PL games must be more ‘safe and enjoyable’ as police pledge to tackle disorder

The Premier League and football’s police chief discussed “a number of options” to tackle the recent spate of crowd disorder incidents when they met on Friday.

The UK Football Policing Unit (UKFPU) released figures last week which showed a 36 per cent rise in disorder in the first half of this season compared to the same period in the 2019-20 campaign.

That was before a further spate of incidents last weekend, including the throwing of objects at Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger during Sunday’s match against Tottenham, and Everton fans throwing plastic bottles at Aston Villa’s Lucas Digne and Matty Cash the day before.

Objects were thrown at Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger during last Sunday's Premier League match against Tottenham
Objects were thrown at Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger during last Sunday’s Premier League match against Tottenham (Nick Potts/PA)

Chief Constable Mark Roberts of Cheshire Police, the National Police Chiefs’ Council football policing lead, wrote to the football authorities on Monday requesting an urgent meeting with them.

On Friday he held a pre-planned meeting with the Premier League, and although this had been organised to discuss match scheduling, the subject of disorder came up and Chief Constable Roberts said: “A number of options were discussed to tackle the shared concern we have about the recent incidents of disorder and the worrying trends we are seeing.

“Further discussions are planned to develop specific actions to help make Premier League games as safe and enjoyable as possible for the genuine football fans who attend them.”

Police sources would not expand on the options being discussed, while it is understood the Premier League felt the meeting had been a positive one.

The UKFPU found there were 759 reported incidents of disorder in the first half of the 2021-22 season, throughout which stadiums in England have been able to operate without capacity limits due to the easing of coronavirus restrictions.

That compares to 560 in the first half of the 2019-20 season, before the pandemic took hold.

In 2019-20, 34 per cent of games had an incident reported, but this season it is 48 per cent. Arrests are also up – with 802 football-related arrests in the first half of 2021-22, up 47 per cent from 2019-20 (547).

These increases are in spite of fewer matches being played in 2021-22 compared to 2019-20 due to postponements – 1,581 compared to 1,670.

The UKFPU found the biggest increase in reported incidents is in the Sky Bet Championship and the Vanarama National League, which saw rises of 58 and 56 per cent respectively.

It is understood no date has yet been set for the meeting requested by Chief Constable Roberts in his letter sent on Monday.