Frightening new police powers have emerged following the shocking treatment of Stoke City fans prior to their team’s away fixture with Manchester United last Saturday, November 15, 2008.
An estimated 80 Stoke supporters visited the Railway Inn pub in Irlam, Greater Manchester, on their way to Old Trafford. The pub was a natural stop-off point, being on en route to the stadium via the M6 and a local railway station. By all accounts that the Football Supporters’ Federation have heard it was a relatively quiet atmosphere, with little singing, never mind trouble.
However, at 1.15pm a number of officers from Greater Manchester Police (GMP) entered the premises and told fans they would not be allowed to leave the pub, would be forcibly taken back to Stoke, and not be allowed to visit Old Trafford.
Each supporter was then issued with a Section 27 from the Violent Crime Reduction Act of 2006. This allows police to move someone from a specified area for a period of up to 48 hours. You do not actually have to have committed any offence for the act to be enforced. Section 27 gives police the powers to move anybody, from any place, at anytime, if they think there’s a possibility an alcohol related offence may be committed.
Stoke City fan Lyndon Edwards, who is making a formal complaint to GMP and the Independent Police Complaints Commission, was one of those in the pub: “I asked for it to be stated on the Section 27 form given that I was not intoxicated and that there was no evidence of any disorder on my part. This was refused so I refused to sign the form. I was told to sign it or I would be arrested. We were then loaded onto buses and had to sit there for what seemed like an eternity.”
“There were no football chants being sung at the Railway Inn and no evidence of disorder whatsoever. If there had of been we would have left the pub and made our way elsewhere.”
The Stoke supporters were then driven back in convoy to Stoke city centre, regardless of whether this was actually where they were from, without compensation of any sort.
“I have spoken to a number of Stoke fans who were there and I am quite satisfied that they did absolutely nothing wrong, but they end being hauled back to Stoke against their will and missing the game,” said Malcolm Clarke, chair of the FSF and a Stoke City fan.
“They were treated very badly by the Greater Manchester Police. This new law gives the police a great deal of instant power which can severely affect the basic civil rights of football supporters, if they happen to be in the wrong pub or on the wrong train at the wrong time.
“If the police had any evidence that the people in that pub included some risk supporters, or people with banning orders, they should have taken appropriate action against those people alone. There can be no excuse for taking this draconian action against ordinary innocent supporters who happened to be using the same pub.”
“We are most concerned about how it is being used, and will be taking this up at the highest level.”