Football policing to focus on more stadium bans when fans return

Melissa Reddy
·2-min read
West Ham will host the first Premier League fans this season (Getty Images)
West Ham will host the first Premier League fans this season (Getty Images)

As football primes for the limited return of fans to stadia in England, the body in charge of policing the game is planning on how to use funding focused on disorder at matches, The Independent can reveal.

Supporters will be permitted to attend games when the national lockdown ends on 2 December with tier 1 areas allowed a capacity of up to 4,000 or half of their maximum capacity, depending on which is fewer.

That figure is halved for places that fall under tier 2 areas.

While the news has been welcomed by clubs, governing bodies and fans, there is dismay at the UK Football Policing Unit’s insistence on viewing the attendance of matches as a public disorder threat.

The UKFPU, which has blocked any change to the outdated drinking in view of the pitch law as earlier revealed by The Independent, are expecting to see their budget slashed by the Home Office.

• Read more: Leading officers demand ‘root-and-branch review’ into how football is policed

• Read more: Football policing unit impeding key law change for return of fans to stadiums

In a classified email bypassing chief constables and sent to football intelligence officers on 16 November, the body outlines that their yearly funding could be “dramatically cut in December”.

Once “the review happens and if there is money available”, football intelligence officers in receipt of the email are tasked with coming up with ideas, and are instructed to bear in mind that:

• it must prevent disorder at football

• it must be measurable (i.e. bans)

• unlikely to be any education schemes

• hate crime and pyro are two key issues

The focus on enforcement rather than initiatives reducing disorder or promoting education has been called “a waste of public money” and “entirely indicative of the punitive mindset of the UKFPU” by a senior figure involved in the talks on the return of fans.

“As football gears up to welcome back limited supporters in the middle of a pandemic, it appears the police national policy is to gear up for more arrests and football banning orders,” the source continued.

The UKFPU’s latest correspondence will amplify the calls of high-ranking current and former officers for a “root-and-branch review” of the organisation and the way the game is policed in the country to stop “criminalising fans.”

This weekend get a £10 free bet with Betfair, when you bet £10 on a Same Game Multi on the Premier League. Terms: Min £10 Same Game Multi bet on any EPL match this Fri - Sun. Free bet valid for 72 hours, awarded at bet settlement. Excludes cashed out bets. T&Cs apply.