With some big away crowds expected over the FA Cup third round weekend, FSF caseworker Amanda Jacks looks at the issue of anti-social behaviour in the concourses...
Anti-social behaviour is entirely subjective: one person’s fun is another person’s nightmare.
I’m sure most of us have been kept awake at night cursing the loud party next door where many people are undoubtedly having a great time, or been sat on a train wanting a bit of peace and quiet wishing the drunken hen or stag do further down the carriage would just turn it down a bit.
And this isn’t, perhaps, such a bad analogy to use when it comes to behaviour on concourses. Over the past few years a trend has developed to gather in groups, sing songs, jump around and often throw beer around too.
We’ve all seen it and to be fair, there are some clips on YouTube where fans are obviously having the time of their lives that have made me jealous I wasn’t in amongst it, too.
But… the fact is that while nobody begrudges fans having a good time, sometimes the antics can get more than a little boisterous to the point where some fans just won’t go to the concourse to get their half time pint or use the toilets.
The beer throwing in particular is a real bone of contention with plenty of fans of all ages stating their objection to it – whether it’s that they don’t want their clothes ruined, or just bafflement as to why anybody would spend good money on ale only then to throw it around the place.
Over Christmas I tweeted that this behaviour can bring consequences such as reduced allocations or additional police and stewards on the concourses to monitor supporter behaviour.
Sometimes this is managed really well, but there have been several cases of over reactions and/or heavy handed responses which have escalated into quite serious disorder.
Last season, one officer let off his CS gas spray on a concourse where his colleagues were trying to stop the beer chucking – the results of that weren’t pretty and of course affected everybody there. Thankfully that was a one off, but if an officer feels sufficiently threatened, who’s to say it won’t happen again?
My tweet attracted a mixed response varying from those who really enjoyed the loud singing but weren’t so keen on the beer throwing through to others who thought that even contemplating curtailing this behaviour was a death knell on modern football, and that it was their right to behave how they please, regardless of the impact on others. Others, in this case, being their fellow fans.
I responded to as many of those tweets as I could, persistently pointing out that I and my FSF colleagues aren’t the fun police (and yes, I really was young once, too!) and that we work extremely hard to ensure that policing and stewarding is proportionate and in accordance to behaviour and not reputation.
I also spend a fair bit of my time explaining that certain behaviour is fans reinforcing their identity and not something that is going to spiral into a riot.
However, when people approach us to say that they are reluctant to take their kids onto the concourse or an innocent bystander got soaked in beer, or I’m told by the police that a child was hit on the head by a flying bottle - well, I simply can’t say “it’s ok, it’s just a group of lads (and it generally is lads) having fun”. Because it isn’t fun for those on the receiving end.
It also isn’t fun when you can’t get an away ticket because the last time you played at a ground the behaviour on the concourse got out of hand and damage was caused or club staff were intimidated.
It’s not fun to stand on a concourse with your every move being monitored by a copper or steward with a handheld camera with a response team in the corner ready to pounce. And it really isn’t fun to find yourself arrested, charged and in court facing a banning order and criminal record.
So, this categorically isn’t me saying don’t enjoy yourself, don’t sing; it’s not even saying don’t jump around – just not with a bottle or drink in your hand!
But it’s hopefully a reminder to be mindful that your fellow supporter is just as entitled to have a great day out as everybody else is, and your behaviour can and does have an impact on those around you.