A survey carried out by the Football Supporters’ Federation has shown that fans have a “relatively positive perception” of the police’s role in football. The FSF has also backed the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) “three pronged” policing strategy to tackle football-related disorder.
This strategy includes, firstly, empowering “non-risk” supporters to persuade them that the authorities and government are working on their behalf and, secondly, excluding “risk” supporters.
The third element involves engaging and positively influencing those who, under specific circumstances, might become involved in anti-social behaviour.
Malcolm Clarke, chair of the Football Supporters’ Federation, said: “Six thousand fans completed the FSF’s policing survey with the majority of fans accepting the police’s role in tackling the threat of public disorder.
“Supporters welcomed the police’s role in keeping hostile rival fans segregated and providing escorts to and from away venues when necessary and proportionate.
"It is important that all supporters, whatever the category, are policed on the basis of their behaviour and not on the basis of their category. But in general terms fans accept policing that is genuinely focused on ‘troublemakers’ and is itself proportionate.”
ACPO guidance recommends that police football “spotters” should act as a link between police service and the supporter community. The FSF supports this and backs the view that engagement between fans and police can only help enhance relations.
The FSF survey showed that where police forces adhere to ACPO recommendations fans tend to have positive experiences of policing and develop a relatively positive view of the police.
The minority of fans who described negative contact with the police did so in terms that suggested policing inconsistent with ACPO guidance. These experiences are more likely to be found among those who travel regularly to away fixtures.
The FSF said this presented an opportunity for police forces to engage with “away” fans including “hard to reach” or “risk” fans in order to improve dialogue and help police differentiate these groups from “non-risk” supporters.
- Fans are treated as key stakeholders in addition to clubs, police and local authorities. This role should be formally acknowledged in ACPO guidance.
- A review of restrictions imposed upon fans’ freedom of movement to assess their compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights.
- Increasing the role of accessible “fan liaison officers” who should be skilled in engagement with both “risk” and “non-risk”.
- Increased communication via early season match commander match day programme notes or fanzine article’s explaining police objectives and introducing the policing team.
- Meaningful engagement with home and away supporter groups at pre-match meetings particularly before high-profile games or occasions when the visiting team is a new visitor.
- Encourage social media engagement from fans – before, during, and after matches. This should be analysed a fed into future debriefs.
- When tactics have to change, such as an unplanned hold back, ensure the rationale for these tactics are communicated to supporters.
- Ensure equality of policing between two sets of fans and review how police are used to support stewards inside stadiums, particularly in the enforcement of civil ground regulations.
- Supporters should at all times be allowed freedom of movement unless there is a genuine threat to public order. When containment is used communication with those fans should ensure they understand the rationale for this action. Where such tactics are used every effort should be undertaken to ensure the facilitation of fans’ legitimate intentions (e.g. access to facilities, differentiation among fans travelling to different locations using differing modes of transport).
The FSF said it hoped to work in partnership with police forces on an ongoing basis to develop and utilise data from an annual fans’ survey and support good police practice.
ACPO lead on football policing ACC Andy Holt said: “Over the past two decades there has been steady progress in reducing football-related violence and disorder, with the model of policing football in the UK being replicated internationally.
“The survey published today by the Football Supporters Federation highlights that a key part of the successful model of policing is the specialist role football spotters have in building trust and confidence of football supporters.
“Encouragingly, the survey shows a relatively positive perception of fans in relation to the role of policing football, particularly where forces follow the recommended ACPO guidance which is aimed at excluding risk supporters and ensuring the safety and security of those millions of genuine fans who turn out each week to support their team.
“While the survey sample was small, it has highlighted several areas which will form part of our ongoing dialogue between the service and the FSF. We look forward to seeing the results of the separate stewarding report which the FSF is expected to publish in due course.”
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