Twenty+ years after a pertinent observation – by a Sunderland supporter – was quoted in a book on football, 30+ after the quoted words were uttered, John McCormick is moved to ask: “Coincidence and cops: 30 years on, what’s new?” …
It’s a funny thing, coincidence. Monsieur Salut, in an introduction to Sixer’s most recent Soapbox, made passing reference to Ian Todd.
Only two days earlier the same Mr Todd had cropped up – for me – in a book called Football and its Fans*, which I just happened to be reading. It was published in 1992 so I’d had over 20 years to pick it up.
Sixer’s Soapbox finished with a comment on the policing of the game against West Brom:
“… many thanks to West Midlands Police for routing the returning coaches through parts of Birmingham that even Brummies know little of. They made us wait until almost 6pm and then, instead of a left turn past the ground and on to the M5, it was a right turn and the delights of Brown’s Green and Hamstead.”
It’s not just West Brom. It’s not just Sunderland, events at the last derby notwithstanding.
We read this week that Hull supporters are considering legal action after the West Yorkshire police force restricted the sale of tickets for the Huddersfield-Hull match and required all visiting fans to use official coaches, departing from Hull, arguing these restrictions are necessary to allow the match to be policed safely and effectively (and ignoring, disgracefully, the fact that supporters of Hull, or any other team, do not necessraily live in or even anywhere near the town or city where the club is based – ed).
The match was originally scheduled to kick off at 12.30pm but kick-off was changed to 5.30pm so it could be televised on Sky Sports. See footnote**.
West Yorkshire Police had apparently already refused permission for Sky to screen the home games against Leeds United and Cardiff City, although I’m not sure how they can do this, other than by prohibiting the games from going ahead at a time when Sky would want to broadcast.
What does Mr Todd have to do with all of this? It may interest our younger followers to know that not only has he been a stalwart Sunderland fan for over half a century, he’s been very active in the broader cause of football.
In the 1970s he took on the portfolio of “travel and crowd control” for the National Federation of Football Supporters’ Clubs. Football and its Fans made reference to this and to him in a chapter entitled “Relations with government and police”:
“… as a supporter living in London but following Sunderland he was in a sense an away fan every week. Reporting to the [Federation of Football Supporters’ Clubs] conference in 1982 Mr Todd directed attention at the “wide difference of attitude by police forces round the country to the way in which football supporters are handled. . . I think this is something we should concern ourselves about…”
Thirty years on, has anything changed?
* Football and its Fans by Rogan Taylor, was published by the Leicester University Press. It contains a dedication “to Trevor and Jennni Hicks in memory of their daughters, Sarah and Vicki; and to everyone else who lost loved ones at Hillsborough on April 15th, 1989”
** West Yorkshire’s assistant chief constable Craig Guildford has said this: “We are currently in negotiations and are speaking to both football clubs. Discussions will be taking place this week and we will update the public when a decision is reached.”
We must but hope Steve Bruce’s boss, Assem Allam, owner of Hull City, is not merely being optimistic when he says the police are “very sensible people” and “the situation is moving in our favour”. Failing that, we fervently hope a young Hull fan, Louis Cooper, 15, from Manchester (and credit to him for following a club with which he presumably has emotional attachment and not one of the moneybags Manchester teams), resoundingly wins a threatened legal action against West Yorkshire Police over travel and ticket restrictions.
In our mission to be fair to all, efforts were made tonight to contact West Yorks police. The website offers one automated rip-off line – “calls will be charged at … ” – and is otherwise a maze of denied access. If the force wishes to explain its position, or announce an update of its policy towards Hull supporters who necessarily start their day in, say, Manchester, Glasgow or Cardiff, the address is firstname.lastname@example.org