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Go behind the scenes with West Yorkshire Police on Huddersfield Town V Burnley match day

Robert Sutcliffe on how police plan their tactics with 3,600 Burnley fans in town

Two seasons ago a 20-strong gang of Burnley fans tried to storm the Huddersfield Town pub The Vulcan after the match ended.

This resulted in mounted police being despatched to deal with the disturbance as 56-year-old yob, Richard Devlin, armed with a metal bar, an advertising hoarding and umbrella, tried to force his way in.

He pleaded guilty to affray and at Leeds Crown Court was later jailed for 20 months and given a six-year football banning order.

But yesterday, despite the presence of 3,600 Burnley supporters – some of whom had been drinking in Todmorden since 9am – there was nothing but good-natured banter with no arrests for public disorder made at the match which was given a Category B rating meaning it is medium risk.

Inspector Peter Smith, Commander at the John Smith’s Stadium in Leeds Road, said: “The 3-1 result made the Burnley lads happy and there were no incidents.

Attention please! Silver Commander, Chief Insp Ian Gayles, right, and Insp Peter Smith explain the Force's tactics to key colleagues at a strategy meeting

“There were around 14,000 fans and both sets of fans behaved impeccably and I would like to thank them for the way that they supported both teams.

“There was only one arrest and that was for one fan trying to enter the ground while in drink.”

Hear from Insp Peter Smith below

But few fans if any would have any idea of the meticulous planning and preparation which West Yorkshire Police undertake in order to ensure such a potentially problematic event passes off peaceably.

At 11.15am at Huddersfield Police Station the Examiner was given a rare opportunity to glimpse the detailed preparations that are shared with around 80 officers who patrol the town centre and the ground on the day.

Silver Commander, Chief Inspector Ian Gayles, prepares to enter the control hub at the John Smith's Stadium on Leeds Road

Chief Insp Chris Matthews told them: “There will be 3,600 Burnley fans, some of whom have been drinking since 9am so it’s going to be an interesting day.

“In the past there was a disturbance around 6pm at The Vulcan when some of the older Burnley end tried to get into the Vulcan.

Read more: Huddersfield Town 1 Burnley 3: Match in focus

“We are talking about a very small minority of fans, there will be 10-15 of these ‘older risk’ fans drinking in the town centre and 10-15 of the ‘youth risk’ who will be more problematic and who like to engage with any kind of opposition supporters rather than a like-minded group.

“They will attempt to engage in disturbance without provocation post game.”

See pictures from the match below

He explained that The Vulcan appears nowadays to be ‘the pub of choice’ for Huddersfield supporters with Burnley fans being encouraged to visit the Boy and Barrel in the Beast Market.

And he reiterated the warning about the Burnley fans drinking saying: “They have been stopping off for a good drink. We have got to switch on today. There has been a bit of previous history, (meaning the Vulcan incident). A small risk from 20-30 of their fans. Really switch on please!”

Officers listen intently as they get last minute guidance on how to police the match

He also made officers aware of a potentially surreal twist at the end of the day with BBC Look North presenters Harry Gration and Paul Hudson were due to arrive at Huddersfield Railway Station round 6pm, partway through a 120-mile sponsored walk.

Read more: Joel Lynch is being sorely missed and other things we learned from Huddersfield Town v Burnley

Chris and senior colleagues are constantly updated during the day by a number of police ‘spotters’ including two from Burnley and British Transport Police who monitor activity among Burnley fans in Halifax, Brighouse and Todmorden.

Chris said: “There will be families and young children there to greet Harry and Paul as we are walking up to 200-300 Burnley fans to the station.”

Read more: How Huddersfield Town players rated against Burnley

Kirklees police chief Steve Cotter told the West Yorkshire officers some of who work in Calderdale, Bradford and Kirklees: “Thanks for joining us. Have a great day and hope all goes well.”

A key early morning meeting at Huddersfield Police Station with officers who will be responsible for safety on the day

In the town centre there was a strong police presence with their yellow jackets providing important reassurance to ordinary members of the public out shopping and home fans just looking forward to having a few beers and enjoying the game.

We stopped in the spring sunshine at the Boy and Barrel and Insp Smith was pleased to see a couple of his officers laughing and joking with Burnley fans outside as the pub reverberated to Clarets fans singing about their position at the top of the Championship.

Read more: Burnley 'controlled' Huddersfield Town gameplan says manager Sean Dyche

The idea was to try to keep the atmosphere as relaxed and genial as possible and not to do anything to “up the ante”. Insp Peter Smith looked positively horrified when I made a naive suggestion about police dogs.

The police document detailing all the meticulous preparations for the Town/Burnley match on Saturday, March 12, 2016

They were the last thing they wanted to use on a day like this as their presence would be almost the best way of upping the ante. Four mounted police is more than enough animals for this operation.

At the ground it was clear that a strong partnership exists between key members of Huddersfield Town Football Club and stadium operator, KSDL – Kirklees Stadium Development Ltd.

Silver Commander, Chief Inspector Ian Gayles, showed me into the special control hub at the ground where officers are surrounded by banks of TV screens showing fans arriving at the ground.

He liaises with KSDL Safety Officer John Robinson and match referee Scott Duncan was given a briefing in the centre circle at 1.45pm.

Ian said: “At the moment things are ‘steady away’ but it’s a local derby. We have had some disorder in the past when Burnley fans came back into town. We are mindful of that.”

Hear more from Insp Ian Gayles below

But all is sweetness and light and months of preparation pay off to good effect.

Huddersfield Town may not have had the result they wanted losing 3-1 but for the police the day has been an almost completely unmitigated success with just one fan arrested for trying to enter the ground while drunk.



Doug Thomson
Huddersfield Town correspondent
Chris Roberts
Huddersfield Giants correspondent
Louise Cooper
Crime correspondent
Nick Lavigueur
Health Correspondent
Joanne Douglas
Local Government Correspondent
Linda Whitwam
Education Correspondent
Henryk Zientek
Business Correspondent
Martin Shaw
Mirfield Correspondent