British Transport Police and train companies are stepping up their efforts to tackle football-related disorder on the railways, as the football season starts.
Last year saw a 49% rise in the number of football-related offenders dealt with as BTP and operators worked together to target disorder proactively, and they are determined to do more and make trains even safer this season.
The vast majority of travelling fans is law-abiding and presents no problems, but a small minority continues to cause disruption on some services.
In 2009/10, there were 68 serious football-related incidents, 21 assaults on police, and 582 anti-social behaviour incidents reported overall.
With rail crime falling this year for the sixth year running, trains are increasingly safe, but both BTP and operators want to let fans and passengers alike know that anti-social behaviour will not be tolerated.
BTP, football clubs and operators will be using a number of measures to tackle football-related offences on rail this season:
* Running “dry trains” on which alcohol is banned, when intelligence from BTP indicates that alcohol may contribute to disorder
* Use of CCTV to spot potential problems
* Sharing intelligence to identify potential hot spots
* A code of conduct which sets out the expected behaviour of fans travelling on trains has been developed and adopted by a number of operators
* A growing number of football clubs are working with BTP to help tackle anti-social behaviour, for instance by revoking season tickets.
Football Banning Orders remain a powerful weapon in combating football-related anti-social behaviour. Seventy six were obtained in 2009/10, 18 of which were ‘on complaint’ meaning that no criminal conviction had to be obtained. These orders last for a minimum of three years and often have conditions attached keeping potential troublemakers off the rail system.
Assistant Chief Constable Steve Thomas says: “It’s unacceptable that other passengers and rail staff should have to suffer disruption and abuse.
“I want to warn those who think they can behave badly with impunity that the number of offenders caught last year was up almost a half and our focus this year is on bringing even more to account, as well as continuing our work with the train operators and clubs to tackle the problem. It is a small minority of fans that causes the problems and I would appeal to the vast majority of law abiding supporters to help us deal with them.”
Andy Odell, Police and Security Liaison Officer at the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC), said: “The vast majority of football fans causes no problems whatsoever, but train companies will be redoubling efforts to ensure that a small minority is not able to cause disruption to other passengers.
“Train companies are committed to a railway that is safe and secure for passengers to use, and are investing heavily in measures to improve personal security for passengers.
“Crime on the rail network has been going steadily down, but operators are determined to do everything that we can to protect our staff and passengers.
“We are working closely with BTP to stamp out anti-social behaviour and disorder associated with travelling football fans.”
Dyan Crowther, Network Rail’s director of operational service, said: “Thousands of football fans rely on rail every week to follow their teams around the country. The vast majority of these fans, as well as other passengers, expect to be able to pass through stations and make their journeys without being caught up in the anti-social behaviour of a minority. We’ll continue to work with the police and train operators to help passengers get to and from the game whatever the result.”
Successes of last year’s proactive approach included:
* Problems experienced in 2008/09 on the East Coast Mainline involving Middlesbrough, Sunderland and Newcastle United fans were not repeated in 2009/10, and proactive policing in Wales significantly diminished the risk posed by some Cardiff City fans
* In Scotland, following incidents with fans chanting sectarian abuse, a series of formal information sharing protocols has been signed with clubs. These give BTP a mechanism for informing a club of any individuals who come to notice and allow free flow of information. Most of the top Scottish clubs have signed up to the scheme.