Sta­dium lock­out threat for fans next sea­son af­ter rules flouted again

’Stay at home’ in­struc­tions ig­nored in Liver­pool and Leeds Safety ex­perts against plans to al­low re­stricted at­ten­dances

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport Football - By Ben Rumsby SportS In­veS­tI­ga­tIonS re­porter

Ma­jor doubt has been cast on plans to al­low crowds back into foot­ball grounds fol­low­ing the re­peated re­fusal of thou­sands of Liver­pool and Leeds United fans to obey coron­avirus lock­down re­stric­tions.

has been told that foot­ball safety of­fi­cers are op­posed to pro­pos­als that would see a lim­ited num­ber of spec­ta­tors at­tend matches next sea­son – a view that has been com­pounded by the scenes at An­field and El­land Road on Wed­nes­day night.

Thou­sands of Liver­pool and Leeds fans once again dis­obeyed in­struc­tions to stay at home as their teams lifted the Premier League and Cham­pi­onship ti­tles re­spec­tively, rais­ing se­ri­ous ques­tions over whether sup­port­ers could be trusted to fol­low strict so­cial-dis­tanc­ing rules dur­ing games. Liver­pool yes­ter­day said they were “dis­ap­pointed with the scenes out­side An­field” af­ter John New­sham, a con­sul­tant for the Foot­ball Safety Of­fi­cers As­so­ci­a­tion, de­clared that a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of fans had shown “they can’t fol­low guide­lines from clubs”.

He said: “The sea­son should start again be­hind closed doors, as it’s fin­ished, un­til such a time that Boris [John­son] says you can have your ca­pac­ity fans back into your grounds now.”

Peter Houghton, the FSOA’s direc­tor of op­er­a­tions, re­vealed that other safety of­fi­cers shared the view that keep­ing fans locked out while so­cial dis­tanc­ing re­mained in force was a “bet­ter so­lu­tion”.

The Sports Ground Safety Author­ity last week pub­lished draft guid­ance for plan­ning for so­cial dis­tanc­ing at sports grounds.

It in­cluded a sam­ple of a pro­posed spec­ta­tors’ code of con­duct, which fea­tured rules such as:

◆ At all times and in all parts of the ground, ob­serve so­cial dis­tanc­ing and avoid close con­tact with oth­ers not in your so­cial bub­ble.

◆ Re­main in your seat or place at all times wher­ever pos­si­ble.

◆ If you are seated, when mov­ing past other spec­ta­tors, to and from your seat, please avoid face to face con­tact with other spec­ta­tors.

◆ Avoid hugs, high-fives and any close con­tact with peo­ple who are not within your so­cial bub­ble.

Houghton and New­sham re­vealed that safety of­fi­cers had se­ri­ous con­cerns the SGSA’s plan was nei­ther work­able nor af­ford­able, es­pe­cially for lower-league and non-league clubs. “It’s go­ing to be a night­mare,” New­sham said.

Both were crit­i­cal of the de­ci­sion to al­low Leeds to salute fans out­side El­land Road on an open-top bus,

some­thing that an­gered sup­port­ers who had stayed at home. Leeds said the bus had been put on standby fol­low­ing con­sul­ta­tion with the city coun­cil and Safety Ad­vi­sory Group, as a mea­sure to “as­sist dis­per­sal should a crowd con­gre­gate”.

The ap­proach was in stark con­trast to that at An­field, where Mersey­side po­lice had is­sued a dis­per­sal or­der.

New­sham said: “If they’ve gone on an open-top bus to help dis­perse the fans, that is a mis­take from my point of view, and that should not have hap­pened, and it should not have been sanc­tioned by the Safety Ad­vi­sory Group ei­ther. I can see where some of the Leeds fans are ag­grieved about that be­cause they abided by the rules. Those that turned up ben­e­fited from it even­tu­ally, be­cause they saw the tro­phy.”

Houghton said: “The way that Mersey­side Po­lice dealt with it, by putting in po­si­tion a dis­per­sal or­der, car­ries a bit more weight in more ways than putting an open-top bus out there.

“If you’re go­ing to have an open­top bus, you may as well have a pa­rade in the city cen­tre.”

Supt Jackie Marsh, of Leeds District

Po­lice, said there had been four ar­rests for pub­lic or­der of­fences and that one of­fi­cer had re­ceived a mi­nor in­jury which did not re­quire hos­pi­tal treat­ment. She also said mis­siles had been thrown, forc­ing po­lice to don pro­tec­tive equip­ment.

Mersey­side Po­lice said there had been nine ar­rests out­side An­field for af­fray, as­sault, drunk and dis­or­derly be­hav­iour and drug-driv­ing. It said it had now made 20 ar­rests over the dis­or­der and crim­i­nal dam­age that had oc­curred in the city af­ter Liver­pool won the Premier League last month.

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