The head of football policing in the UK has called for an urgent meeting with the English game’s authorities to discuss the increase in disorder at matches.
The UK Football Policing Unit (UKFPU) released figures last week which showed a 36 per cent rise in disorder in the first half of this season compared to the same period in the 2019-20 campaign.
That was before a further spate of incidents last weekend, including the throwing of objects at Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger during Sunday’s match against Tottenham, and Everton fans throwing plastic bottles at Aston Villa’s Lucas Digne and Matty Cash the day before.
Chief Constable Mark Roberts, the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s football policing lead, said on Thursday he had written to the Premier League, the Football Association and the English Football League on Monday “asking for an urgent meeting to discuss the issues we are seeing with disorder”.
“When we receive all their responses a meeting date will be set,” he said.
It is understood a response has been received from the EFL, and that the Premier League responded to the letter on Thursday.
Chief Constable Roberts confirmed there was a meeting with the Premier League on Friday to discuss match scheduling but this was “pre-planned” – it is understood the meeting was scheduled late last year.
He said: “(The meeting on Friday) is relevant to one element of the issue but not the broader discussion that we urgently need.”
It is understood the Premier League will raise the subject of disorder at Friday’s meeting and has mentioned its intention to do so to Chief Constable Roberts.
The league shares his concerns about fan disorder and is looking at what more can be done to tackle it.
The UKFPU found there were 759 reported incidents of disorder in the first half of the 2021-22 season, throughout which stadiums in England have been able to operate without capacity limits due to the easing of coronavirus restrictions.
That compares to 560 in the first half of the 2019-20 season, before the pandemic took hold.
In 2019-20, 34 per cent of games had an incident reported, but this season it is 48 per cent. Arrests are also up – with 802 football-related arrests in the first half of 2021-22, up 47 per cent from 2019-20 (547).
These increases are in spite of fewer matches being played in 2021-22 compared to 2019-20 due to postponements – 1,581 compared to 1,670.
The UKFPU found the biggest increase in reported incidents is in the Championship and the National League, which saw rises of 58 and 56 per cent respectively.
Bob Eastwood, the EFL’s safety and security adviser, said: “It is obviously very disappointing to receive reports of poor behaviour at our grounds in recent weeks but it is important that we try and keep matters in perspective.
It is important to remember that the vast majority of our matches remain incident-free with the overwhelming majority of fans getting behind their team and respecting those around them.EFL safety and security adviser Bob Eastwood
“As an absolute minimum, everybody attending an EFL game should feel safe and have confidence in the safety and security operation at the stadium they are visiting.
“We work collaboratively with our clubs, safety advisory groups and local police forces to ensure their security operations are robust and effective. The priority will always be to mitigate risk, provide support when incidents do occur and to help share best practice.
“Of course, any increase in the number of incidents and arrests is not welcome and people who choose to behave in an anti-social or a criminal way should expect to be dealt with by their club or the police.
“There are many occasions where fans and fans’ groups also object to poor behaviour and support the action taken by their club and it is important to remember that the vast majority of our matches remain incident-free with the overwhelming majority of fans getting behind their team and respecting those around them.”
Around 8.5million fans attended EFL matches from the start of the season up to the end of 2021.