Policing Football Fans: Civil Liberties Or Taking Liberties?

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8 Responses

  1. Steve Higgins says:


    I was one of those fans at Leeds and submitted my thoughts on paper to you and FSF. I was unable to attend the meeting at the rifle club so was unable to speak. I was also going to ask why some official football coaches were allowed alcohol onboard on matchdays as witnessed on the way to Leeds with Cardiff coaches travelling to Barnsley. Is there a rule or not? Certainly coaches I have travelled on, stewarded and organised myself have not allowed alcohol unless travelling before or after matchdays. Your thoughts?


  2. Haywain says:

    “although the bubble is always police led, it is a tactic that is approved by the clubs themselves”

    I’m not sure this as accurate as you suggest. Football clubs frequently approve restrictions on supporters because the policing authorities give them no choice. If the ultimatum from the police is that their restrictions are accepted or the match is not policed, and therefore does not go ahead, what choice do the clubs have?

    Not all clubs are innocent, but neither are they all guilty.

  3. SjMaskell says:

    @ Steve, the issue of drinking on coaches was discussed at the 20 October meeting very briefly and no real conclusive answers were given. I would guess that you witnessed ‘illegal’ boozing as have other fans who raised the issue at the meeting. There was agreement that the rules needed some update I think.

    @Haywain You could well be right in that you describe what might actually happen in some cases. However, this assertion is based on a statement made at the 20 October meeting by Supt. Burrows of Hampshire Police and corroborated by Alan Kerslake of Cardiff City and Portsmouth FC’s Operations Manager.

    One thing that was apparent at that meeting is that there is a certain disparity in the way different police forces approach the policing of football fans.

  4. James says:

    The last time Southampton visited Portsmouth they were attacked on their way to the ground and encountered a 500-strong mob waiting for them at the end.

    Not until police had cleared the streets with baton charges, dogs and horses could Saints fans be safely escorted back to their coaches.

    Until and unless Portsmsouth control their hooligan following, decent supporters have a right and need to be protected.

  5. SJMaskell says:

    Indeed James – that was in 2004. The attacks on the way to the ground were made by people NOT attending the match as they occurred after kick-off. So you have to ask how much it was a football problem.

    The boot was on the other foot in 2010 at the 1-4 cup tie at St Mary’s, wasn’t it? In fact it was those events, added to previous history, that triggered the ‘bubble’ status of the game coming up, I believe.

    I agree that clubs have a role to play in dealing with the hooligan element, but the irony of your reply only underlines the irony of the message board responses to the Leeds v Cardiff events I mention. Whilst we see ‘hooliganism’ as a problem of other clubs and buy into the myth that all football fans are a risk for anti-social behaviour then we allow policing to become ever more restrictive.

    This isn’t an argument about one lot of club’s fans against another club’s lot – no matter how deep seated the rivalry is. It is an argument about the policing of the MAJORITY of peaceful football fans of all clubs.

  6. maliniok says:

    Great article. In a bigger picture we’re really discussing ‘collective responsibility’ here. The question that needs to be answered is whether collective responsibilty is fair in all walks of life – not just football. In my country, Poland, we have had an extreme example of authorities punishing all football supporters for the crimes of a few. After a cup final in May between Lech Poznan and Legia a few hundred idiots from LP’s fans section invaded the pitch in a violent manner and caused some minor riots and acts of vandalism. What followed was the order of next home league games of Lech and Legia to played with closed doors, a ban on ALL away fans in divisions 1-4 as well as taking extreme measures against such things like fans swearing (people get bans and huge fines for swearing) or standing in a walkway.

  7. Leon Tricker says:

    Great article.

    My current thinking is that a minority of fans do not help the majority by singing violent songs. The “it’s just a song” defence doesn’t wash with me, and it helps confirm the negative stereotype of a football fan.

    Re. tactics still being used against football fans when they’ve been challenged or banned in other contexts. I’d flip that round and suggest football fans get away with behaviour that wouldn’t be tolerated outside of a football ground.

    I’ll use an example that we’re both familiar with – the ‘Poor Little Scummer’ chant that our fellow Pompey fans are so keen on at the moment. If 5000 people started singing a song about taking a brick to someone, outside of a football ground, would that not be seen as incitement to cause violence or encouraging crime?

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