ArticlePDF Available

Police Liaison Officers at Football: Challenging Orthodoxy through Communication and Engagement



This article expands upon research on the use of Police Liaison Teams (PLTs) within public order policing operations surrounding football fixtures. Using a Participant Action Research approach, the article reports on PLT use across multiple events and locations with different police forces, different personnel and fans and divergent command perspectives, as well as comparative data from PLT and non-PLT events. It identifies how accountability dynamics associated with the classification and management of risk in the policing of football may explain the continued reliance on more coercive policing tactics, as well as a number of other barriers that hinder the development of PLT use at football. Despite this, the article provides evidence that PLTs can offer similar benefits to the policing of football as they do to the policing of protest. In particular, we argue that developing such approaches will make the policing of football more human-rights complaint.
Police Liaison Officers at Football.
Police Liaison Officers at Football: Challenging orthodoxy through communication and
Dr James Hoggett*
Senior Lecturer in Criminology. University of the West of England, Bristol.
Chief Superintendent Owen West
West Yorkshire Police.
*Corresponding author. Email
Police Liaison Officers at Football.
This paper expands upon research on the use of Police Liaison Teams’ (PLTs) within public order
policing operations surrounding football fixtures. Using a Participant Action Research approach,
the paper reports on PLT use across multiple events and locations with different police forces,
different personnel and fans and divergent command perspectives as well as comparative data from
PLT and non - PLT events. It identifies how accountability dynamics associated with the
classification and management of risk in the policing of football may explain the continued reliance
on more coercive policing tactics, as well as a number of other barriers that hinder the development
of PLT use at football. Despite this, the paper provides evidence that PLTs can offer similar
benefits to the policing of football as they do to the policing of protest. In particular we argue that
developing such approaches will make the policing of football more human rights complaint.
Key words: Police Liaison Teams, Public Order, Risk Classification, Human Rights, Football.
Police Liaison Officers at Football.
Public Order and Public Safety (POPS) Reform in the UK: policy, law and concepts
Police public order policy and practice in the UK has seen a slow but steady series of evidence
based reforms since the publication of two key reports in the aftermath of the policing of the G20
summit in London 2009 (Hoggett & Stott, 2012). Adapting to Protest (HMIC, 2009) and the
subsequent national guidance framework ‘Keeping the Peace’ (ACPO, 2010) identified the
statutory requirements and implications of the Human Rights Act (HRA; 1998) for public order
policing. These reports and subsequent related policy changes put forward a new conceptual
paradigm for public order policing that is focused around the balancing of rights and police
capacity for conflict resolution, through communication and dialogue as well as proportionate
coercion (Stott, 2009; Stott, Scothern & Gorringe, 2013). The recognition of the positive role that
police dialogue and engagement can play operationally in making public order strategy and tactics
more human rights compliant and the de-escalation and resolution of conflict are supported by a
corpus of studies using the Elaborated Social Identity Model (ESIM; Reicher, 1996; Stott, 2009).
These studies highlight the role that inter-group dynamics and social identity processes play within
crowd events (e.g. Drury and Reicher, 1999; Stott & Reicher, 1998).
The implications of ESIM for the police are profound and far reaching. An understanding of risk
to public order and how it is related to the intergroup dynamics of crowds forces the police to
reflect on their own practices and the potentially negative impact police strategy and tactics can
have on crowd behaviour (Reicher et al, 2004; 2007). It also requires the police to understand the
importance of ‘dynamic risk assessment’ and balanced tactical profiles (ACPO, 2010; Reicher et
al, 2007). As such, the theory suggests that the traditional means used by the police to characterise
‘risk’ as related merely to the presence or absence of individuals or groups that can be categorised
as such at an event are too rigid. This is because ‘risk’ can emerge and decline during an event
Police Liaison Officers at Football.
because of the patterns of intergroup interaction and can involve people who had come to the
event with no prior intention of engaging in ‘disorder’.
