Police hope for better treatment of fans as report highlights ‘hostile’ approach

By Sports Desk February 20, 2024

Police hope a new report detailing recent supporter experiences will lead to better treatment of fans of English clubs playing away in Europe.

The UK Football Policing Unit (UKFPU) has co-ordinated a survey gathering feedback of fan groups from English teams who have played in European competition since the 2020-21 season.

It comes after the last two Champions League finals, in Paris in 2022 and Istanbul in 2023, saw Liverpool and then Manchester City supporters endure considerable issues.

The report includes details of problems experienced by Manchester United supporters who travelled for the Champions League group match at Galatasaray this season, and also says “the consistent feedback of fans is that the policing style in Spain is confrontational, frequently aggressive and on occasions violent”.

The UKFPU will now use the data to work with fans, UEFA and host countries to address the issues raised.

Chief Constable Mark Roberts, the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for football policing, said: “Following the events of the 2022 Champions League final in Paris and the mistreatment of Liverpool fans, it was hoped that the reviews and outcry would mark a watershed in the experience of English supporters following their teams in Europe.

“Subsequent events, in particular the arrangements for Manchester City supporters attending the 2023 Champions League final in Istanbul, suggested this wasn’t the case and that lessons were not being learned.

“The aim of this survey is to get more detailed evidence of the issues fans are experiencing when travelling to European away matches, and to help find a way to solve these.

“There has been a lot of positive feedback, but we can see from the data some specific issues which are being experienced at certain clubs and in certain countries.

“It is hoped we can use these results to work collaboratively and create a safer and more welcoming experience for supporters following their teams.

“We have the support of UEFA. This has been circulated to all the European police forces, I’ve written to them all saying these are the findings, encouraging them to look at it and where necessary adapt. I’ve also invited feedback from them about how the experience is for fans in England.

“Then we’re going to ask fans to give us reports on an ongoing basis to either confirm the problem is still there or hopefully recognise that people have listened and there is an improvement.

“We’re not doing it to knock people or try to fall out with people. We’re being honest, but the aim is that it’s a platform for us to then build and get better treatment for our fans abroad.”

A comment in the report from United fans on the Galatasaray match in November described it as “one of the worst experiences in years….a shambles…the epitome of a disgrace”.

The fans comment said there had been a “complete breakdown of access into the stadium with dangerous overcrowding”, some supporters taking two hours to get in and missing the opening 30 minutes, inappropriate seizure of personal items and a hold back of more than 80 minutes, with public transport then closed by the time fans had been released and got back to the city.

Among the issues in Spain highlighted, policing at Real Madrid was described as “incredibly hostile” by Chelsea fans in relation to last term’s quarter-final – where the overall experience was labelled “a disgrace of the highest order” – and as “confrontational” by City supporters, regarding the 2021-22 semi-final.

A comment from United fans on playing Villarreal away in 2021-22 said there had been “the most overzealous and aggressive policing I have seen” with “multiple examples of fans being assaulted and struck with batons for no valid reason”.

While there were also various issues outlined by fans of different clubs making trips to face teams in France and Italy, the report said the overall feedback about event management in Germany was “overwhelmingly positive”.

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