07/05/2008 : Yeovil Town Blog : Huish Park Crowd Disturbances - Reader Responses
7 May 2008 : Huish Park Crowd Disturbances - Reader Responses
Shortly after April 2008's home match against Leeds United we wrote a column piece on our experiences surrounding the match and the associated stewarding/policing and ticketing of the match.

Knowing that the subject matter was likely to be controversial and to provoke views, we specifically left a 'Right To Reply' notice at the foot of the article (although it's worth pointing out that is implicitly the case for all articles on Ciderspace). Out of that we got a number of replies from Yeovil fans who were at the game who gave different perspectives from other parts of the ground, although generally the basic message was the same.

In the interests of balance, we've also included two views from the Police and one from the club. Neither were in response to our article, but all the same represent interesting and possibly differing views to those you have read so far.

In the interests of brevity and because we've had our say already, we'll merely post each part without comment:

Glenda, a Yeovil fan in the Cowlin Stand:

I sit it the cowlin stand and am a season ticket holder, the problem we found was that so called Yeovil season ticket holders that have been sat supporting the town all season and obviously also Leeds supporters decided on Friday night to only support Leeds, and when Skivo was down injured in the first half it was extremely upsetting that these so called supporters said things like “get up you cheating b’rstd” this upset not only me but other season ticket holders around me, who were also restrained in their response

Paul, a Yeovil fan in the Cowlin Stand:

Well my group of five Yeovil fans in the Cowlin stand were gob smacked to find Leeds fans in front of us, behind us and to the right hand side of us. We grew up in Yeovil but live away now but one of us is registered with the ticket office and he gets all our tickets for any game we see home or away - we will be at Forest next week. He has been registered for years and the ticket office surely must have twigged that any new individuals registering for tickets this season were potential away fans. I think the club and police have been naïve in the extreme.

As soon as Leeds scored the stewards and police must have known there were at least 30 or 40 Leeds fans in the right hand end of the Cowlin stand. There was no trouble as such but their presence spoiled the game because the potential was always there - if Leeds had been losing and Yeovil fans had expressed their pleasure goodness knows what might have happened. It was even clearer at the end of the game when the Leeds fans were chanting to each other between the away end and Cowlin. I am happy for any supporters to cheer their team but I don't think any fans of any side should have to endure opposition supporters chanting and singing in their own stands.

Chris, a Yeovil fan in the Main Stand:

I would like to add further weight to the comments posted by Ciderspace. Leeds fans had also ‘bulk bought’ tickets in the Community Stand. There were between 20 and thirty of their supporters, congregating in this stand towards the home end, who, although obviously quieter than their accomplices in the home end, were, none the less, rather intimidating in their actions and raucous nature. It saddened me to see the friendly ‘innocent’ Yeovil supporters being harassed in this way, many of whom had come in their family unit to watch an entertaining event. I think it’s because of the ‘innocent’ nature in which Yeovil supporters always attend their games, both home and away, that prevented the situation from turning very nasty as they never take the bate from the otherwise seasoned football thug. This was very good to see and should be hi-lighted by all concerned, not least the police, as a very positive aspect in the way Yeovil fans follow their team. This contrasted severely with the way even the younger of the Leeds fans had to gesticulate and shout obscenities at their counter parts.

There were a lot of failures in ticket sales and security, not least in the way the police refused to act. But to re-arrange to a Friday evening? Even I could see the potential for the effects of alcohol to make matters worse.

Martin, a Yeovil fan in the Home Terrace:

Seldom have I been driven by pure anger to write to any official organisation about their complete ineptitude when dealing with what was a potentially explosive evening at Huish Park last Friday. I have written to both the club and to the Western Gazette to vent my anger. The points raised on your website are valid and an accurate account of the evening’s events, I am the 6’ 4” tall bloke who stands 2/3 back on the Carlsberg Stand behind the right hand goal post.

I have been attending games home and some away since I was 8 some 36 years but because of my work it does not make it worth while having a season ticket.

Reiteration of the facts of the evening is not needed; however the ineptitude of both the stewards and the police on the night was unbelievable and does need hammering home. What really boiled my blood was Martyn Starnes congratulating the aforementioned for a good job on the night. Whatever business Mr Starnes has been involved with in the past it clearly has very little to do with crowd control or people management.