Consequently, from an evidence based perspective (Hoggett & Stott, 2012) ‘risk’ is dynamic within
crowds; a dynamic governed to some extent by interactions between crowd members and the
police (Reicher, 1996; Stott & Adang, 2003; Stott, 2011). In particular, where police deployments
are seen as illegitimate (unwarranted, heavy handed, indiscriminate, etc.) they can feed a dynamic
of escalation. In other words, particular forms of police intervention into a crowd which are
understood as illegitimate and indiscriminate increase the likelihood of crowd members
understanding conflict with the police as acceptable and those who engage in conflict as sharing
the same social identity (Stott & Drury, 2000). Moreover, research has highlighted the ways in
which such attempts to control ‘disorder’ can create the conditions for widespread conflict as a
kind of ‘self-fulfilling prophesy’. Evidence suggests that police commanders misunderstanding of
crowd dynamics lead them to deploy into crowds in ways that actually create the very disorder they
are seeking to prevent (Stott & Reicher, 1998).
On the other hand, the corollary of this process is that if the police can maintain intergroup
relations with crowd participants that are widely perceived as legitimate the opposite effect takes
place, a dynamic of ‘self-regulation is empowered, the potential for conflict is undermined (Stott
et al, 2007; 2008) and greater opportunities are recognised for avoiding confrontations (Hoggett
& Stott, 2010a; 2010b; Stott, Hoggett & Pearson, 2011). Thus, research and theory suggest that
the police need to be able to create and maintain a balance between their deployments and crowd
members perceptions of the ‘appropriateness’ of such deployments in order to enhance their
effectiveness in managing ‘risk’ during crowd events (Stott et al, 2007; EU, 2010; College of
Policing, 2017).
Police Liaison Officers at Football.
ESIM informed POPs: Strategy and tactics.
It has been argued that both the HRA (1998) and ESIM provide a legal and conceptual basis for
considering alternative options in the use of force continuum (Stott, Scothern & Gorringe, 2013).
On this basis, it has been suggested that the police should begin to move away from deterrence,
or instrumental compliance oriented, control and coercion tactics aimed at large sections of the
crowd (Atak, & Della Porta, 2016; Atak, 2017; Hoggett and Stott, 2010). Instead they should
pursue more facilitative and consent - based approaches which enhance perceptions of police
legitimacy and normative compliance among crowd participants (Stott, 2011). To help achieve
this, police can work towards developing tactics that reflect strategically four central tenets of
ESIM (Reicher et al., 2004, 2007). The first, ‘Education’, suggests the police develop ways of
gathering information that enable them to understand the objectives and motivations of the
identities of those within crowds, not just those believed to pose a risk to public order but also
others who come with no intention of creating ‘disorder’. The second, ‘Facilitation, suggests that
once these objectives have been understood the police can reorient toward not just the control of
negative behaviours but also the facilitation of the legitimate objectives of those different identities
within crowds. Thirdly ‘Communication’, suggests that tactics and technologies that aid
communication between police and protesters need to be enhanced and should form a central
component of all public order operations. Finally, the fourth, Differentiation’ demands that if the
police are required to intervene with force then, as far as is possible, it should not be directed at
the entire crowd whose peaceful behaviour must continue to be facilitated, as far as it is reasonable
and possible to do so. These four principles have been incorporated into policy and form an
element of national curriculum for police public order command training within the UK (College
of Policing, 2017)
Taken together then, theory, evidence and policy require the police to undertake a strategic shift
from merely seeking to control crowds through coercion toward seeking to empower crowds,
Police Liaison Officers at Football.
where possible, to control themselves through ‘self-regulation’. At the tactical level, within protest
policing at least, ESIM’s four pillars have been achieved through the development and deployment
of teams of specialist officers known as ‘Police Liaison Teams’. PLTs operationalise ESIM strategic
principles as interlocutors with protest organisers at the event planning stage and throughout the
event itself. Open and constructive dialogue is at the heart of the intended relationship to build
mutual confidence and engender a ‘no surprises’ approach (HMIC, 2009). Such a relationship
affords a greater understanding, for commanders, of the needs of groups within the crowd and
how best to facilitate their lawful objectives. Through their ongoing engagement PLTs can better
‘read’ the emerging and dynamic ‘risks’ and this insight enhances the capacity for police
proportionality by avoiding unnecessary tactical interventions and differentiation in their tactics
should intervention actually be required. (Gorringe & Rosie, 2013; Waddington, 2017)
While the implementation of PLTs has not been without its problems (Gilmore, Jackson & Monk,
2017) research from a range of events supports such predictions with evidence of less
confrontation, fewer arrests and less demand on resources (Stott, Scothern & Gorringe, 2013;
Gorringe et al, 2012; Waddington, 2013). Holgersson and Knuttson (2011) find similar benefits
with the ‘Dialogue Police’ in Sweden. Whatever the jurisdiction, the evidence surrounding the
dialogue based approach points toward the fact that the use of PLTs can play a key role in the
effective management of crowd dynamic and the avoidance of conflict.
