Should clubs be responsible for the behaviour of their fans inside and outside the ground?

by Tony Attwood

The issue of a club being responsible for the behaviour of its fans is one that has been debated by Arsenal and its supporters since the early days of Arsenal as a league club, for as you will know if you follow the reports and anniversary series published by the AISA Arsenal History Society, Arsenal were the first club to face this issue at least in a major way.

After crowd trouble in a game in January 1895 the League ruled that Arsenal’s ground should be closed for the rest of the season.  Upon appeal that was reduced to six weeks.  Controversially an almost similar incident at the Wolverhampton Wanderers ground the following October led to a ground closure of just two weeks, and it was noted in the press that there was no consistency here.

There have been ground closures subsequently – the History Society recently uncovered the story of the closure of Stockport’s ground in 1921 following crowd trouble, forcing them to play their last match of the season at Manchester United’s ground immediately after a Man U match.  This one is remembered for allegedly having the smallest ever crowd at a football match – although like so many tales in football it isn’t true.  (The full story is contained in the Society’s report covering Arsenal in May and June 1921.

I mention all this in relation to last night’s problems as Liverpool supporters attacked the Manchester City team bus with bottles, cans, flares and firecrackers making the bus unroadworthy.   The Telegraph comments today that “The incident raised questions about Liverpool and Merseyside Police’s decision to issue a tweet broadcasting changes to the route the busses were taking to the ground.”   The paper also reports that Manchester City had raised serious concerns about the situation to the police before the incidents, but the police chose to take no action based on the concerns.

Attacking the team bus of the opposition is of course nothing new, and indeed there was a major incident of this nature as recently as May 2016 as West Ham supporters attacked the Manchester United bus.  On that occasion other “incidents” continued through the game.

That event was also notable as being an occasion in which David Sullivan the West Ham co-chair made one of his speeches.  In this case he said, “If you check the coach there won’t be any damage to it.  There were people around the coach but there was no attack on the coach.”  It was of course gibberish, as we have come to expect.

Mr Sullivan also said that the Man U players and staff should have got off the coach and walked to the ground.

It all raises the question of just who should take responsibility to for issues outside the ground, and then again inside the ground, and what (if any) punishment there should be for clubs (or indeed the police) when the arrangements they have put in place allow for a breakdown in public order.

In such cases it might be argued that the police are to blame for not insisting on specific procedures being followed, or not providing enough officers (although personally I think that given the swingeing cuts to police budgets in recent years I’d be more likely to blame the Home Secretary).  But also the home club could be to blame for not organising matters in a way least likely to result in trouble, the away could could be blamed if it is deemed that it is responsible for the behaviour of its individual fans, and of course individual can be blamed for breaking the law such as via public order offences.

By and large I’ve always been a law abiding citizen both in and around football matches and other large gatherings such as political demonstrations, rock concerts and the like, and certainly now, as I have got older and am thus more vulnerable (in that I can’t run as fast as I used to be able to in order to get out of the way of any trouble that erupts) I have an even greater desire to be safe going to and from matches and inside the ground.

And perhaps because of this I do feel that clubs (along with the police and the government that has so radically cut police funding) should take responsibility for everything that they have a hand in.   Arsenal for example, don’t have any visible police presence within the stadium, nor in the area surrounding the stadium on the land owned by Arsenal.  As one enters that zone each person is checked by stewards and checked again as one walks up to the turnstiles, but normally there are no police other than their helicopter flying overhead.

Beyond that area however there is a police presence in the streets, and at the railway and underground station.  But who pays?

Well, in 2008 Greater Manchester Police won court case against Wigan Athletic over police costs for matches which allowed the police to charge for their services outside stadiums.  Although some police forces then moved to full cost recovery others did not, accepting the argument that football is part of the economic life of towns and cities, and that many smaller clubs could be badly affected if they had to pay more.

Since then the police have charged more for policing Premier League matches in Manchester than anywhere else, with Manchester City paying just under £1m for police services a couple of seasons ago (I can’t find more recent figures). Man U paid a similar cost.  Liverpool paid £554,550 per season although why they got away with half price I don’t know.

But the five PL teams under the Metropolitan Police’s jurisdiction were charged a combined £178,047 for policing the areas inside and immediately outside stadiums controlled by the clubs in the 2015-16 campaign.  Arsenal paid £32,436.

These sums are agreed between the police and the clubs so presumably in the light of events the police could argue that they needed a much higher presence at Liverpool games, and then simply present the bill to the club.

However the case of West Ham in policing remains the most curious of all especially after the widespread disorder within the ground during the match against Burnley.  I am not sure if the FA have done anything about that situation yet, but the last I heard the directors of West Ham (never, in my estimation, the first people to accept responsibility for anything) were demanding that the stadium operator (known quaintly as LS185 – basically an organisation paid for by tax payers) should pay for the police inside and outside the ground.  So every tax payer has to pay for the security of fans inside the ground.

