Monday, February 18, 2013

Bubble Matches: the policing of football fans at Millwall and elsewhere

Hot off the press - OK the report has been out nearly a year but I've just noticed it  - Criminalising Football Fans: The Case Against ‘Bubble’ Matches by Peter Lloyd for the Manifesto Club:

'‘Bubble’ match travel amounts to ‘kettling’ on wheels. Travelling fans must be transported on licensed coaches  under police escort, from a designated pick-up point to a designated drop-off point. No independent travel is allowed to the match by car, train, or any other means of transport. Fans often must pick up their tickets on route, for example at a motorway service station at a halfway point. Their freedom of movement is suspended... it fair that the vast majority of supporters, who behave well, should have their freedom to travel to a popular leisure activity curtailed, because of the (increasingly slight) risk that there will be disorder caused by a small number of troublemakers? Bubble match restrictions do not target the minority of troublemakers. Instead, they punish all away fans, and hope to deter the violent minority by doing so. This is surely wrong in principle. Under Britain’s common law, people are treated as innocent until proven guilty, not the other way around. People are held to account for their own actions, not punished for the actions of others'.

Examples in the report show that fans travelling to Millwall have been targeted, as well as Millwall fans travelling to away matches:

'For the Millwall match at Leeds on 3 December 2011, coaches had to leave the football ground in London at 5.30am, meeting the police at Woolley Edge Services on the M1 motorway, where pre-paid vouchers were exchanged for match tickets. This was the only place where it was possible to acquire a match ticket, the early kick-off time of 12.30pm added inconvenience for the supporters...'

These tactics make it impossible to do the normal things that people would do when travelling round the country. For instance, what if you were a Millwall fan who wanted to combine going to a Leeds away match with popping in afterwards to see an old friend in Yorkshire? Or if you were a Millwall fan at college in Leeds the only way you could go in the Millwall end at a match would be to travel down to London the night before and then get a 5:30 coach back up.

When police kettle demonstrators my twitter feed is (quite rightly) overwhelmed with outrage. When similar police tactics are applied regularly to thousands of football fans, nobody bats an eyelid. To add insult to injury, football fans are paying for the policing of football grounds through ticket prices - and if the Association of Chief Police Officers had their way they would also be paying for policing of football fans beyond the ground. At Millwall's match at Luton on Saturday I noticed that even Luton fans, no great friends of Millwall's away contingent, chanted 'What a waste of money' when large numbers of police came on to the pitch at the end. They're right and it's their money that's being wasted.

(incidentally this is blowing up to be a big issue right now with Hull City fans facing a 'bubble' for their match next month against Huddersfield - this article quotes one Hull fan: "I live in Huddersfield, so have to come to Hull to go back to a game 10 minutes from my house. Ridiculous!")


Tom Murphy said...

Fans with bad (or good) experiences of policing and stewarding at games should keep in touch with Amanda Jacks, the Football Supporters' Federation's case worker.

She did a lot of work with Palace fans after the ludicrous policing of CPFC v Brighton last year.

She's on twitter at @FSF_FairCop and there are more details of the FSF's campaigning here.

Tamsin said...

Football leaves me cold and I abhor the loutish behaviour of some fans but this is appalling.

Might I suggest that an ideal answer is to move back to making it a family occasion that a father could happily take his kids to without breaking the bank.

Stop the food concessions' monopoly.

Stop wasting money on salaries of thousands of pounds per week on over-inflated egos with, I acknowledge, some talent but not enough to warrant that sort of pay.

Bring the ticket prices down to a rational level.

Transpontine said...

Tamsin, I generally agree that taking football back to a more affordable, community model would be better - to be fair to the local teams (Millwall, Palace, Charlton), they are probably closer to that than most of the larger clubs.

As for footballers' wages though, I also think that as long as there's lots of money swilling around football they should get a good share of it as they are the ones that are ultimately creating the wealth. In the old days - before a famous campaing led by Jimmy Hill in the late 50s/early 60s - there was a maximum wage for footballers. As more money came in to game it was club owners rather than footballers who benefited, and that wasn't fair either.

ketz said...

Fans have their own way to support their favorite teams but this is not a good reason to mess around and destruct other viewers.

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