Beyond Protest
The case of Friend and Countryside Alliance v United Kingdom (2009) makes clear that Article
10 (Freedom of Expression) and 11 (Freedom of Assembly and Association) rights arising under
the HRA, carry a universal application that are not confined exclusively to those engaging in protest
but also applies to crowds gathered in other contexts for other reasons. The relevant section merits
Police Liaison Officers at Football.
[The] primary or original purpose of art.11 was and is to protect the rights of peaceful demonstration and
participation in the democratic process…nevertheless, it would, in the Courts view, be an unacceptably
narrow interpretation of that article to confine it only to that kind of assembly, just as it would be too
narrow an interpretation of art.10 to restrict it to expressions of opinion of a political character..[the] court
is therefore prepared that art. 11 may extend to the protection of an assembly of an essentially social
character (cited in James & Pearson, 2015, p.15).
Any activity of an ‘essentially social character’ is thus to be protected. It is perhaps unarguable that
football is synonymously a shared social event and it follows then that the protections of Articles
10 and 11 apply as much to football crowds as they do to protest crowds. Accordingly, James and
Pearson (2015) argue that the specific aims of the crowd, whether protesting or attending a football
match, is immaterial - the overarching legal framework and obligations on the police remain the
same, to facilitate the rights of peaceful assembly, and expression. Consequently, James and
Pearson (2015) question the legality of current approaches to policing football within the UK by
highlighting that, the police systematically fail to apply what has been learned, codified, and
operationalised in protest policing. They thus rightly question why such developments do not
appear manifest in the policing of football crowds when the fundamental rights underpinning both
are the same and where the strategic and tactical advances made within policing of protest should
be equally suitable to football crowds. Indeed, much of the evidence used to develop and support
ESIM principles for protest was itself generated from the management of football crowds (e.g.
Stott et al, 2007, 2008).
One area that might shed light on this lack of development in the policing of football can be found
in relation to risk classification and associated accountability issues. Within the UK, the process
of ‘risk’ assessments surrounding football fixtures exists in order to underpin the operational
planning for the police public order operation. The ‘risk’ assessment largely determines the number
and role of officers that will be rostered by the responsible Basic Command Unit (BCU) to police
the event. In other words, ‘risk’ assessment is as much about mobilisation and resource planning
as it is about actual disorder. Officially, football match risk classifications range across; Police Free,
where no risks are identified that require police officers to be deployed to the event (e.g., 999 or
Police Liaison Officers at Football.
101 response only); SO Spotters Only no specific risks identified but police spotters deployed.
Spotters are police officers who are deployed both at home and away matches who have a wider
knowledge of all supporters associated with the clubs they police and whose main role is
information/intelligence gathering and community engagement; A low risk of disorder, B
medium risk of disorder, C high risk of disorder, CIR increased risk of disorder due to specific
concerns (College of Policing, 2017).
The College of Policing (2017) suggest that it is essential that the risk in relation to individuals and
groups is quantifiable and dynamically assessed. The description of a group or individual as ‘risk’
is not sufficient on its own; there must be a specific reference to the actual risk posed by individuals
or groups. Despite this, research has consistently found that risk assessment at football is based
on intelligence reports regarding the likely presence or absence of risk fans who follow each club
(see Council of Europe 2010 or College of Policing APP for formal definition of risk fans) as well
as more informally upon the history of any prior disorder between the clubs playing each other
(Hoggett & Stott, 2010a).
Reflecting this, the policing of football has historically been focused around the identification and
control of risk fans and, where ‘risk’ is expected to materialise, dealt with primarily through the
mobilisation and deployment of ‘spotters’ to categorise, exclude or identify those fans deemed as
‘risk’ and public order trained officers (PSU’s) who seek to control the movement of fans that are
categorised in this way (Hoggett & Stott, 2010a; 2010b). To go against such institutional orthodoxy
in the policing of football may raise accountability issues and be perceived by senior officers as a
recipe for both ‘on’ and ‘in the job’ trouble (Waddington, 1994). This overall approach to risk and
operational planning might therefore help explain why research on the policing of football suggests
it has become stuck with a particular command and control policing model when compared to the
policing of protest (James & Pearson, 2015; Hoggett & Stott, 2012).
