THST was represented by Martin Cloake and Kevin Fitzgerald.
The session was chaired by Ch Supt Colin Morgan, the Met Police’s head of crowd control, including football crowds.
Those representing clubs included Trusts and other forms of independent supporters organisation.
Also participating were constables responsible for football related control in the London Boroughs hosting football clubs, including Noel Deady for Haringey, and British Transport Police.
In his welcome Colin Morgan touched on three major concerns of his:
- The negative travel experience of the non-football going public on match days
- Use of flares
The session was opened for questions, comments, observations, answers.
The main topics raised and points of interest were as follows:
- Use of security companies for queuing and related control matters, in place of police
Stamford Bridge was the example discussed, which the Met considered to be a success, with advantages over the use of police. More generally, the trend seems to be using the police less for crowd control, especially inside the grounds. Fan reps raised the issue of who took responsibility for queueing outside grounds, as stewards often said it was down to the police, and vice versa. The police view was that the management and stewarding of queues into football grounds was firmly the responsibility of the club and its stewards.
- Use of video cameras by police
Fan reps provided examples of the over use of video cameras and pointed to the dangers of blanket use provoking fan reaction. The Met agreed that the use should be confined to necessary evidence gathering, and officers present stressed they actively discouraged the blanket use of video cameras, viewing it as counter-productive.
- Involvement of fans on local authority Safety Advisory Groups
The Met indicated they have no in principle objection to fans taking a more active role in SAGs, and indicated a willingness to encourage best practice where they could.
- The question of heavy duty policing, especially at specific ‘historically troublesome’ matches
Again, fan representatives, especially those representing Millwall and Leeds United, provided examples and warned of the dangers, inconvenience and the consequent unpleasant experience of attending such matches. “Bubble matches” i.e. games where all away fans are required to travel to an assembly point (e.g. a motorway service area) to obtain their tickets and be escorted to and from the match, were highlighted as an especially inconvenient and humiliating experience – and one that was often counter-productive. There seemed to be acceptance of this by the Met and a tacit recognition that some forces had different operational approaches to themselves.
- Kick off times
The Ch Supt emphasised his concern that the police were often used, inaccurately, as the reason for unpopular and inconvenient KO times and for changes to KO times; the true reason being TV scheduling or club preferences.
Interestingly, the Ch Supt indicated that at the then forthcoming fixtures 2015-16 meeting the only two fixtures he would be objecting to 5.30 Saturday kick-offs for were Spurs/Arsenal and Arsenal/Spurs.
He indicated a willingness to meet the fan reps request for advanced notice from the Met of any decisions/requests made subsequently.
- Pub closures on match days
Closures at last season’s Fulham vs Brentford match was referenced by Brentford reps. Again, the Met emphasised that the decisions to close pubs were seldom made by the Police, although they would provide advice that would be considered by the licensing authorities.
- Ticket touting
Stamford Bridge was instanced by fan reps as notorious for the volume of highly visible and open ticket touting and surprise was expressed at the lack of action by the Police. The Ch Supt promised to look at the practicalities of rolling out the kind of dispersal area currently used at Wembley Stadium.
- Safe standing
The Met was invited to express a supportive view but declined to do so.