Friday, August 27, 2010


Saviour of the Fallen, Protector of the Weak, Friend of the Tall Ones, Keeper of the Peace

An article in today's Oxford Mail gives a reasonably interesting insight into the policing of Oxford United games. There's precious little by way of revelation, so as a piece of investigative journalism or even the sensationalist tabloid writing that the Mail seems to encourage these days, it's somewhat lacking.

The interesting factual snippet was that "Eleven Oxford United fans are banned from games for causing trouble, and 13 others are on bail for other football-related offences." Whether or not that constitutes a low or high number for a club of United's stature is sadly not revealed, nor is the nature of the alleged offences for which these people have been banned or bailed. In fact, the article seems to go out of its way to avoid any such analysis, which is a shame as it makes an interesting premise into nothing more than a policeman's bland diary.

This lack of depth is illustrated perfectly in the following paragraph: "Problems include racist chanting, throwing objects on the pitch, swearing and abusing stewards, and in extreme occasions, fights and pitch invasions." The implication is that these are problems faced by police officers at United fixtures, although as a season-ticket holder of many years and a reasonably regular attender of away games I've not heard any racist chanting for probably 15 years or more (although I have heard a lot of chanting that is offensive, and a lot of individual racist remarks). It's true that at Oxford there has long been a problem with throwing objects on the pitch, usually coins and almost always (but not exclusively) at away games. However, this statement by the reporter (Emily Allen isn't even quoting one of her interviewees at this juncture) is completely devoid of analysis: how prevalent are these problems, how many people have been arrested, charged, bailed, or banned for these offences, and is the trend towards these issues increasing or decreasing?

The two quotes at the end of the piece from supporters interviewed at the Wycombe Wanderers game, including one from a self-confessed trouble maker, are a small step in the direction of redressing the balance in favour of some objectivity, but in fact they don't really add anything to the main thrust of the article; if anything, they increase its shallowness. (Is it possible to increase shallowness? Maybe decreasing depth is the correct metaphor.) All in all, I'm really not sure why I bothered blogging about this, except maybe in the hope that someone will take up the gauntlet and write something that's actually worth reading about the subject. Breath will not be held.


Agree with you about the article, and also about the lack of any serious debate about the way that football matches are policed.

I was at the Wycombe game, well out of the way of any of the bother that was occurring. I was, however, disappointed and somewhat annoyed by the fact that I (and every other Oxford fan sitting on the right-hand side of the stand behind the goal) was being filmed by the Old Bill. I'm at a football match, causing no trouble, and trying to watch the game - why should the Police have the right to film me as though I'm a common criminal?

Anyway, having got myself cross about this, I did a very British thing. I wrote a letter.

Specifically, I wrote to Thames Valley Police to say that they had been filming me at a game, and that under the Data Protection Act, I have the right to request any footage they hold of me. I filled out the relevant forms, provided the ID they require, a recent photo of myself, and enclosed a cheque for their admin costs (£10, which they are entitled to ask for under the terms of the Act).

So, some copper now has to spend a morning whizzing through the camera footage and saving any images with me in them.

Childish? Yes. A waste of Police time? Very probably.

BUT... Just think if we ALL did it. If the Police had to spend hours every week doing this sort of crap, they'd surely come to the conslusion that filming innocent football fans isn't actually worth the candle.

Not sure whether/how this ties in with Martin's post or the newspaper article - but something to discuss, no doubt.
keep up the good work and thanks for making the internet a more intresting place for all oxford fans!

Top Banana Boris!!!
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