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Amanda Jacks aka Fair Cop

A decade and a half of Fair Cop

For 16 years the Football Supporters’ Association’s Amanda Jacks (aka Fair Cop) has been fighting for the rights of football fans – so it’s with a heavy heart that we announce Amanda is moving onto new things. 

She’s staying in the football world, and we’ll still be in regular contact with Amanda, but such has been her enormous contribution to the FSA we thought it would be a crying shame if we didn’t catch up for a retrospective on her work.

Stand Up Sit Down by Pete Caton introduced Amanda to the FSF.

While Amanda has been an FSA employee for well over a decade, like many other FSA staff, her route into the organisation started in a voluntary capacity with the FSF – one of the predecessor organisations to today’s FSA – as matchday issues caught her attention and drew her into the organisation’s work.

“I got involved with Peter Caton’s Stand Up Sit Down campaign at my club West Ham United, where we campaigned for safe standing. He was handing out flyers at the match and I thought, this looks interesting, so we got chatting and I offered to help him,” says Amanda.

“The campaign grew and we became aware of the then Football Supporters’ Federation and a Manchester City fan called Phill Gatenby who also campaigned for safe standing. It was Phill who told me I should stand for the FSF’s National Council which I did and I was elected.”

The Football Supporters’ Federation merged with Supporters Direct to become the Football Supporters’ Association during the 2018/19 season, but Amanda’s involvement comfortably predates that and it was around 2007 that she started to take an interest in policing and stewarding issues.

The Land Before Time Twitter

“Back then I worked alongside another volunteer Ash Connor, who’s a Port Vale supporter, and it all just sort of mushroomed from there. It all started with a Manchester United fan I helped, really. For the life of me I don’t know how he got my number – this was in the days before Twitter was really popular – but he just rang me out of the blue.

Away Fans Matter! Amanda went all shy in 2015.

“He said he’d been kicked out by West Ham at an away game but was adamant it was a case of mistaken identity. He was arrested and requested a duty solicitor and that duty solicitor happened to be Melanie Cook – so I rang her to confirm that this fan’s story checked out. Coincidence, fate, call it what you will, but then word kind of spread and more fans started coming to me for help.”

From that phone call with Melanie a working relationship was formed which has lasted a decade-and-a-half, giving hundreds of fans access to legal advice during that period.

During those early days Amanda was shocked at how few fans bothered with legal advice let alone representation. One of her biggest pieces of advice is if you’re arrested or asked in for a police interview, always, always secure legal representation which is free of charge at the police station.

She’s dealt with a range of offences and Amanda has seen hefty punishments for relatively minor crimes, sometimes football-specific, like drinking in sight of the pitch.  On occasion Football Banning Order applications are approved without the court applying relevant tests and many cases would have different outcomes with specialist legal representation. 

While Amanda continued to help individuals, behind-the-scenes the FSF’s increasing profile led supporters to bring issues to us which would ultimately be battled in court and have national ramifications.

Section 27 and Stoke City fans

One of the biggest was Greater Manchester Police’s (GMP) use of section 27 of the Violent Crime Reduction Act to detain more than 80 Stoke City fans prior to their club’s Premier League game against Manchester United at Old Trafford in November 2008.

Supporters were held for up to four hours and forcibly transported back to Stoke-on-Trent by GMP, missing the game. Fans were deprived of toilet facilities and told to urinate into cups.

There was no hint of misbehaviour – the local pub landlord invited them back while Stoke City offered to underwrite legal costs – and section 27 legislation was never designed to be used on football fans. Its original purpose was to clear people from a “locality” such as outside of a nightclub at 2am – not to corral and transport people 40 miles against their will.

After more than six months of FSF campaigning and legal action Stoke City fan Lyndon Edwards, 38, was awarded £2,750 in compensation. This seemed to make police think twice about using the legislation as the number of cases we heard about dropped away.

Another big case cropped up the year after when Sunderland fans returning from a pre-season friendly at Newcastle’s Central Station were met by police officers and accused of attacking police dogs.

It was a complex case which even appeared in the pages of Private Eye and Amanda was still a volunteer but putting in the hours of a part-time worker, at the very least. Eventually the FSF was able to secure funding to appoint Amanda as a caseworker.

