Lincs Police Chat

After the disappointing coverage of our Port Vale game in the local media, I caught up with PC Chris Pearson for a chat about the challenges of policing matches and how they’ve approached football in Lincoln now we’re attracting large crowds.

Hi Gary and thank you for inviting me to answer some questions for you. I would firstly like to introduce myself, I am PC Chris Pearson, based at Lincoln and I work on the Response Team. I am also a ‘Spotter’ for Lincolnshire Police who are a team of 8 volunteers working at Lincoln City matches home and away when requested. All of the team are passionate football fans with the majority being Lincoln City supporters. I myself have been following the Imps for over 20 years. I am one of the main contributors to our Twitter page @LCFCLincsPol.

1. Straight into it: reports in local media this weekend suggest that there was a confrontation between thugs that saw extra officers dragged in to help sort it out. Is this accurate? To what extent was their actually disorder?

At the beginning of the season we sit down with the club and review information and intelligence to identify match categories, this continues through-out the season, working with clubs and other police forces, reviewing intelligence, information and evidence to reduce the risk of crime and disorder.

Port Vale was identified as a low risk fixture by all parties based on this process, but as with all fixtures, we provided an additional “serial” called a Taylor Reserve (Taylor Report into Hillsborough) which provides capability to respond to public safety or order issues.

The article to which you refer was based on a tweet that our team sent out following last weekend’s match against Port Vale and I am happy that our tweet accurately summarised another disappointing example of football related anti-social behaviour in which two groups had initially squared up to each other, traded insults and then had a physical altercation.

During the Match police received further information that there was potential for confrontation after the game. Acting on this information Police summonsed extra local resources to safely escort Port Vale fans away from the ground post-match phase and prevent a further confrontation.

2. Coventry was a potential flash point which, as I fan, I felt was handled very well by the police resulting in a trouble-free day. Was this the case? Do you feel the positive stories do not get enough coverage when compared to the negative ones?

I think it has always been the case that ‘bad news’ stories tend to make headlines. We try to promote the good things as well as the bad. I worked Coventry which required a very large police presence to ensure that the opportunity for risk groups to cause trouble was prevented.
As I have said already, the view of Lincolnshire Police is that fans do not cause trouble and never have done, which is something we say regularly when invited to speak in the media and at the Coventry game the atmosphere inside the stadium was brilliant and we tweeted our positive feelings and thanks to both sets of fans after the match.
The use of Twitter is a great tool for posting updates to the football community as social media gets the message out instantly.

3. What is your overall impression of football fan’s behaviour at Lincoln home games since the Mansfield Town match?

As we have said many times before, including in the media, 99.9% of supporters are absolutely fantastic, all they are interested in is in enjoying the beautiful game and seeing Lincoln go up, which is something we all want.

Unfortunately there is a minority totalling no more than 30, who I would not describe as fans, who appear to be more interested in causing disorder at home and away fixtures with other rival risk groups instead of enjoying the game.

It is really important to stress that we do not believe it is necessary to “Police” the 9000 fans that regularly attend Sincil Bank. When you do see a large police presence at home fixtures we are there, regrettably, to reduce the very real risk of violence and disorder between opposing RISK groups which threatens to ruin an enjoyable family day out.

Imps at County

4. The trip to Notts County was clearly very contentious and the scenes upon arriving back at the train station were unsavoury. Since then, what has travelling fans behaviour been like?

There have been a number of incidents, including assaulting a police officer and steward, but trouble is only ever caused by a tiny minority of what we have identified to be an active hooligan element and do not associate them with genuine fans.

Fans have been magnificent, with the largest away following in the league and we are keen to stress to our colleagues in other forces how fantastic our fans are.

5. Do you feel the media reporting of the incident after the fixture at Meadow Lane was fair? With well over 4,000 fans travelling, what proportion were causing the police issues?

We have spoken to the Nottinghamshire Police Commander who said that there were no issues with our fans from his perspective, though we know that British Transport Police were concerned about the behaviour of some 20 to 30 which led them to send their resources to Lincoln Railway Station, leading to some disorder directed towards their officers by a small number of people.

