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Police chief criticises "invasive, disproportionate" tactics at South Wales derby

The North Wales police and crime commissioner Arfon Jones has criticised the use of facial recognition cameras on supporters at this weekend’s Cardiff City v Swansea City fixture, claiming that football fans are being unfairly targeted by South Wales Police. 

Mr Jones, a 30-year veteran of the force who was elected to his position in 2016, accused South Wales Police of going on a “fishing expedition” with fans of the two clubs, claiming that they were being targeted “in a way that supporters of other sports are not”.

He also raised concerns as to the effectiveness of the technology, particular with black and asian fans.

“When facial recognition technology was first used in the Champions League final at the Millennium Stadium there were several hundred, if not thousands, of false positives, so there have to be concerns about its accuracy.

“There have also been concerns [about its effectiveness], especially so with members of the BAME community, and I don’t know if these have been satisfactorily addressed.”

The police chief joins fans of both clubs, who have previously spoken out against the use of facial recognition cameras at the sides’ previous meeting at the Liberty Stadium in October.

Despite the previous outcry, police will persist with its use again this weekend.

Vince Alm from the Cardiff City Supporters’ Club (an FSA affiliate) said “It’s unbelievable that police are targeting us with facial recognition surveillance again. Fans coming out for a local football match, including hundreds of families and children, will be treated like they’re in a police line-up and have their faces scanned without their consent.”

The use of the technology by South Wales police is in addition to the ‘bubble match’ travel restrictions imposed on fans.

One Swansea fan faces an ‘absurd 200 mile round trip’ – being forced to travel all the way from Cardiff to Swansea to catch a coach to attend the match, and then being taken back to Swansea afterwards – to a game being played around a mile from his home.

Facial recognition software has also attracted criticism outside football, with civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch calling for an immediate ban of its use in all contexts throughout the UK.

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