Police Liaison Officers at Football.
Recently however, there have been signs that innovations may be beginning to challenge this
orthodoxy. For example, Stott, West and Radburn (2016) analysed the deployment of PLTs during
a routine football match. They found that in line with protests, the presence of PLTs played an
important role in adding depth and quality to risk assessment thereby improving command
decision making. PLTs appeared to enhance the capacity for dialogue between the police and fans
supporting self-regulation and assisting the police commander to avoid disproportionate
interventions. PLTs also reported examples of their positive influence on influential figures in the
crowd and how they added to the situational awareness of their commanders.
Despite this, Stott, West and Radburn (2016) identified problems with the integration of PLTs
within the operational plan. Put as plainly as possible, there was considerable resistance to their
use among many of the police officers involved in the operation itself. Therefore, the tasking of
PLTs was piecemeal and their involvement not recognised as a tactical means for the police to
achieve their Article 10 and 11 obligations or operationalising ESIM crowd management
principles. A striking feature throughout the study was not so much their relationship to fans but
the internal dynamics at play between the PLTs and their colleagues.
The current study
While existing evidence of benefits and barriers to PLT use within the policing of football is
illuminating it is also limited in terms of wider applicability due to its single site, single event
method (Stott et al., 2016). The current study therefore expands upon the existing research by
reporting on a wider exploration of PLT use at football across multiple events and locations with
different police forces, different personnel and fans and divergent command perspectives as well
as comparative data from PLT and non - PLT events. By doing so, the study begins to address the
limitations of Stott et al.’s (2016) single case study approach to develop a wider evidence corpus
through which to assess the potential of PLT use at football.
Police Liaison Officers at Football.
In keeping with previous research in this area (e.g. Stott et al, 2013) a mixed method approach was
adopted (Johnson, & Onwuegbuzie, 2004). Using a broadly ethnographic framework, data was
obtained from field observations, focus groups, semi structured interviews and a qualitative survey
with police officers, interviews with fans, police policy reviews and police data (resources and
arrests). Such a framework allowed for multiple data points and triangulation as well as the
narrative power of the case study (Gray, 2014).
The research was a collaborative project between the first author (an academic) and the second
author (a senior operational police officer). This collaborative approach was further strengthened
by adopting a Participant Action Research (PAR) approach (Stott, 2016; Rai, 2012).
Observations were made by teams of police officers and academics who attended the event as
guests of the host police force. These teams were comprised of experienced public order
commanders from a number of different police forces from around the country as well as
academics with backgrounds in public order policing and crowd psychology. At each observation
either one or both authors were part of the team while the other members were comprised of
different personal at different observation sites.
As part of this process, observation teams were able to attend operational briefings, conduct
interviews in the field and record field notes. During the operations, the teams were split into pairs
or small groups and spread across the operational footprint to enable the capture of data from
multiple viewpoints. Data captured included direct observation recorded as written field notes,
transcripts of police radio transmissions cross referenced against command and control logs, and
police deployment records. All of the data relating to each event was reviewed by the observation
teams to reach a consensus of key themes and their relevance to theoretical points of interest. The
benefits of having academic expertise and experience in field observations alongside police officers
is that it promotes knowledge co production between police and academia and allows data to
Police Liaison Officers at Football.
emerge from the theoretical as well as the operational perspective (Crawford, 2017; Denicolo,
2014; Heron, 1996). This approach gave confidence in understanding how the police operation
related to the behaviour of the fans as well as confidence that variations in what happened on the
ground potentially linked to the presence or absence of PLTs in the operation.
To address the issue of generalisability the research adopted a multisite approach (Herriott, &
Firestone, 1983) using data obtained in relation to observations made at 6 different football police
operations across two police force jurisdictions, specifically West Yorkshire police (WYP) and
West Midlands police (WMP). These matches were sampled purposively as they represented a
broad range of risk and resourcing issues. Within West Yorkshire two operations were observed
where PLTs were deployed; Bradford V Oldham (5th April, 2014; Category B-IR) and Huddersfield
v Leicester (26th April 2014, Category B) and two observed where PLTs were not deployed; Leeds
V Derby (3rd May 2014, Category B) and Leeds V Millwall (14th February, 2015; Category C).
Within the West Midlands force area observations took place at two games where PLTs were
deployed, West Bromwich Albion v Sunderland (21st January, 2017; Category A) and West
Bromwich Albion v Stoke City (4th February, 2017; Category B).