You and I in my letter to club and press have made the very good point that but for 2 reasons the evening did not degenerate into a complete and dangerous fiasco:

1. We lost the game.

2. The honest good nature of the home supporters.

Ticketing is a minefield and we could get buried in the whys and wherefores and could be an opt out for the club. I personally would like to see a full apology from the club in respect of their stewarding, (or lack of) heads rolling and a good size refund from what would have been a very expensive bill from the Avon and Somerset Constabulary for a job poorly done. I could have spent the night videoing the crowed if I had thought to bring my camera.

Inspector Mike Edwards, quoted in the Western Gazette:

There were a large number of Leeds supporters in the home end, which was not ideal, but the vast majority of them were exhuberant but well behaved. I was disappointed with the reaction of a small minority of Yeovil fans, which is rare, but there were no serious incidents of disorder; no reported crime and no arrests. There was one ejection. A number of Leeds fans were transferred to the away end. If anyone wishes to report a crime, rest assured it will be thoroughly investigated.

Chief Superintendent Nikki Watson, in response to an email sent by a Yeovil supporter:

I would like to make clear that the event is organised by the home club and that the police are there to support/assist the club officials/stewards in their duties and if/when criminal offences are brought to our attention to deal with the incident.

This was a football match, the likes of which, had not been experienced at Yeovil before. In fact due to the intelligence that was coming into my office from an early stage I decided, as match commander, to request that the match was brought forward from the Saturday to the Friday evening in an effort to minimise the risk of disorder and for the safety of all persons attending the fixture.

Leeds United has a countrywide fan base and in my opinion it was impossible for the club to ‘police’ the tickets ensuring that they went to the relevant supporters for the relevant terracing. As soon as I was aware of Leeds supporters being situated in every part of the ground, with a large contingent in the home terrace I immediately planned to move as many of them as the club was legally (due to the license) allowed to put in the away terrace.
As soon as it was practicably possible my officers moved those Leeds fans that appeared to be volatile or high risk from the home terrace to the away terrace. For the safety of all those concerned this was done in manageable stages, which resulted in excess of a hundred fans being moved from one end of the ground to the other without any disorder or injury.

Unfortunately due to the capacity of the away terracing we were unable to move every fan we would have wanted to, but we continually monitored any fans remaining in the other parts of the stadium.

In relation to any assaults that may have occurred we expect that the injured party report the offence to an officer as soon as possible as I am sure you can appreciate for any one of my officers to see an individual being assaulted in a crowd of nearly two thousand closely packed people (the majority of whom are singing and generally moving in some way) is virtually impossible.

Whilst I agree there were some mistakes made, the Club and the Constabulary will have a meeting prior to the start of the next football season to plan for all the fixtures in an effort to negating similar incidents that occurred on this evening.

Yeovil Town Official Club Statement, May 7th 2008.

Following the final league match of the season against Leeds United, the Club has conducted a thorough internal review of its operations and has completed a de-brief with the Avon and Somerset Police.

The fixture attracted a record attendance at Huish Park and represented the most demanding test of resources and procedures since the FA Cup match against Liverpool in 2004.

Leeds United have the sixth largest supporter following in the country but due to the size of the ground and the accompanying segregation issues the Club was only able to provide the visitors with 1600 tickets.

This scenario risked a substantial number of Leeds fans attempting to purchase their tickets in "home" designated areas.

At a very early stage, it became apparent that a few tickets had been purchased online by people residing at northern addresses.

Although this did not necessarily mean that the buyers were Leeds supporters it raised sufficient concerns for the Club to introduce a robust policy for the sale of tickets in relation to this fixture.

Thereafter no tickets were sold to people living outside of designated local post code areas and purchasers were limited to four tickets per person.

Many prospective purchasers were refused the opportunity to buy tickets because they were unable to convince staff in the ticket office that they were Yeovil Town supporters.

Despite these efforts a number of Leeds fans were evident in the Cowlin, Agusta Westland and Carlsberg stands.

In the majority of cases these fans conducted themselves in a perfectly acceptable manner.

However, there were also other contingents that were determined to infiltrate the "home" areas and behave inappropriately.

We apologise to any Yeovil Town fans whose enjoyment of the game and the occasion was impaired by the presence of these particular fans.

Although the review of operations has highlighted areas where improvements can be made in managing the safety and security of our fans for any future high profile match the stewards and police must be commended for the part they played in containing the potential trouble makers and thereby preventing any serious disorder.

Most of all however, the Club would like to praise and thank the Yeovil Town fans for the considerable restraint they showed in the response to the intimidation generated by the small minority of Leeds fans intent on causing disruption.

The Police Intelligence Officer has informed us that Yeovil Town fans are amongst the best behaved in the Football League, home and away, and that is something of which we should all be proud.

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