Personally I think each club should pay for all the policing which should induce the clubs to take all aspects of security of fans and local residents more seriously.  I am not sure that Liverpool did this by publicising the route the opposition’s bus would take to the ground, although nor it seems did the local police do enough, despite all the money they charged the clubs.

Which raises a further point.  The police decided on how much of a police presence there should be, and then charged the club.  But the police got it very wrong and there was violence.   Should the police be blamed for under policing the event?  Should the club be blamed for not putting enough security in place.  Or should it just be the individuals involved – who are after all responsible for their own behaviour?

Personally I blame the government for under-funding the police.  But then, that’s what I always do.


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27 Replies to “Should clubs be responsible for the behaviour of their fans inside and outside the ground?”

  1. Tony,

    I have no idea if they should or not. However, hat I am amazed about is that cat, whoich could have led to City team members actually being hurt, is pretty much ignored. The guardian has a piece titled without the Liverpool name even mentionned… !
    And reading it well, Klopp says sorry, Guardiola says thank you for being sorry, everybody says everyboidy knew it was coming and all is fine.

    I mean, talk about manipulating opinion ?!? AW says sometning to a ref and we’ve got article after article about it. Moorinho says : ‘boo’ and all the press writes novels about it.

    Here we’ve got an act not short of terrorism and well, nothing to report.

    Tell me what you want, but the City team were under shock as they entered the stadium which explains the 3 goals in 30 minutes. Not that Pool!! did not play a good game. They did. Against an opponent who was groggy.

    You can not not register the sheer hostility, the physical violence directed at you and then enter the stadium that is sold out and wonder who’s gonna be throwing something at you. Or shooting at you. Just ask Aubameyang who came under a bomb attack before another CL game.

    Anyways, just shows the bias, the ‘the show must go on at all costs’ philosophy, the love affair the media have with Pool!!!

    Just wait till something like that happens to the 3 Lions bus one day. All those so called journalists will ask Downing Street to declare war.

  2. Awful scenes? Why? Thats how it should be. Look at ours who gather to trash the manager on cameras and look at the Liverpool Supporters, or the Juventus supporters the other night. 30 years without the title Liverpool but the fans will always be there for their team. Psychology.

    But thats what it means to be a BIG Club. History.

  3. If the team bus had to be at the ground two hours before kick off.
    This would reduce the amount of “fans” on the route to the stadium thus making it easier to police. It certainly would have stopped the problem with the Man U bus at Upton Park.
    This shouldn’t be this way but that is the nature of the beast, we all want the passion but when it goes over the line it is deplorable.
    I don’t know how it can be controlled by the clubs Millwall have been trying for years to shake off the reputation at their cos financially and blacking the image of the club.

  4. I am talking about the atmosphere of the game, how the fans of Liverpool lifted their whole team. Make no mistake, they were the 12th and 13th player last night. Not the hooliganism outside which is off course condemned and not wanted.

  5. Hunter13,

    the issue is not so much what happened inside Anfield, which was a jolly good fiesta for Pool!! fans and they did their part. And I guess they did not commit rampage, throw stuff at players, etc, so they behaved as fans and not thugs.

    However, what happens outside is not ‘normal’. De Bruyne said that, it did not surprise them, and was no excuse. But he said something that I find disturbing, and which ic copy/paste from the Guardian :

    “The bus incident had no effect on us,” Vincent Kompany said. “Not really. We have experienced that before.” Kevin De Bruyne agreed with his captain. “It was OK,” he said. “I don’t mind supporters doing that – I’ve had it a couple of times for my team and it’s a nice feeling. Breaking windows is probably not done but who am I to say something? I am fine with it as long as no one gets hurt. It doesn’t change anything [for the players]. As long as you keep the violence down, there’s nothing wrong with it.”

    Now I can sure undrestand the players are kind of used to stuff like that and not all are reacting like Cantona would. But, and that is the point, when he says : as long as no one gets hurt, it is a sign to me that football in general has lost its perspective.

    Cause : as no one gets hurt, that means :

    sure, use flares, as long as no one gets hurt
    sure, use crowbars, as long as no one gets hurt
    sure, throw whatever at the opposition bus or at the players, as long as no one gets hurt
    and while you are at it, why not shoot a gun while youa re at it, as long as no one gets hurt.

    Last year, some nutcase decided to use a bomb. he did not hurt anyone, so why is he in jail ?!?

    This trivialising of violence is wrong. It means that what happened with the bus will go down into Pool!! supporter lore as a ‘feat’. It means that at some point, they or another team’s, say City, supporters will take this as a standard and decide to get their own moment and decide to do more/worse.

    And this is where I have my issues with the whole of football. Yep, I guess you would have liked to see the game at Anfield with your kid/s. Would you have liked to be at the scene with them where the bus was being attacked ? I imagine not.

