Earlier this month, the Metropolitan Police's Football Unit hosted a meeting attended by supporter representatives of most London clubs and dedicated football officers. Our caseworker Amanda Jacks was in attendance and has reported back on the meeting...
All parties agreed that the discussions were full and frank and ultimately beneficial to all. There were lots of issues covered so we've divided them into the chapters below:
1. Protest banners
2. Police charges for football matches
3. Is there an expectation that certain groups or individuals advise the police of their travel plans?
4. Why do police film supporters?
5. Why do the police take personal details of supporters?
6. Searches under section 60 powers
7. Accountability of stewards
8. Pyrotechnic use & risk of injuries
9. Police use of Twitter
10. Pre and post-match meetings: London derbies
11. British Transport Police
The Met Police do not concern themselves with protest banners outside a stadium provided they are lawful and not offensive. Their display on club property or inside stadiums is entirely for the club to manage. Generally speaking clubs will instruct stewards to remove banners that are in any way deemed to be anti-club owners, management or manager for reasons of public order. The thinking is that not everybody will agree with the sentiments on banners and they could spark confrontations between supporters.
Prompted by the recent court case between Ipswich FC and Suffolk Police, clarification was sought around how the Met charged football clubs in London and for what geographic area. There are Special Police Services Agreements between the police and every club. While each club is unique, as a general rule, the clubs pay under this agreement for police to be on their property. Matchday safety and crowd management is a club responsibility with duties in this regard carried out by stewards under the management of the club safety officer. In theory, the police are in attendance on invitation of a club and are there to carry out their main functions of protecting life and property, preserving order and preventing offences. Match-goers in London will now rarely see police inside stadiums which has been the case for some time now.
The Met were specifically asked whether or not the London Stadium – new home to West Ham United – are meeting their costs to the same extent other London club. WHUFC do not pay for policing the stadium island, rather than the stadium operator, E20, meet those costs.
The police asked for further clarification before replying. As an aside, it was clarified that with regard to coach or minibus travel to football matches, the Traffic Commissioner’s guidelines to request that organisers inform their local police of their intention to travel by coach.
The police acknowledged and understood that being filmed can wind people up and stressed that if the police to film individuals or groups then there will be a valid reason and it’s not just been done for the sake of it. They also advised that officers should explain why they are filming if asked.
In the same way that the police can film fans, fans are at liberty to film the police and they should not object to this. The police to have the power to ask for footage but only under terrorism Laws and for evidential evidence.
The point was raised that stewards working on Westfield shopping centre objected to being filmed/photographed by fans with their phones and the polices’ view was that they are entitled to ask not to be since they are working on private property. However, they have no power to ask to see footage or for that footage to be deleted.
If the police think people are behaving in an anti-social or disorderly way they can take personal details but supporters are entitled to ask police for a full explanation why they’re being asked to give their names and addresses.
A section 60 is a power given to police enabling them to search anybody without suspicion when they believe that violence has or is about to occur. These enhanced searching powers are invoked very rarely in London and the Met struggled to recall one occasion in the last 18 months when a S60 has been authorised for a football match.
Stewards are not above the law and if a complaint is made by a supporter to a police officer about the conduct or actions of a steward they are duty bound to take that complaint seriously and act accordingly although if the police are busy with other matters such as dealing with disorder, then it may not be possible for them to deal with there and then. Complaints that do not require the intervention of the police (such as a steward swearing or being rude) should be directed to the club. The FSF can support fans who have cause to complain about stewarding.
The Met were unable to provide exact numbers, although the Fulham Dedicated Football Officer was aware of two and at the Champions League final at Wembley a Bayern fan suffered horrendous injuries to his hand as a result of phosphorous from a flare dripping onto it. Chief Inspector Puddefoot had attended a UEFA Meeting where photographs were shown and she said that she’d try and get copies of them to highlight that pyro isn’t harmless and can cause severe injuries. Amanda Jacks she felt that an evidence-based campaign with photographic evidence may have more impact.
Dedicated football officers for a lot of clubs around the country run their own twitter accounts yet in the Met there is just the one account covering all London clubs. There was agreement this would be productive and that discussions would be had with the Mets’ communications department.
While the Met were praised for their efforts to have meaningful dialogue with supporters, it was felt that on occasion meetings were not as constructive as they might have been with more openness required around Chelsea FC fixtures although there were no complaints about the meeting with the Met ahead of the forthcoming League Cup game at the London Stadium.
Spurs and Arsenal fans reps were keen to stress that they had very positive relationships and dialogue around the North London derby and it was frustrating that despite best efforts all parties were not able to meet after the last North London derby and in the future post-match meetings would go ahead.
The Met were happy to facilitate a meeting between Millwall supporter representatives and their new dedicated football officers.
Any concerns were acknowledged by the Met who stressed that they do not want meetings to be tick box exercises but meaningful and productive. If a supporter or supporter organisation wishes to meet their dedicated football officer or have a meeting pre or post a particularly fixture, then efforts will always be made to accommodate that request.
Amanda Jacks of the FSF acknowledged that policing in the capital has vastly improved compared to several years ago and that if anything, she now received more complaints about stewards and stewarding than police officers and policing.
BTP were asked about last seasons’ Coventry vs Millwall fixture when some supporters were allegedly asked to produce match tickets before being allowed to leave the station. The officers in attendance had no knowledge of this but it was agreed police had no powers to demand production of tickets.
They were also asked what would happen if fans were made to travel on trains that they were not booked on. If such a scenario ever arose, efforts would be made to inform the train manager that supporters were having to travel on a different train so as to avoid penalty notices but if that wasn’t possible and a penalty was issued to a fan, then BTP would support appeals if the supporter could give the details of the officer who was responsible for making a fan travel on a train other than the one they were booked on.
BTP acknowledged that they did not currently communicate with supporters in the same way as their Home Office counter-parts did but were very willing to look at changing this.
Watching Football Is Not A Crime! is part of the FSF's ongoing drive to monitor the police in their dealings with football fans and work with them to ensure that all fans are treated fairly and within the law. You can contact FSF Caseworker Amanda Jacks via:
Thanks to CGP Grey for the image used in this post. Reproduced here under Creative Commons license.