In August BCST among other supporters groups in the West Yorkshire area were invited to an Independent Advisory Group Jointly set up by West Yorkshire Police and FSA. The intention of this group is to consult and discuss a variety of issues that are predominantly about match day issues.
These can be issues such as parking up in and around the grounds, issues relating to Supporters Coaches and away fan travel to the match day experience before during and after, and relate to how the Police deal with incidents, and we discuss how we can take things forward, learning from previous experiences. These meetings are on a monthly basis.
Incidents that have been brought to the attention of this forum have been pitch invasions, flairs, the filming of fans as they enter some football grounds and incidents of racism. Recently ahead of our home fixture we had an incident where so-called City fans were taunting a 67 year old black man – a fellow city fan also making his way to the ground, with monkey noises. Understandably, there is pressure to ban fans causing anti-social, and discriminatory behaviour. The EFL and member clubs have to be seen having a tough stance and clubs face fines for such behaviour. The discussions have led to debate other forms of punishment especially aimed at young people who maybe influenced towards criminality such as various forms of education, such as community work and attending meaningful training that can provide a toolkit that will allow a young person to be more self aware whilst at the same time provide social and employment / training opportunities. See the FSA link ‘Giving Education a chance’ here
Bans and lifetime bans are really a short-term sticking plaster that don’t address the issue that racism or any other form of discrimination and anti social behaviour is a social product of alienation and being marginalised. The option of training does not have all the answers either but it can potentially change the direction of youngsters in the here and now if it is meaningful. The racist monkey chants have evidently come from the media’s high profile reports of English Black players being taunted in stadiums in Eastern Europe, whether it’s the England team or Clubs in Europe, and even at home including on social media.
A real answer that would cut across racism and other malignant social problems would be a huge investment in jobs, homes and public services for all which would see a real rise in living standards for the many, but that won’t happen on its own, we as football fans and as members of society, in our workplaces and communities can fight to make that happen.
The Police authorities have to make cuts to their budgets, that means, it will impact on their resources when it comes to their match-day operations. What this means in real terms now is that they have been looking at ways that they hope they’ll be more effective with less – and this is by being more community facing and being seen to support communities and supporters’ events and having a low key visual presence where they see fit. They themselves note that a high visual presence where officers have been ‘tooled up’, in perceived ‘high risk’ fixtures have had the opposite effect to being a deterrent.
In the face of the Police efficiency savings, a new research-led crowd management project called ENABLE is currently being run by Keele University and the EFL that could help transform the way in which future matches are policed and stewarded. The project will be a collaboration between the police forces, Clubs, the EFL and FSA. To see more about this please click here.