Additionally, data was also captured from two focus groups, one with officers from WMP who
included Police Liaison Officers (PLOs), football spotters, and public order commanders (n=12)
and one with PLOs from WYP (n=8). These focus groups discussed PLT use at football more
generally rather than focusing on any specific fixture and this data was further supplemented by
interviews with PLOs from WMP (N=13) and a qualitative survey completed by PLOs from WYP
(n=34). Finally, post event interviews were also conducted with away supporters (n=9) from the
two WBA fixtures observed.
All the data was initially treated as independent case studies to enable a detailed and contextualised
in-depth level of analysis to be developed. Each separate case study was then critically analysed
using a broadly thematic framework (Braun and Clarke, 2006) to identify and then draw out
Police Liaison Officers at Football.
common theoretical and practical points of interest. These points were then triangulated to build
an understanding of the common patterns across the events observed and an analysis of police
perspectives and approaches more generally, which form the framework for the analysis set out
below. The analysis is organised into two sections, the first is based primarily on the observational
data from the operations and the second is based primarily upon interview data (both
contemporaneous and post hoc) on the policing of football and PLT use at football more generally
(including focus groups, interviews and survey data).
1. Analysis: Observational accounts
1.1 Risk classification
Observations from across all events identified some common issues that are worthy of discussion.
It was evident that despite the College of Policing (2017) stating that it is essential that risk in
relation to public order operations be quantifiable and dynamically assessed this was not occurring
in relation to the football operations we observed. Instead information about risk was largely based
on historical information about disorder between fans of the two teams, recent information about
disorder involving fans of either one of the teams at other games that season and the anticipated
presence of risk supporters from either club at the fixture. Where there was little or no direct
information about such risk then general behavioural information, for example about alcohol
consumption and the possibility of spontaneous disorder was used to justify the risk classification
for the fixtures. Observations suggest that there was little questioning of the intelligence or
analytical discussion about whether the existing classifications were justified. Subsequently, this
resulted in a focus in both pre-planning and preparation stages, as well as during the operations
themselves, on categorising and then controlling ‘risk’ supporters of the visiting team.
Police Liaison Officers at Football.
1.2 Pre-planning and preparation
In terms of pre-planning and preparation, intelligence that was gathered before the event to classify
the risk posed by the fixture was important because it related directly to subsequent decisions on
the number and type of resources deployed. Yet, despite being ‘intelligence’ led, issues of ‘under’
and ‘over’ resourcing matches were observed at several of the fixtures. For example, for one
category C game resource data shows that two hundred and forty-five officers were deployed by
the end of the operation while the total number of visiting fans was only two hundred and thirty-
six. Our observations identified no apparent threats to public order throughout. Perhaps
unsurprisingly there was subsequent widespread condemnation of the police operation in the local
media (Jacks, 2015). In contrast, in a cup fixture the following day in a nearby city under the same
police jurisdiction, there were strong indicators of potential risk identified by our observations and
‘disorder’ did occur. Yet here only 100 officers were deployed to police a contingent of more than
4,000 away fans.
1.3 Risk and operational deployment
Observations across all events also identified how the categorisation of risk prior to the football
operations impacted on the overall operational focus, in that for each, resources were generally
focused on categorising risk supporters associated with both teams as well as managing the
movement of away supporters more generally. However, our observations often identified that it
was home supporters who posed the greater risk for public disorder. Indeed, our observations
identified how the simple act of arriving as an away supporter at a fixture meant by default that
you were subject to the greatest police attention. Ad hoc discussions with several commanders
suggests this decision is simply determined by the ratio of officers to supporters and recognition
that if needed, it is easier to control a relatively smaller number of away supporters with the
resources available than a much large number of home supporters.
Police Liaison Officers at Football.
This focus on away supporters was also linked to the type of resource that took primacy within all
operations we observed. Police Support Units (PSU’s), are a structure that allows for the effective
mobilisation and deployment of police resources as a standard unit (College of Policing, 2015).
