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Football Policing

Football Policing

Events Planning is a dedicated unit of officers and support staff responsible for managing major or special events including policing football matches. The unit also deals with:

  • Planning events which cross local and force boundaries
  • Royal visits, sporting and public military events
  • The mobilisation of large numbers of officers across the force to deal with major events or incidents. The unit also arranges for officers to be sent to other force areas where needed.

Police football spotters

Football spotters play an extremely important role in the policing of football matches across the country. A football spotter has two main roles:

  • To provide a football policing operation with live and relevant information and intelligence on supporter groups
  • To act as a link between the police and a club’s supporter community.

During an operation a spotter communicates to commanders both positive and negative information and intelligence associated with supporter groups.

To do this, the spotter must acquire a detailed knowledge of a club’s supporter community, and will develop and maintain links with them.

They will build a relationship between officers and supports and increase trust and confidence between the spotters and supporter community, this increases opportunities for richer information and intelligence.

This helps to reduce the risk of disorder and ensures officers work closely with the club and its fan base.

Meet football officer Colin Barlow…
Football Policing

How long have you been with the force?

17 years

How long with football unit?

7 years

How did you get into football policing?

It was always something I was interested in and when a vacancy came up on the newly formed football banning order unit I went for it. Little did I know that seven years later I’d be continuing to police football matches.

How many games have you worked?

It must be around 500 games. The majority of those have been across the West Midlands but I’ve also been involved in games across the UK and in Europe.

What’s the highest profile club game you’ve worked?

Probably the League Cup Final that Birmingham City were involved in back in 2011. That was a really busy day at Wembley with thousands of Blues fans travelling down.

Later the same year Birmingham travelled to Bruges in the Europa League and more than 5,000 fans made the trip. That was a really interesting experience – rather than being in uniform we wore plain clothes for that match as that’s how football spotters operate on the continent.

What’s it like working England games?

I first got involved with working England internationals in 2012 after seeing the job role advertised. It’s very similar to what I do at club level, but obviously on a bigger scale.

The first tournament I went to was the European Championships in Poland and Ukraine. We were there for almost a month and there were some very long days working out there with tens of thousands of England fans who had travelled over.

It’s always a challenge working in different countries where the legislation is often very different to back home. Fortunately when we travel abroad the vast majority of officers from other countries speak pretty good English – unfortunately my Ukranian wasn’t of quite the same standard!

How far have you travelled for international games?

Some of the furthest would probably be Montenegro, Poland and Ukraine.

What’s been the most memorable match you’ve worked?

The Birmingham game in Bruges was really memorable for the sheer numbers of Blues fans that travelled to Belgium for it. That was my first experience of policing a game abroad and is one that I remember well.

Take a look at the blog below for a ‘real-time’ look at our approach to policing football matches. We joined officers at St Andrews at the end of the 2013/14 season for the Birmingham City v Leeds United game.

Live Blog Football Policing - Blues vs Leeds