A NUMBER of Saints fans are being targeted in a police crackdown on violence and disorder ahead of the club’s clash with bitter rivals Portsmouth.

Police officers have hand-delivered letters to a targeted group of Saints supporters warning them that those who engage in violence will be prosecuted.

It comes as Saints prepare to play Portsmouth at Fratton Park in the Carabao Cup tonight.

In the letter, seen by the Echo, Hampshire Police said: “We know what this match means to both sets of fans and we are working closely with both clubs to help make sure that the fans are able to enjoy this much-anticipated cup tie.

“Our priority, as always, is public safety and we are confident that we have a wide range of different tactics available to us to best tackle any disruption by those who are intent on causing disorder.

“The reason you have received this letter is because you have come to our attention as part of our proactive policing operation.

“Be advised that Hampshire Constabulary will seek to prosecute any persons who aid, abet, incite, encourage, counsel, instigate or personally engage in public disorder or violence.”

A spokesperson for Hampshire Police said the letters, which are also being sent to a number of Portsmouth fans, were one of “many different measures” the force was taking as part of its policing operation for the match.

The letter comes as the force yesterday announced that the policing operation for the match will be the largest ever in the county's history.

A huge number of specially-trained officers will be on duty at Fratton Park, while horses, helicopters and drones will also be used to help them prevent violence breaking out.

Assistant Chief Constable (AAC) Scott Chilton is leading the overall policing operation.

Asked about the possibility of trouble he said: “The rivalry is intense and although the two teams haven’t played each other for seven years there’s always the potential for disruption.

“We have been working with both clubs and other partners to devise a very detailed police operation which is designed to ensure everyone’s safety.”

The force earlier announced it would not implement the ‘bubble’ system used when the teams last met at Fratton Park eight years ago.

Saints fans with tickets to the match were forced to use designated coaches at one of three pick-up points.

They were dropped in a “sterile area”, which people were prevented from accessing unless they were one of the coaches, and escorted to Fratton Park.

The fans were then escorted back to the coach area and driven back to Southampton.

ACC Chilton said the previous fixture involved a Sunday lunchtime kick-off, whereas today’s game starts at 7.45pm, with fans travelling to Fratton Park during rush-hour.