Last night’s Town match against Leeds United was the biggest one the police have had to deal with at the Galpharm Stadium this season. ANDREW HIRST was allowed exclusive behind-the-scenes access to see the police plan in action
HATRED was etched on his face.
The Town supporter hurled abuse at the Leeds fans, made an obligatory obscene gesture and then made a half-hearted attempt to rush towards them, knowing full well the stewards and police would not let him get anywhere close.
The decision was made to throw him out and, in his immaturity, he couldn’t understand why.
He must have been around 17.
He didn’t want to go, but he had no choice. He reckoned he was justified as the Leeds fans had been ‘goading him’. He was out on the streets before the match had even kicked off.
Many of the other young Town fans near him in the Antich Stand below Kilner Bank must have been in their early to mid-teens. They were more intent on trying to incite the away fans than watching the game.
Some looked so young it could have been past their bedtime.
In the Riverside Stand Leeds fans had infiltrated the home supporters’ section. Two foolishly gave themselves away when they questioned a decision by the referee.
They were instantly attacked as they were sitting among Huddersfield’s older hooligans.
By the end of the match 37 Leeds fans had been thrown out or left the Galpharm Stadium voluntarily after they were found among Town fans.
A further 10 fans had been arrested – at least two for trying to get into the stadium while drunk – and one for breaking a football banning order.
In Huddersfield town centre before the game trouble erupted near a bar after a large group of Leeds fans turned up, quickly followed by an 80-strong Huddersfield gang. Then a third lot tried to rush the bar to spark a punch-up.
All were kept separate, but it had been a close call. One police officer had to use an emergency call sign to get help there fast.
And all this was, in policing terms, a quiet match for such a high-profile game.
But police have to be geared up for anything; and they are. Riot gear is there, but out of sight.
For the police it is like drawing up military tactics.
Senior commanders devise a strategy and then rely on experienced colleagues to carry them out.
When Town play Leeds United at home it is the highest security category game.
The categories are A, B and C, with C being the highest.
The Leeds game was, in effect, C+.
It had taken weeks to plan and countless hours drawing up the staffing rotas to make sure around 300 officers could be on duty.
And all for a game of football. And, certainly for Town, a meaningless one, apart from pride being at stake.
About 50 officers were in the stadium and they are paid for by the club. Most were working overtime.
The officers outside the ground are on normal rotas, but still the taxpayer foots the bill, just so the tiny minority of soccer louts are kept in check.
For this game the silver commander – the officer in overall charge – was Chief Supt Barry South in a control room in Bradford, so he could have a complete overview of everything going on both inside and outside the stadium via CCTV and radio networks.
He told his senior officers: “We need to be on the ball. When things go they go quickly and we need to respond quickly. Police it firmly, fairly and, most of all, professionally.’’
There are then five bronze commanders, ranging from a sergeant to a superintendent and each with a specific role; traffic, the town centre, the Leeds Road area, the stadium site and in the stadium itself.
All have their own Public Order Tactical Adviser by their side at all times, an officer who has been on a specialist course to make them aware of the options open to them to deal with an incident, from police dogs to cordons and aspects of law.
Under the bronze commanders are teams of officers known as police support units, each consisting of three sergeants, 18 constables and often an inspector.
There were 12 on duty last night, plus horses and police dogs.
At a briefing before the game photos were shown to the bronze commanders of where the cordons needed to be. They had to then pass those plans onto their teams.
Chief Insp Ged McManus, in charge of policing in the stadium, said: “We are here to ensure the public can come to the event safely with as little disruption as possible and minimise the risk of disorder.
“We found Leeds fans in the Huddersfield town supporters’ areas. To buy tickets there they had done so knowingly, deliberately and had lied to stadium staff to get them.’’
So who causes the problems?
Leeds have an estimated 400 troublemakers while Huddersfield has a noisy young element, plus around 50 older soccer louts with enough hangers-on to boost the number to 200.
The police, like all canny military strategists, have resources in reserve.
Last night they had a couple of double-decker buses. When Leeds fans were found in the town centre they were put on the bus and taken to the ground; a quick way to solve a logistical problem of moving a large group around quickly.
In the control room at the Galpharm Stadium there are 32 cameras that can zoom in on any seat plus the concourses and are also linked to the town’s CCTV system, so a potential troublemaker can be tracked on CCTV from the moment he leaves the railway station to when he sits down in the stadium.
Once troublemakers are arrested they are searched and logged on to a computer system in a room beneath the Riverside Stand. They are then taken straight to a prisoner van outside that can hold 14 people in tiny cells.
After the final whistle the police did not let the home fans walk past the South Stand car park and out on to St Andrew’s Road via Stadium Way until all 28 coaches filled with Leeds fans had left under a police escort, which stayed with them all the way into Leeds.
The police allow away fans to leave the South Stand straight away at the end of the game as it is potentially dangerous to keep them so near to steep steps leading up to the car park. There are concerns that a surge could lead to crushing.
A cordon meant there was no way the two sets of supporters could mingle.
It meant some home fans were held up for around 20 minutes.
Some were not happy, shouting “disgusting’’ and “disgraceful” at bemused officers .
The intense planning, quick reaction to problems and few arrests would suggest otherwise.
Oh ... and the result? Town won.