Supporters from a number of London football clubs, including QPR, attended a meeting at New Scotland Yard this week to review the policing of football matches.
The meeting was chaired by the Acting Commander for Public Order, Colin Morgan and attended by officers from the Met and Transport Police. It was facilitated by the Football Supporters’ Federation.
Commander Morgan was clear that one objective for the police was to reduce the number of officers involved in football. As a result, management of queues at some tube stations, for example, would be done by stewards rather than police officers – so the police can spend more time dealing with crime. His view was that stewards were also better at stewarding than cops (his word) were.
He said there were three big issues for the police:
- bad behaviour at transport interchanges – at London Bridge, for example where the behaviour of rival supporters was unpleasant for other members of the public
- racist behaviour, which he felt was improving, and
- flares – he thought it was only a matter of time before someone was injured by a flare thrown at a game. Flares are, of course, rare at QPR.
A number of issues were raised by supporters.
On ticket touting, there was discussion about whether more tout-free zones could be created – emulating the regulations around Wembley. The Transport Police agreed to be more alert at White City where, occasionally, touts have formed a tight cordon round the station entrance.
A London-based Leeds supporter was concerned about the relative ease with which Leeds supporters could get tickets for home areas in some London clubs and the problems this might cause, particularly in relatively small grounds like Loftus Road. QPR1st, LSA and disabled supporters representatives discussed the issue of away supporters in the home areas with club staff last season – and we will confirm to staff that this might be a particular issue for the Leeds game next season.
Videoing supporters was raised. Commander Morgan recognised that police officers sometimes videoed football crowds more than was necessary. He thought it was reasonable for some videoing to be done to establish a scene, and if there was concern about particular individuals, but that it was sometimes more continuous. He believed too much filming could be counter-productive when it came to keeping the peace. He and other officers said they had on occasion spoken to their own officers to tell them to reduce filming. They had no control over police officers outside London and could only advise policemen who might come from a club’s home area.
There was a plea for better communications around issues such as pub closures for some fixtures. Commander Morgan said closures were generally up to pub landlords as the police rarely asked pubs to close. In answer to questions about the police dictating the start times for football matches, he said this was also rare, and that the police advice was not always followed in any case. For next season, the only games on which the Metropolitan Police will give advice on their timing would be those between Arsenal and Spurs. The police would advise against, for example, a late Saturday kick-off.