Football fans 'terrorising trains'
Football fans are terrorising rail passengers with thuggish behaviour every week, a senior police officer has said.
The warning by British Transport Police (BTP) chief constable Paul Crowther came as a summit was held to discuss ways of tackling the issue, which has come under scrutiny in recent months following a number of high-profile incidents.
The latest figures for this football season show that BTP has recorded 630 soccer-related incidents so far, including a number with a racial element.
Mr Crowther said: "Sadly, this type of casual thuggery is occurring just about on a weekly basis on our trains - with a sizeable minority who are behaving in a threatening, loud and sometimes racist way to the great terror of people who are using the system to get about and do their day-to-day business."
He said the impact on ordinary passengers is "unacceptable", adding: " We are in danger of saying those types of experiences are OK.
"We are saying 'Why do people think this is acceptable on trains?' You don't see this sort of behaviour on an aeroplane, for example."
It is thought the scale of football-related crime on the transport network may be higher than the figures show.
Mr Crowther said: "We think it is under-reported and we think that might be because people are intimidated or frightened."
He said the problem was a "very complex issue" and required a cultural change. "What I am not looking for is more of the same," he said.
"I don't think it is an issue we can arrest our way out of."
Representatives from football, police and other organisations, as well as those affected by thuggery, are attending the summit - which is the first of its kind.
Headteacher Dawn Parkinson, who was at the meeting, said her family endured an "absolutely terrifying" journey as drunken football supporters "overran" their train carriage.
The 43-year-old, from Leicester, said the incident began when they saw a "skirmish" as they were waiting at Euston station in London after a day out in the capital.
Her eight-year-old daughter was so frightened that she was in tears and staff agreed to allow them to sit in first class for their safety.
But she said: "Then the carriage was overrun by drunken football fans carrying cans of lager and vodka. We spent the journey with them shouting and swearing. Every sentence included the F-word."
She said two police officers attempted to remove the group of around 40 fans from the train, but were ignored.
"To be fair to them, they really tried but they could not move them. It started to feel very menacing and people behind started shouting 'kill the bill'."
They decided to leave the train early at Rugby because they were so frightened.
"I had to carry my daughter because she wouldn't walk past them," Mrs Parkinson said.
She decided she wanted to help tackle the problem the following morning.
She added: "My children were sitting having breakfast and instead of talking about what a great day we had they were saying how they would never travel again without having checked the football fixtures first.
"My daughter wrote a note and instead of saying thank you for the day out she said thanks for helping her when she was so frightened."
Mrs Parkinson called for those in football to show "leadership" on the issue.
"Football is a sport based on good values. How can it be that one of the big, rich industries in this country is at the heart of corroding social norms of behaviour?"
BTP said no one has been arrested over the incident, which is alleged to have involved Everton supporters, and inquiries are ongoing.
A spokesman for the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators, said: "While overall crime on the railway is falling, operators work closely with the British Transport Police to clamp down on the small minority of troublemakers, to make trains even safer for football fans and families travelling to see their teams."
In February a storm erupted after Chelsea supporters were filmed allegedly singing racist chants as a black man was prevented from boarding a train in Paris.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash claimed staff cuts were giving "a green light to thugs, drunks and racists to indulge in their violent, abusive and anti-social behaviour" on the transport network.