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Everton v Liverpool to stay an evening kick-off

Police withdraw their appeal over start time

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Saturday's Merseyside derby at Goodison Park will remain a 5:30pm kick-off after the police withdrew their legal challenge - giving the supporters the chance to prove they were wrong to do so in the first place.

The decision to move the game for live coverage on Sky Sports has been the subject of debate among the relevant authorities in the city for weeks.

Merseyside police fear the late kick-off time will allow the supporters more time to drink, with alcohol unsurprisingly being a key factor in sparking trouble at football grounds, meaning their resources will be stretched to breaking point.

Liverpool council’s licensing committee last week turned down a request to amend the terms of the ground safety certificate to bring forward the 5.30pm kick-off time to lunchtime, prompting the police to launch a legal challenge.

The fears stem from the last time a Goodison derby kicked-off late on a day where most people were off work. Back in 2001 Everton took on their city rivals at 5pm on a warm, sunny bank holiday Monday - with trouble flaring up before, during and after the game.

Since then every Goodison derby has been an early start under police advice except evening kick-offs in midweek. Saturday's game has been classed as a high-risk fixture by the police and say it could cost up to an extra £75,000 to control.

Changing the kick-off time now though would perhaps cause even more chaos and spark an angry reaction from supporters who have already made travel plans.Thankfully common sense has prevailed and a compromise reached.

Everton have agreed to try and improve segregation in the ground (though I'm not sure how this is possible at such short notice as well as this being a fixture where the two sets of fans have mingled together for decades) while talks will also take place about possibly granting police more power to alter the kick-off times for fixtures they see as being high-risk in the future.

There will also be double the number of police support units that are normally at the ground, paid for by Everton. While the club will have 430 club stewards together with 50 agency stewards.

All this drama has tarnished the reputation of Everton fans who feel they are being judged for crimes they have yet to commit. Having been to that game in 2001 and can say that the atmosphere was toxic and I witnessed sporadic instances of trouble - but that was more than 10 years ago.

A lot of things have changed since then not least the fortunes of Everton who were regularly near the bottom of the table playing the dullest football you could ever imagine under Walter Smith, fuelling the fans' frustration.

Saturday is a fantastic opportunity for the supporters to show the authorities they deserve to be treated like responsible adults and not labeled hooligans. Everton and Liverpool fans will generate a passionate atmosphere (and drink a lot of ale) but if they can keep trouble to a minimum it won't go unnoticed by the powers that be.

It may even mean future derbies will be allowed to kick-off at 5:30pm, which I think you will all agree is far better than the 12:45 starts when everyone is still hungover from the night before.