imagine the high-profile places to police would be the bus and railway station. Obviously there will need to be close co-operation between Lothian and Borders and British Transport Police to get that right and I’m sure planning is in place at the moment to make sure that goes well.”

Superintendent Lesley Clark said: “Work is currently under way regarding policing arrangements for the weekend of the Scottish Cup Final.

“As a result of the additional events taking place, a number of officers’ rest days have been cancelled for Saturday, May 19, and Sunday, May 20.

“We are continuing to liaise with partners in City of Edinburgh Council, Strathclyde Police and British Transport Police as part of this.”

Meanwhile, Councillor Alastair Paisley said: “The emergency services will be stretched, I’m sure, on the day which merits some thought. If people get guttered at nine in the morning it would not be good if they are staggering about all day.”