    And I believe that clubs, who earn millions and millions out of advertising, products, etc – much more then from tickets – are absolutely NOT doing what they could and should be grought to bear some responsibility. After all every one is going after facebook. Yet it is not facebook who did something wrong… Why the double standard.

    Then, we are probably reliving the twilight of the Roman Empire and ‘panem et circences’ is the order of the day.

    May I add that having lived in Paris for 10 or so years, I happened to meet quite often rugby supporters coming from Scotland, Wales, Ireland and the UK during the week-ends when the six nations was played. How come they never set the cities they visit ablaze ?!? And quite a few were under the effect of lots of alcohol. Why is that sport somehow more ‘resistant’ to thugs, criminals and idiots ?

  6. No sorry, ive seen the videos. Thats how you intimidate them. Thats how you make them crap their pants before even entering the field of play. Psychology. And Liverpool fans know it and credit to them. Its football, its semi final its a historical club against some noveau -riche pretenders. Well done to them i say.

    I dont care about De Bruyne, ha has had it very easy in premier league with protection from Arab money and refs, in contrast to rosicky, cazorla, wilshere who have had their right to equal contest shat upon and we do nothing.

    Every true football fan who knows about support and how to play with opponents minds gives credit to Liverpool. Some others will look at it and say ‘omg how vile’ etc etc… Its not the opera, its not maria kallas and luciano pavarotti. Its a European semi final and Liverpool wanted it.

    I only wish our fans were as strong and united.

  7. Well we all know what would happen if our fans did that to Pools Bus don’t we. Be debating it in Parliament etc

  8. Facebook? who gives a shit…i dont have an account anyway. It sounded silly back then and it sounds silly today ten years later. the world is full of idiots who want to act big, famous whatever. Star-syndrome. Photographers and artists, vanity at maximum. Well done to the zucker-kid for fleecing them all for so long.

  9. Whilst Liverpool must be congratulated for having beaten Man$ity so well, I cannot believe that what seems to have been a potential threat to the player’s lives will not have affected them.

    They are, after all, professional artists and, as such are very susceptible to mood swings. How can something like that not have affected them?

    Even if there was no threat to life, surely if even one player felt threatened, that may have gone on to affect others. As a result, Liverpool will have enjoyed an unreasonable advantage.

    It is remarkable that despite Man$ity having 66% of possession, they did not manage even one shot on target.

    Surely, the game should not have gone on?

  10. About 40 years ago, I went with a group of friends to see the NLD at Highbury.

    We were walking in Blackstock Road, when we heard a roar further up the road and we saw a large group of sum fans running in our direction shouting and screaming, undoubtedly, not for the purpose of engaging Arsenal fans in a friendly discussion about our respective teams’ prospects in the game.

    I can tell you, we were terrified. We were able to hide in a deep shop entrance as they ran past, but I decided then never to go to an NLD again.

  11. The Liverpool players watching all that raised about 2-3 levels than their normal selves. All of them. Man city players? Bricking it….

    As for the children…dont know about you but when same things would happen in panathinaikos-olympiakos derbies i fucking loved it. Epic moments. Especially when fighting/burning the police. that scum. that
    scum that takes our money to protect politicians and bankers ruining our lives..fuck ’em. its war.

    There is a place and a time for families and vice-versa. Not everything should be brought down to accomodate grannies and children.

  12. jjgol : They are, after all, professional artists and, as such are very susceptible to mood swings. How can something like that not have affected them?

    but isnt that the point? to affect their perfomance? to ruin their psychology?

    what did they think? they would come to anfield and walk it with the protection of cameras police and pep image machine? nah screw that.

    klopp –heavy metal.

  13. Hunter13,

    well, guess you’d have merrily enjoyed watching gladiators fight to death and would have been screaming with your thumb down.
    I’m not about to judge you, each one of us has his opinions and rights to have it.

    And if your car is one day taken as a target by some fans of a club different then the one you like, I guess it will be ok and just part of the game.

    And if you are an Arsenal fan, maybe it’s time to call on management to create a unit of red shirts that will make sure no opposition player enters the Emirates unharmed….

    Hope you have fun going to Moscow to watch the 3 lions, or whatever city they’ll play in.

  14. Hunter13 – You do realise that we are only talking about a game of football here, right?

    “Not everything should be brought down to accommodate grannies and children.” So what you’re saying is that football shouldn’t accommodate a wider audience for a fun day out, but instead for dickheads such as yourself that enjoy “fighting, burning and war”? Dickheads such as yourself that ruin it for everyone else. Dickheads such as yourself that terrify your average football goer.

    Why do you think that football should accommodate dickheads like you, but not fans who go there purely to watch an enjoyable game of sport? Dickheads like you that enjoy all the violence and chaos only make up about 5% of the audience, yet you ruin for literally everyone else.