Invariantly PSUs were the dominant choice of police resource. While a proven public order
resource, research suggests their deployment should be as a final option within a more balanced
tactical profile to policing football crowds (Stott et al, 2007; 2008). Their deployment at football
in advance of any disorder therefore raises questions about proportionality and human right
compliance. Furthermore, this favouring of PSU’s as the default resource meant that in the
operations observed that did utilise PLTs, they appeared bolted onto this existing structure rather
than replacing or operating separately from it. This raises questions about whether PLTs have the
same ability to operate at football as they do at protest events where in respect to the latter they
have greater tactical autonomy to deliver facilitative strategies because they are more routinely used
and integrated into planning and mobilisation processes (Gorringe & Rosie, 2013; Waddington,
2017). Despite this observations were still able to identify some key differences between those
operations that used PLT officers and those that didn’t in terms of operational flexibility, dynamic
risk assessment, decision making, and de-escalation.
1.4 Static risk and deployment intransigence
For one fixture, categorised in advance as C-IR at which PLTs were not utilised, away supporters
were required to meet the host police at a rendezvous point at a nearby motorway service station
and were then escorted to the stadium. Our data indicate only 216 away fans travelled to this
fixture and that no individuals categorised by police as risk were identified at the rendezvous point.
Despite this manifestation indicating the earlier ‘intelligence led’ categorisation was less than
accurate no reconsideration of the risk classification for the fixture or potential redeployment of
resources was undertaken by the Silver commander.
Police Liaison Officers at Football.
The bulk of away supporters were escorted to the stadium without issue, but just after the match
had kicked off a small group of away supporters arrived unexpectedly and unescorted at the
stadium, some, but not all, of whom were identified as ‘risk’ by the away team spotter.
Subsequently, the entire group became referred to in radio transmissions as “the away risk group”.
As if to illustrate their status as ‘risk’ the Silver commander called for additional resources from
the Operational Support Group, or OSU (specialised public order officers). It was apparent that
it was the act of moving and arriving outside of police control measures that was the primary factor
that led to their designation as ‘risk’, their presence in turn then used not just to justify the police’s
initial categorisation of the fixture and the related resource requirements but also to legitimise the
subsequent call for reinforcements in an already heavily resourced police operation.
This notion of the group as risk fans continued even after the visiting football spotter spoke to the
group to ascertain why they had not travelled to the fixture via the RV point. The fans claimed
they had made their own way as a deliberate protest against the pre-match travel conditions
imposed on them. In other words, they had travelled independently as a reassertion of their rights.
The supporters were ultimately denied entry to the ground and a PSU was used to escort them
from the stadium to the train station and accompany them on the first available train out of the
force area
. This is a powerful example of how an apparent lack of dynamic ‘risk’ assessment was
associated with use of police resources in ways that appeared disproportionate to the actual risk
posed and to tactics which, at the very least, appeared at odds with the facilitation of supporter’s
rights arising under the HRA in terms of both expression as well as assembly and association.
1.5 Dynamic risk assessment, operational flexibility and decision making
Observations from another match within the same force identified that where PLTs were deployed
they could assist in making dynamic risk assessments which did feed into operational decision
The legal basis for the refusal of entry to the ground and the subsequent removal from the force area
was not captured by the observation team.
Police Liaison Officers at Football.
making in a way that enabled flexibility in tactical deployments. In turn, such deployments could
avoid being disproportionate or perceived as illegitimate. For example, during the operation,
approximately eighty away fans had coalesced at a pub a few miles away from stadium. Several
individuals affiliated to the home team and subsequently categorised as ‘risk’ mobilised towards
the pub, in what our observations noted appeared to be an attempt to attack the away contingent.
This situation put the commander under some pressure to enforce a police containment and escort
on the away fans and he began making preparations for such including issuing a request for the
force helicopter to be used. On this occasion, however, the PLTs through their early and ongoing
dialogue and engagement with the group of away fans had established that most presented no risk
of premeditated disorder and therefore did not need to be treated as if they all did. Moreover,
realising the need to get the group to the stadium in time for kick off, a PLT influenced the majority
to make their own way to the stadium in safety by taxi (Stott, West & Radburn, 2016).
Consequently, the overwhelming majority of fans, that otherwise would have been escorted, made
their own way to the stadium. Only a relatively few individuals, categorised by the visiting police
spotter as ‘risk’, were left at the premises. Eventually the few fans remaining in the pub also decided
to travel by taxi and the requirement to undertake the escort was removed and increased resources
required for it were stood down.
Further evidence of the benefits that PLTs can offer through their ability to validate risk and
influence operational decision making can be found after the match at the same fixture. A
prominent away ‘risk’ supporter was seen drinking in a city centre pub of the home team and
concern was raised by the police about his intentions and the risk he posed by merely remaining
in the city. However, through their engagement with him the PLT officers were able to ascertain
that he did not pose a threat and able to influence the commanders decision such that he did not
deploy officers to unnecessarily coerce him to leave the city centre even though it was recognised
by some officers that they did not actually have any legal power to lawfully require him to do so.
