London- STRICTLY EMBARGOED UNTIL 11am ON FRIDAY, 17 APRIL -That’s the question being asked by British Transport Police Chief Constable Paul Crowther who, next week, is hosting a summit to determine the scale of the problem being posed by a sizeable minority of football fans.
The event, which is to be hosted by BTP on Friday, 17 April, will bring together a number of key players in the industry – including representatives from football authorities, clubs and media partners – as well as members of the public who have been affected by football disorder, with the aim of agreeing a way forward to tackle disorder and hooliganism on transport.
The summit, which is the first of its kind, has been specifically scheduled to take place just a day before one of the most important weekends in English football.
Chief Constable Crowther said: “On 18 and 19 April, Wembley will play host to the FA Cup semi-finals and fans from across the country will take to the railways to travel to London for what is sure to be an emotionally charged weekend, but hopefully one which does not see fans exhibit the kind of behaviour which has blighted the transport network in recent months.
“I really want to get to the bottom of what makes fans behave in such a manner.
“Generally these offences are carried out by people who ought to know better and who, when they go to watch football, behave in a way they wouldn’t dream of doing in everyday life. What is it that changes a person to become violent, abusive and foul-mouthed in the name of football?”
As well as understanding the current position and the motivation of abusive fans, the summit will also look to share some of the good work being undertaken to address the issue.
Chief Constable Crowther added: “There is already a huge amount of work being done to tackle problematic behaviour and I am keen to share some of this best practice with the rest of the policing and football industries.
“However, we must all accept that the behaviour of a sizeable minority of fans, and the processes in place to deal with them, is not acceptable and is well below the standards we expect.
“Recently the media has highlighted cases of innocent bystanders who have been made victims of racial hatred – sadly, these are not isolated cases.
“You don’t have to search the Internet very hard to find graphic examples of intimidating behaviour in action. It’s a shocking reminder to us all that complacency is no longer an option.
“Culturally there is a perception that football related anti-social behaviour is low level, acceptable and should be just tolerated – it’s not acceptable and should not be tolerated.
“We know, as police officers, what we can do to take action, through arrests and other sanctions, but we need to adopt a more joined-up approach, and I am calling on the football authorities and clubs – as well as the media organisations who have put football in such a privileged position – to work with us in developing strategies to drive unacceptable behaviour from the game and all the other affected industries.”
Chief Constable Crowther added: “Through this summit – and others we hope will follow – we want to ensure that future FA Cup tournaments and indeed all football competitions are remembered for what happens on the pitch rather than what so-called fans do following the matches.”
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