Policing Football Fans: Civil Liberties Or Taking Liberties?

‘Football fans have been exposed to the type of policing historically that is probably unfair and untargeted. I think it’s evolved, I think it’s moved on. My football unit police with the best interests of football fans that are around safety and that’s our principle driver. It’s not you and us at all. We want to work with you. I’m really happy to work with football fans on this.’ Supt. Rick Burrows, Silver Commander, Hampshire Police Football Unit. In stark contrast to the Hampshire Commander’s rhetoric, recent reports of over-kill by West Yorkshire Police and heavy-handed stewarding by Leeds United belie the idea that policing of football fans has evolved.  Cardiff City, Portsmouth and Coventry City fans have made complaints about their treatment at Elland Road. Policing tactics may have changed  but 1980 attitudes are still to the fore. If you are an away fan in particular it is very much a case of ‘you and us’. At the Football Supporters’ Federation ‘Watching Football Is Not A Crime’ meeting in Portsmouth on October 20, this issue was raised. Supt. Burrows admitted that there seems to be a degree of partisanship in both stewarding and policing of away fans. He observed that when you have officers lining up between two sets of fans, ‘if you don’t tell them what to do, they all face the away fans. I think it is because...

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