  15. Hunter 13.

    Is terrifying people into thinking they are going to die or be seriously injured a legitimate way to behave, even if it is to give you a direct benefit?

    Sorry, but that is not why I support Arsenal and should never be any part of a supporter’s life and attitude.

    Whilst the world was quite happy to blame the policing, at the Hillsborough disaster, most probably quite rightly, why is it that the conduct of the Liverpool fans in that incident has now been whitewashed?

    There is never any excuse for violent or anti-social conduct, especially not to benefit your football team.

    When society stoops as low as that then we are no better than barbarians.

  16. How did we go from gladiators in ancient Rome to creating intimidating atmosphere in a football match? How are the two combined?

    If bottles were thrown. find them and arrest them. If hooligans were smashing shops and threatening families and children find them and lock them in.

    But i will not deny the passionate supporter to stand with his mates and their flags and flares and songs to create atmoshpere of intimidation and push their team on. Thats how its supposed to be imo. I will not condemn the yellow wall of Dortmund and their choreos, and i will not condemn the thousands who travel domestic and abroad to be next to their football team. And i will certainly will not condemn the russians who gave the disrespectful english a lesson last summer. Look at the last expendition of English fans in Amsterdam and draw your own conclusions. No mercy for hooligans. But not everyone holding a flag or a flare or showing the finger at pep is a hooligan.

    That in the celebrations you will find extreme elements thats a matter for the police to find them and ban them/arrest them. But to deny me the pleasure of having an atmosphere …no i disagree. Accomodations should be made for everyone.

  17. Jammy :So what you’re saying is that football shouldn’t accommodate a wider audience for a fun day out

    You mean like the entitled dickheads who come at Arsenal?

    Heh…cause thats what we did…open the gates to accomodate the wider audience for the money and the support has suffered as a result.

  18. Chris..if were playing tottenham i wont park my car in horsney road. I know better.

    We cant wait from others to save us all the time. We can also use our brains and gauge a situation and act accordingly, no? The world is not perfect and we know it. And will never be. Thats an utopia.

  19. When society stoops as low as that then we are no better than barbarians.


    society stooping low because of some flares and flags on a football match ?

    how about the russians and arabs in london ? laundring fortunes on the back of the english poeple and the people from those countries they came from ?

    Lets sort out the serious threats of society first and then worry about the scousers and their flags.

  20. Ok ill stop now. Maybe i cant explain it as i have it on my mind and i dont want to offend or upset.

    Victory through Harmony./ Lets win tonight!!

  21. One wonder whether the English fans should fear the Russians fans or the Russians fans should fear the English fans? Let’s hope common sense prevails and everybody enjoy watching a football match safely.

    We’re in 2018 and it’s unbelievable that in football two sets of fans can’t sit next to each other to watch a football match. I guess Europe is not fully civilized yet.

  22. Hunter 13.

    Maybe we are all talking at cross purposes.

    I understood you to be condoning the attack on the Man$ity coach and almost encouraging actions like that.

    I think it is that which elicited the strong response from myself and others.

    Fans singing and even shouting in the ground to support their team is one thing, physically attacking a team coach with opposing players in it and setting it on fire is another.

    That is not legitimate intimidation. It is criminal assault and someone could have been badly hurt, whether the players or someone near the coach.

  23. Absolutely i agree jjgsol. Any criminal activity to be punished severely. 4-5 wankers throwing bottles are not representative of the thousands who were there to cheer their team on and intimidate the opposition with a bit of hostility via flares drums flags etc. The technology exists to find them, identify them and punish them. But inside Anfiled. It was rocking and it proved extremely helpful. Wish we had that at the Emirates

  24. To Hunter13,
    How can it EVER be acceptable for ANY supporter of any football side to attack the City bus as was done by the Pool supporters? How is it possible that in your opinion it is acceptable to encourage hooliganism and the blatant abuse of an opponent? Is it because the opposition is more skilled than your team members that you need to intimidate them with boorish and thuggish behaviour?
    When I see these things, I know why I have not supported Pool and why it gave me such a pleasure to see Arsenal beat them to the title the year when Allan Smith and Campbell scored the 2 goals that meant we won the title on goal difference!!!! And in the last game of season to boot…. No wonder there is so many fans of other clubs but (cess) Pool that refer to them as the most over rated and underachieved side ever. When all they could say for the past years has been, Stevie is the best player in England, must have been so difficult to accept that Stevie was shunted out of the club and send to the States by Rodgers without him EVER having won an EPL title. I know they won the Champions League, but never since the start of the EPL have they won the league.
    No wonder they vent their anger at City, who will probably win the league tomorrow with their ‘own’ Raheem scoring so many goals this year and at Pool he was considered ‘not good enough’. Makes you wonder does it not?

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