“That was a big learning curve and one of the things I’ve always enjoyed is talking to people from around the country, picking up local phrases and trying to understand their accents! I had to ask a lot of those supporters to slow down, as I couldn’t really understand… there were a handful of really strong accents!” laughs Amanda.

“It’s also not unusual for me to get calls on a weekend from people who’ve had one too many, furious about being kicked out of a stadium! People whose mates have been arrested. It’s far from uncommon that people are more worried about their mother’s or partner’s reaction than the police action! I’ve spoken to a fair few lads who’ve confessed to having to spend at least one night on the sofa but my remit doesn’t run to relationship counselling, thankfully.

“Over the years, there have also been several successful civil cases against clubs which we have unfortunately not been able to publicise because of confidentiality clauses but wrongs have been righted and in some cases compensation paid.”

In policing Amanda thinks a culture had developed of marching away supporters off trains and keeping them locked down in pubs. While things are not perfect, she does feel there has been a change for the better.

“There are various reasons why things have changed,” she says. “And we’ve managed to shine a spotlight on how fans were treated as there was no real scrutiny beforehand.

West Ham fans head home after a defeat at Stamford Bridge in September 2022.

“Camera phones and social media have also made a difference in discouraging poor practice from individual officers and the media have taken more of an interest in that too.”

While section 27 was eventually abolished police can and still do disperse groups of supporters using section 35 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Disorder Act. In 2019 a group of Bristol City fans we’d backed received an out of court settlement from West Midlands Police (WMP) after being on the wrong end of that legislation.

It was the third successful legal challenge brought against police for their unlawful use of Section 35 dispersal powers and led to WMP “totally shifting” their approach to football policing – in itself a victory for Amanda’s work and the FSF. More than 300 WMP officers were trained using the findings of this case to ensure best practice was followed.

Exoneration

And what other cases stand out?

“Definitely Kieth Culvin’s case. He was arrested for assaulting a copper in the away end at Old Trafford – he’s a Liverpool fan – and in past decades it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that Kieth would have been convicted.

The Mirror reported: “Video shows a police officer trying to grab the fan from behind, but missing, and falling onto nearby seats that were covered in netting. Moments later, Mr Culvin was dragged down stairs, pushed against a wall, punched in the back and legs and handcuffed, his lawyers said.”

Kieth was arrested and charged with assaulting the police officer who had fallen over. But thanks to mobile phone footage justice was done and Kieth was ultimately awarded a four-figure sum by GMP over his unlawful arrest.

“If you or a fellow fan is in a situation at the match – get your phone out and film the incident,” says Amanda. “It could be the difference between a court appearance or exoneration.”

Liverpool fans outside the Stade de France.

Speaking of exoneration, one of Amanda’s final acts at the FSA was to represent us on the Paris panel – which completely exonerated Liverpool fans of any wrongdoing at last season’s Champions League final.

“Supporter groups deserve a higher standard of policing and stewarding. I’ve heard some truly shocking cases over the years from fans doing nothing more than supporting their team abroad.

“Lasting, positive change can come from this report and I know the FSA will continue to work with Football Supporters Europe and all our members to make that a reality. 

“It’s a big piece of work to sign off with – like scoring a winner in the last minute!”

Thanks for everything you’ve done Amanda – and don’t be a stranger.

And also thanks to…

At the risk of going full Oscar tears there are a few people we know Amanda would like to thank from her years working for the FSA. 

Apologies to anyone we’ve missed – these are the FSA’s words not Amanda’s.

In no particular order we’ll start with Melanie Cooke (Football Law Associates) whose serendipitous meeting with Amanda has led to many hundreds of supporters receiving top class legal representation. Ditto Lochlinn Parker (ITN Solicitors) who has been a huge support to Amanda over the years.

Owen West, Geoff Pearson, Cliff Stott and Mark James have been invaluable and Amanda says she “learned a huge amount from them about the psychology of football policing and legislation”.

Links with the EFL have really developed in recent years too thanks to Bob Eastwood and his approach to evidence-based crowd management while Ashley Lowerson, an expert in football-related law, also co-authored our new, joint sanctioning guide with the EFL.

Need help?

The FSA is still here to help fans with matchday issues relating to policing and stewarding. Contact Football Law Associates or ITN Solicitors if you have been arrested or are subject to legal proceedings. If it’s a club-related matter contact the FSA.

  • And don’t forget to join the FSA for free if you’re not already a member.

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