Police Liaison Officers at Football.
Observations from another event at which PLTs were deployed also identified how they could
proactively intervene in situations themselves using dialogue and communication to de-escalate
risk. For example, as away supporters were making their way back to their transport after a match
an individual could be heard aggressively shouting and swearing at officers complaining that he
had just been assaulted by a police officer. While this original altercation was not observed, PSU
officers were seen pushing him away from them which appeared to be taken by several fans as
further incitement. However, a PLT officer stepped up to the individual and begun talking with
him. During a period of approximately 5 minutes they were able to calm and placate the individual
and defuse the situation.
2. Officer and Supporter Accounts
2.1 Risk, accountability and barriers to change
While observational accounts are useful for drawing out illustrative examples, data captured from
a range of other sources are also illuminating. For example, analysis of the 2014/15 Gold strategy
for football within West Yorkshire Police indicated a stark contrast to the strategic developments
that have been made in the policing of protest and the application of Articles 10 and 11 of the
Human Rights Act. The strategy states the ‘overall aim’ for the police is ‘to work with stadia
management and local authorities and other agencies to ensure the safety of spectators and the communities
surrounding the venues’. It also requires crime control activity as well as a requirement to ‘collect, assess
and disseminate intelligence’ (West Yorkshire Police, 2014). A similar strategic focus on crime control
was identified from discussions in the WMP focus group where an officer noted how;
‘Historically you have been directed to focus on preventative tactics to prevent disorder, and an intelligence
feed to support the FIOs’ (RES9).
Police Liaison Officers at Football.
Reflecting the observational analysis, it can be seen how this ‘crime control’ focus is underpinned
by static pre-event risk classifications which in turn influence the number and type of resources
that are deployed. Our analysis suggests that this is partly because the classification of risk creates
accountability issues for officer decision making. Within such a context doing something different
to the ‘crime control’ approach may be perceived as a risk of ‘in the job’ trouble to both the officers
involved as well as the wider reputation of the organisation. This was noted by officers in the
WMP focus group who were explicit about how fears of reputational damage explained why
operational change at football was slow and not yet widespread across the force;
‘Would we have been happy to have done it at other football clubs as well, [use PLTs], but like there
wasn’t a willingness from the force to do that. I think they felt they were putting their neck, or their head
above the parapet a little bit with this anyway because I think politically it was not deemed as the right
thing to be doing’ (RES11).
While concerns about possible ‘in the job’ difficulties that might arise from trialling something
different were noted, WMP officers also discussed how colleagues had concerns about the
potential for ‘on the job’ trouble to develop in games where PLTs were used. This was due to a
perception that the gap created by replacing public order officers with PLTs might mean that the
police’s ability to control crowds through coercion should they need to would be weakened.
Officers identified how such concerns could again make fellow officers more risk averse;
‘I think you’re always going to have a situation whichever season it is where some games you’re going to
come away and say whoo bloody hell … we got away with that [yeah] but actually if you turn it round
every single week and say we got away with that, and you’ve had two season where you’ve got away with it
and nothing’s happened, are you actually getting away with it or actually are you averse to the risk
sometimes. If I look back to when the football unit’s set up, okay swinging the lead a bit here, but you look
at all the spotters there, the thought of reducing any resources on any fixture would have been frowned upon
Police Liaison Officers at Football.
as being ahh it’s just going to be complete chaos, you can never have those two teams playing on the same
day … you can never have a kick off at that time’ (RES1).
Analysis of officer accounts also identified a range of other issues that appear to impede the use
and development of PLTs at football. In a survey of PLTs used by one of our participating forces
many reported experiencing resistance and hostility by police colleagues to their role in football
policing. For example, in the survey we asked PLOs in West Yorkshire to describe any negative
aspects to their experiences; 87% reported hostility and negative reactions from colleagues and
47% described what they believed to be inappropriate, ineffective or counterproductive
deployments by their Commanders. Similar concerns were shared in interviews with PLOs in
WMP, for example;
“On the whole the role has been very successful but it has also depended on who the bronze has been for the
game and how keen or supportive they are of the role” (PLT2 WMP).
