From reading many fans' issues they had, as well as speaking to people who were there , the one theme that really comes through is that a whole group of supporters were dealt with as you would with a 'risk' group, in short, everyone was treated as a potential threat. It is not just the GMP who have come under critisism for this, take the recent news that Lancashire Police have decided that Burnely fans will not be admitted to their match against Blackburn unless on the official coaches. This leaves some Burnley fans who live within several minutes drive of Ewood Park no choice but to undergo an early morning journey to Burnley rather than making the short trip from their house.
There seems to be a certain stigma attached to being a football supporter and we are definitely short of an 'ism to describe this kind of discrimination. If you bunched together nearly thirty thousand people into one area, regardless of the event, you are always going to get an extremely small minority of people who are likely to cause disorder given the chance. In fact, the stigma is rather unjustified as official figures from the Home office indicated that merely 0.01% of the 37million supporters in England and Wales in 2007/2008 were arrested for football related violence.
There is no escaping your 'label' if you are a young football fan either. Last season I sat in the Family Stand and more often than not we would leave the ground to find police lined up with dogs barking, standing on the top of the small bank opposite the ground exits. Now there is something that is not quite 'family atmosphere' about a line of police dogs frothing at the mouth and barking and in all seriousness some of the younger children were quite overwhelmed and scared.
A study by ERSC (Economic & Social Research Council) after Euro 2004 was conducted and found that the most successful way to deal with hooliganism was to use 'low key' policing tactics. It also found that when supporters were treated as fans from the outset and not hooligans, they were much more likely to ally with the Police to root out troublemakers. A combination of uniformed and plain clothed officers was used to police matches, and while riot police were close by, they were kept from fans' view in an attempt to avoid provoking any trouble by their presence.
It does beg the question with the research and statistics on the football fan's side, why we put up with such outrageous typecasting for the sake of an absolute minority and in particular the thought process of the authorities in the actions taken against the 400 or so Stoke fans at Bolton and the travelling arrangements for Burnley fans to give just two examples.
Rest assured, those questions and more will be asked by the Fans' Forum and FSF within the next week!