A police chief has defended the cancellation of football matches after the Queen’s death, saying ‘sensible decisions’ needed to be made as thousands of officers were sent to London.
Fans have been angered by the last-minute postponement of some matches in the Europa League, Premier League, English Football League and other divisions, with many who had paid for travel and accommodation left behind next to.
The FA said all matches were postponed to the weekend immediately following the Queen’s death “as a mark of respect”, but further cancellations were made after play resumed on September 12 due to resource constraints. the police.
Mark Roberts, the national football policing officer, said The Independent ‘Sensible decisions’ had to be made as Operation London Bridge saw thousands of trained public order officers who would normally be deployed at matches sent to the capital.
“Anyone who has watched the policing operations in support of the events in Edinburgh and London and seen the sheer number of deployments, this is an exceptional event,” he added.
“Everyone used common sense so we could get the right resources to the right place. I think the police did a really good job of covering as much as they did.
Mr Roberts, who is the Cheshire Constabulary’s chief constable, said some of the canceled matches – including Chelsea v Liverpool and Manchester United v Leeds – were considered ‘high risk’ of disorder and could not be controlled safely.
He said the forces had had “positive and sensible discussions” with the Premier League, EFL, FA and other authorities during the period.
It came amid growing disorder at matches, with official figures released on Thursday showing the 2021-22 season saw the highest number of football-related arrests in eight years.
Violence, pitch invasions and the use of dangerous pyrotechnics have increased, and police say children as young as 10 are being drawn into football hooliganism.
Factors believed to be contributing to the rise in football unrest include the lifting of Covid restrictions after a period without matches, alcohol and cocaine use.
Mr Roberts warned that the violence does not simply ‘die off’ after the pandemic and that serious incidents have already been seen in the new season, saying the reasons for the increase will require ‘years of study academics to fully understand”.
He said a greater proportion of games need to be controlled, with more officers each time, due to the deteriorating situation.
The change puts a strain on police resources, forcing regional forces to bring in officers from other parts of the country to ensure they can safely cover football matches and continue normal operations.
“We would much rather not have to deploy more officers to football because there are a lot of challenges,” Mr Roberts said.
“We have started a new season with serious disorder and it seems to continue the trend.
“The concern is that after a major tournament like the World Cup we see an increase in disorder domestically. We have the unusual event of a mid-season World Cup so the concern will be that if this image is reproduced, it could further aggravate the situation.
The police chief said he wanted to be able to ‘bottle up the atmosphere and the behaviour’ of the women’s Euro 2022 tournament, which has seen only a handful of incidents and arrests, to the men’s game.
In May, the government announced an extension of football banning orders to supporters convicted of using cocaine at matches and allowed the seizure of passports when their teams play abroad.
The orders, imposed by the courts, could previously be imposed on people convicted of violence, disorder and hate crimes.
In July, the Premier League, EFL and Football Association announced separate measures to ban pitch invaders, drug addicts and people carrying pyro from stadiums.
Home Secretary Jeremy Quin said: “Our football clubs are at the heart of our communities, and it is unacceptable that the game we all love is being tarnished by a minority of selfish troublemakers.
“The increase in football-related arrests shows that the police are taking strong action to stop this disorder and preserve the enjoyment of the game for fans and families, which I wholeheartedly support.”