6. How do arrests this season stack up against those last season? The bigger crowds will have brought bigger challenges, but on the whole do you feel we have a growing problem, or is it a case that the negatives been magnified?

Last season 2016/17 was unprecedented in respect of promotion back to the football league and reaching the last 8 of the Fa Cup competition. The Risk group did travel in large numbers to several key fixtures BUT behaved impeccably this could be due to a number of individuals not wanting to come to the attention of the authorities and miss this historical season. But equally a contributing factor might be that a number of the fixtures last season lacked an opposing Risk group.

Purely based on statistics 5 Lincoln City fans were arrested during the 2016-2017 season compared with 14 Lincoln City Fans arrested to date this season (30/11/2017).

We have seen a small hooligan group become more active this season and where evidence exists we have pursued the ring leader’s responsible and sought prosecution for criminal offences or applied for Banning Orders where appropriate.

We continue to focus on this small group intent on causing or inciting disorder and fully expect to prevent them all from attending future games.

7. There has been some criticism on twitter of the lack of police presence on the High Street this weekend, what are your thoughts on heavy police presences being the norm? How do you assess the risks posed by different sets of supporters and what factors drive the different levels of visibility and presence?

(For the record I thought Saturday was refreshing, the low-key presence on the High Street was refreshing as I felt it underlined a certain trust in home supporters interacting with lower numbers of away fans. It’s a shame ‘something’ happened, but in my opinion that is part and parcel of hosting 9,000+ capacity sporting events in a city, irrespective of the sport)>

How we Police on days of Football matches is always a difficult balance and in some ways a ‘lose-lose’ situation. If we put lots of resources in place and nothing happens we are criticised for ‘wasting money’, but if we don’t and something happens then people ask ‘where were you?’

It is our job to police our beautiful City, but due to the actions of a very small minority, we frequently have to field a disproportionate level of resources at significant expense to the taxpayer, whereas if we were to police just our fans, you would never see more than you would at fixtures such as Barnet or Crawley.

We will continue to review the level of resources based upon the information and intelligence from home and away, but we do not want to default to a heavy police presence as that is simply not required.

8. Finally, we met some of your officers in Crewe and they had to endure having ‘Sid Army’ stickers stuck all over them. To what extent do you feel accommodating this sort of interaction is helping to build police and fan relations in the city? How important is that interaction? Do you feel the relationship is ever put at risk by one-sided news reports demonising football fans?

I have liaised with the Spotting team who attended CREWE who confirm that they did engage in selfies with Sid and were pleased to report that they escaped any stickers! I am aware from colleagues at the Notts County game that it was seen as good sport to get a “Sid Army” sticker attached to our spotters, which we take in good spirits in line with our desire to be approachable at games.

Whilst the Spotting team are very accommodating of supporter requests for pictures including selfies we have to be mindful that this is done in an appropriate manner and polite boundaries are not crossed

When travelling all over the country Policing LCFC at home and away fixtures the supporters are a travelling community and supporter engagement is vital on all levels.

Our main work is to keep fans safe, many of whom spend a lot of money following our club. In order to do this we sometimes need to take firm action against those that want to put other people’s safety at risk by causing crime and disorder.

We might not always get it right and we might not always be at the right place at the right time, but one thing we always do is try our best to explain why we have done something and there is always a reason behind why something has happened. We can’t always reveal full details and there is a lot of hard work behind the scenes with other forces, the club and partner agencies.

Interacting with supporters is an important part of our role and if anyone has any concerns or questions then I urge them to get in touch.

Thanks to PC Pearson for his answers. Local media: If you’re going to crib this for a story please make sure www.staceywest.net gets full credit, as well as myself personally. Cheers!

2 Comments

  1. I don’t suppose those 20/30 thick heads will ever get it “YOUR NOT WANTED”. This has been a useful look into the problems involved and caused by those TURDS!

  2. This is a good, balanced piece . Following City home and away, you can see that what the police say here is about right. The only people getting things out of perspective are those producing lazy journalism….as you have highlighted previously.

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