Following Saturday’s game against Peterborough United the club have reluctantly accepted the resignation of Ian Mixter, Head of Crowd Safety.
Ian has been a friend and colleague to all of us at the club and has worked tremendously hard to ensure the safety of supporters. His innovative ‘Ox Rails’ initiative is typical of Ian’s forward thinking and there are countless systems and changes that he has helped to implement around the ground - many of which will go unnoticed by fans but have certainly been appreciated by the safety authorities who continue to hold Ian in very high regard.
Ian told us
“I took over at a time when the club faced safety critical challenges; the club are now in a position where they have the trust and confidence of the regulatory authorities. I have always tried to balance my responsibilities for safety with the expectations of the fans. I have worked with some good people over the years and wish Oxford well for the future. In my position supporters are entitled to their opinion on my decisions and I have always been happy to debate such matters face to face whether at a forum, meetings with supporters groups or one to one meetings with fans. However, the level of personal vile abuse received by myself over the last 24 hours coupled with previous direct threats on the safety of my family has caused to me to resign with immediate effect as Head of Crowd Safety."
Niall McWilliams added
"On behalf of Oxford United Football Club, I would like to express my sincere thanks and gratitude for the work that Ian has undertaken and completed, often in difficult circumstances. Without exception, Ian has worked in a professional manner in dealing with all issues surrounding safety at Oxford United.
“From a club perspective, we are extremely disappointed that one of our colleagues has not been treated with the respect they deserve. Whilst we appreciate that this has been a difficult season for us, it is clearly not right for our hard working staff to feel threatened either in person or online. As an organisation that has respect at the centre of all we do, we feel strongly that this should not happen; it is not behaviour we will tolerate.
We wish Ian all the best for the future and thank him for his hard work for the club
At the same time we thought it was important to explain events on Saturday.
Under the terms of our contract with the stadium company we gain access to the ground at midday for all Saturday 3pm kick offs*. This means that all staff are allowed in at 12 o’clock to start the build up to the game, with the one exception being the safety team who are allowed in earlier to ensure that the club complies with the regulations set out in the Green Guide.
At around 10.00 am the Ultras arrived to put up their flags and banners at the back of the East Stand. The Ultras were then asked by Ian and Michael Doyle the Stadium Manager to return at noon to erect the flags and speak to Niall McWilliams who would explain the situation. From our perspective the meeting between the Stadium Manager, the OUFC Safety Officer and the Ultras was polite and amicable; at no stage were the Ultras banned from putting up their flags.
However, a tweet was sent out from that group that stated ‘Unfortunately there will be no flags on the back wall today. Stadium manager and Head of Security informed us they are not allowed up when we arrived at 10:30.”
There is an ambiguity to this tweet and we would like to make clear that the decision not to put up flags was made by the Ultras, not by the Stadium Company or the club who fully appreciate the fact that the group gave up so much of their spare time time, voluntarily, to try and help create colour and atmosphere at matches.
Could we have explained all of the above on Saturday?
We took, as a club, a decision that we needed full reports from everyone involved so we were in possession of the full picture before we could comment. Matchdays are so busy for all members of staff that this was not possible until after the match.
What will we do next?
We learned yesterday that the Ultras have disbanded. We would like to thank them for ten years of colour and atmosphere at games and we know they will continue to support the club as individuals. Talks are already under way with Oxvox and the Stadium Company to find a permanent solution at the back of the East Stand which will add the same colour as the flags. We will continue to work closely with the Stadium Company and adhere to the midday on Saturday agreement.