Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

Off the ball

Ordinary football fans are often the victims of the sort of policing that hit the headlines in the G20 protests. Steve Powell from the Football Supporters' Federation calls foul on the abuse of police powers

June 12, 2009
4 min read

Section 27 of the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 is a relatively new law. It gives powers to a police officer of any rank to require any person that they believe is or is likely to participate in the proximate future in alcohol-related disorder, to leave a locality by a route that the officer can specify for a period not exceeding 48 hours. I’m sure you’ll agree that we have a problem as a society with disorder, alcohol-related crime and violence, so it would appear that Section 27 is a useful implement in the toolbox of modern policing. If only that were the case.

On the 15 November last year, 80 supporters of Stoke City were peaceably gathered in a pub in Earlham prior to their club’s game against Manchester United. If you know your football, you’ll know that this was the first time in 30 years that Stoke had played at Old Trafford against Manchester United and hence a very special day for those supporters. The day turned out, unfortunately, to be special for all the wrong reasons.

For reasons still unclear, the police surrounded the pub and refused to allow any of the Stoke supporters to leave. All of them were issued with notices under Section 27. One supporter refused to sign a copy of the notice because he believed that the statements being made about him being involved in disorder were factually incorrect. He was told that if he refused to sign he would be arrested.

The police organised buses outside the pub and eventually all 80 fans were processed on to the buses. Because the fans had been in the pub, some of them needed to use the toilet. The police refused to allow those fans who had already been put onto the buses to go back into the pub to use the toilet; they were told to urinate in empty containers. A written statement from the publican records that all the fans were peaceable and none of them were drunk or even singing. In the end, 80 fans didn’t get to see the match, tickets costing over £30 were wasted and a large number of supporters felt aggrieved and badly treated.

Tens of thousands of football fans travel across the country to watch their teams play every weekend. But in December 2008, nine Plymouth Argyle fans arrived in Doncaster to watch their team tackle Doncaster Rovers and headed for a pub to look for some lunch. When they realised that the pub didn’t serve food, they attempted to leave, as they were hungry – and this is where it all went wrong. The pub had been surrounded by police officers and the Plymouth fans were refused permission to go elsewhere. One of them, when he pointed out to a police officer that they wanted to go and get something to eat, was told: ‘You’re not leaving the pub – go back inside and have a drink.’ Let’s remind ourselves here that Section 27 is specifically designed to deal with alcohol-related disorder.

Then it gets more serious. The nine football fans, including an eleven-year-old boy, were marched back to their minivan and taken down the motorway surrounded by police cars, with a helicopter above them. At the Derbyshire border they were met by officers of the Derbyshire constabulary. When some of them needed to relieve themselves, officers initially refused permission, before reluctantly agreeing to take each of them to use service station facilities – under escort, with baying police dogs, which were terrifying both the occupants of the van and the bystanders. Was that a proportional and sensible use of police powers? Couldn’t those officers in those cars and that helicopter have been better employed?

Of course, the single biggest group that is affected by football-related disorder and violence is football supporters themselves: we’ve got no interest in promoting violence. In these and other cases, the police have massively overstepped the mark.

Simon Bolivar, in his famous letter from Jamaica in 1815, said: ‘A state too extensive in itself … is transformed into a tyranny; it disregards the principles which it should preserve, and finally degenerates into despotism.’ Bolivar’s lesson is one that sometimes appears to have been forgotten in the cradle of democracy.

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.

The ‘alt-right’ is an unstable coalition – with one thing holding it together
Mike Isaacson argues that efforts to define the alt-right are in danger of missing its central component: eugenics

Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.

Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making

Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show

The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services

With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas

Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world

A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle

Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune

Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali

To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi

Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun

Essay: After neoliberalism, what next?
There are economically-viable, socially-desirable alternatives to the failed neoliberal economic model, writes Jayati Ghosh

With the new nuclear ban treaty, it’s time to scrap Trident – and spend the money on our NHS
As a doctor, I want to see money spent on healthcare not warfare, writes David McCoy - Britain should join the growing international movement for disarmament

Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India, by Shashi Tharoor, reviewed by Ian Sinclair

A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour: Kenya, Britain and the Julie Ward Murder, by Grace A Musila, reviewed by Allen Oarbrook

‘We remembered that convictions can inspire and motivate people’: interview with Lisa Nandy MP
The general election changed the rules, but there are still tricky issues for Labour to face, Lisa Nandy tells Ashish Ghadiali

Everything you know about Ebola is wrong
Vicky Crowcroft reviews Ebola: How a People’s Science Helped End an Epidemic, by Paul Richards

Job vacancy: Red Pepper is looking for an online editor
Closing date for applications: 1 September.

Theresa May’s new porn law is ridiculous – but dangerous
The law is almost impossible to enforce, argues Lily Sheehan, but it could still set a bad precedent

Interview: Queer British Art
James O'Nions talks to author Alex Pilcher about the Tate’s Queer British Art exhibition and her book A Queer Little History of Art

Cable the enabler: new Lib Dem leader shows a party in crisis
Vince Cable's stale politics and collusion with the Conservatives belong in the dustbin of history, writes Adam Peggs

Anti-Corbyn groupthink and the media: how pundits called the election so wrong
Reporting based on the current consensus will always vastly underestimate the possibility of change, argues James Fox

Michael Cashman: Commander of the Blairite Empire
Lord Cashman, a candidate in Labour’s internal elections, claims to stand for Labour’s grassroots members. He is a phony, writes Cathy Cole

Contribute to Conter – the new cross-party platform linking Scottish socialists
Jonathan Rimmer, editor of Conter, says it’s time for a new non-sectarian space for Scottish anti-capitalists and invites you to take part

Editorial: Empire will eat itself
Ashish Ghadiali introduces the June/July issue of Red Pepper

Eddie Chambers: Black artists and the DIY aesthetic
Eddie Chambers, artist and art historian, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali about the cultural strategies that he, as founder of the Black Art Group, helped to define in the 1980s

Despite Erdogan, Turkey is still alive
With this year's referendum consolidating President Erdogan’s autocracy in Turkey, Nazim A argues that the way forward for democrats lies in a more radical approach

Red Pepper Race Section: open editorial meeting – 11 August in Leeds
The next open editorial meeting of the Red Pepper Race Section will take place between 3.30-5.30pm, Friday 11th August in Leeds.

Mogg-mentum? Thatcherite die-hard Jacob Rees-Mogg is no man of the people
Adam Peggs says Rees-Mogg is no joke – he is a living embodiment of Britain's repulsive ruling elite