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Room for improvement in policing and stewarding

This is a story from the FSF archive – the FSF and SD merged to become the FSA in 2019.

Only yesterday Mr Justice Eady passed judgement on matchday policing costs around Elland Road and today the Football Supporters’ Federation has some Leeds United-related news too, in the form of a policing and stewarding survey. The survey was carried out in conjunction with FSF affiliate Leeds United Supporters’ Trust (LUST) and completed by almost 1000 fans.

Here at the FSF we don’t really like to single out any one club unless there’s a specific reason but we can’t ignore the fact that we get a disproportionate number of complaints about stewarding at Elland Road from both home and away fans.

West Yorkshire Police (WYP) are not immune from criticism either with fans from across the country telling us that, when it comes to policing, experiences at Leeds rated among the worst.  

However, this evidence was largely anecdotal and when FSF caseworker Amanda Jacks visited Elland Road to observe policing and stewarding at the last game of the 2011-12 season, she had no complaints although she did observe a lack of interaction between supporters and police.

It was time to stop judging on anecdotal evidence and ask Leeds United fans what they really think of the policing and stewarding at Elland Road. A very healthy number responded – 919 in total – and you can read the full results below. Highlights:

  • 32% of fans find the police approachable on a match day;
  • Although for certain games, 54% think their presence is excessive;
  • 47% of fans think the presence of police means trouble is more likely;
  • Three out of four fans think club stewards do a better job than agency staff.

FSF caseworker Amanda Jacks said: “Both the FSF and LUST were concerned to see that the results bear out what we’d heard from anecdotal evidence – more than half of the respondents find stewards unfriendly and rude with an extremely worrying 46% of them saying they think stewards can be aggressive.

“We would strongly urge the management at Leeds United to look again at how fans at Elland Road are stewarded. We hope that the results of the survey mean that LUST, WYP and LUFC can work together to improve stewarding and policing to ensure an enjoyable and safe match day for all.”

Chief superintendant Paul Money, the divisional commander of the area which covers Elland Road, said: “Policing inside and outside Elland Road has two primary objectives; to provide a safe environment for the match-going public and to ensure that disruption to other members of the public going about their daily business is minimised as much as possible.

“We welcome the feedback from the survey which in the main is very supportive of the policing style –  an approach intended from the outset to be low key, fair and friendly. This has been reflected by the perceptions of a number of respondents.”

The survey also showed that three out of every four fans think club stewards do a better job than staff hired in from outside agencies with many describing the latter as ‘bouncers’.

In the words of one fan: “As a former policeman, I would describe the stewards as bouncers in orange jackets, very, very poor people management skills and [a] disproportionate approach to minor issues, they actually suppress the enjoyment and atmosphere at games.”

LUST will be holding an open meeting at the Magic Sponge (Soccer City, Lowfields Road, 6pm) after the League Cup tie against Shrewsbury Town on Saturday 11th August to discuss both policing and stewarding at Elland Road.

Leeds United chief executive Shaun Harvey will be in attendance along with Amanda Jacks from the FSF and PC Bryn Stokes, local football intelligence officer. Leeds United were asked to send a representative but have not yet replied.

If you’re interested in the FSF working with you on a similar project please contact Amanda Jacks: amanda.jacks@fsf.org.uk.

Thanks to Matthew Wilkinson for the image under CC license.

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