“I have found some Gaffers have been very positive when viewing PLT officers on their deployment, however
some clearly do not like the role and see it as taking level 2
resources from them” (PLT5 WMP).
2.2 The benefits of managing risk through engagement and communication
PLOs and some commanders spoke about how they could play an important role in managing risk
through their ability to engage with supporters. In fact, one of the key drivers for the deployment
of PLTs at football was recognition that public order officers (PSU’s) when deployed stopped
Level 2 resources refer to officers that have received appropriate training and equipment to deal
with potential/actual threat(s) and who can be called upon to provide mutual aid to other forces.
Police Liaison Officers at Football.
talking with people thus creating a communication gap. For example, within the WMP focus group
it was noted:
“I think the issue is it’s the mind-set of the officers, if you’ve got a yellow jacket on and you’re a level two
there’s a tendency not to engage so much whether its football or protests” (Focus group RES2)
In terms of discussing why it is that officers, who in their normal roles would be proactively
engaging with members of the public, don’t when deployed in public order operations another
officer explained how;
‘It’s almost a Pavlovian response, they’ve been given this twelve month refresher training which includes
petrol bombing and physical confrontational situations, they’re dressed in the same attire, they’re given a
briefing and if you say to them you must be wandering around they might not physically be able to break
away from the mould of, they’re in a van, they’re wearing the pads, they’re there for the worst case
scenario’ (RES11).
Given evident concerns about the ability of PSU officers to communicate with supporters, PLTs
appear to have been deployed to potentially plug this gap, reflecting observations about their bolt
on nature. Despite this, officers described how when they were deployed, they were able to pro-
actively engage in dialogue with fans. For example, a PLO spoke about the positive benefits that
they had experienced while engaged in the role at football;
“At WBA v Tottenham we were allowed to go up to this pub and engaged well with some definite prominent
figures from Tottenham, and the feedback was good with them comparing us positively against the policing
styles that they were used to in London. This was also the same with West Ham, but again they were
under no illusion that the policing was still tight and professional and I also made it known that we would
also be inside the ground during the game. I can add that a number of these same persons actively engaged
with us in the ground when we were posted to the gantry areas and the smoking area at half time” (PLT4
Police Liaison Officers at Football.
Similar experiences from West Yorkshire were also discussed by PLOs;
“…one of the lads says y’know I quite like it now you’re here because we’re all still doing our chants and
singing our songs and this and that and the other, but they’re not getting as lairy as they usually
would…they’re [Oldham fans] happy you’re here and it’s nice to y’know interact with you rather than
being stared at all the time and it’s a little oppressive really innit when they’re stood there like monkeys wi’
muscles, just glaring and spoiling people’s fun, and sometimes once they’ve had a pint, it’s a bit of a challenge
innit, bit a bravado, let’s see if we can goad a police officer a little bit or do something that we wouldn’t
usually, go a little bit too far. We didn’t have none of that, they were lovely…” (RB, Bradford City Vs
Oldham Athletic).
PLOs also provided examples of where the earlier rapport created with fans through
communication and dialogue paid dividends later when the same group were becoming
problematic. For example, a WMP PLO noted;
“I was present when a group of supporters were becoming rowdy and a steward feared disorder. I approached
the group who I had spoken to earlier. Straight away their barriers were down as there was an element of
recognition and we were able to resolve the matter without resorting to arrest (PLT3 WMP)”.
Arguably, in these instances at least, PLO engagement with supporters appeared to enhance their
capability to provide improved intelligence to commanders which in turn could assist in their
decision making. For example, PLOs noted how fans were confident in communicating with them
when they had concerns about fellow supporter’s behaviour;
“I have witnessed first-hand supporters informing me of problem supporters within the away section.
Perhaps without the rapport we foster this would not have been the case” (PLT3, WMP).
The benefits of PLTs at football in terms of the greater communication and interaction they
engendered between police and supporters were also commented upon by supporters themselves.
Police Liaison Officers at Football.
For example, from the fixture between West Bromwich and Sunderland, supporters noted how
Policing seemed quite low key and far more relaxed than we might expect from WMP, at least based on
some experiences of a few years ago” (SU2).
Similarly, from the match between West Bromwich and Stoke, fans reported how;
West Midlands Police in the past had a well-earned reputation for being anti football fan, and in general
with my red/white tinted specs on anti-Stoke. Maybe it’s something well-earned with regards my beloved
Club and indeed, this particular fixture does seem to attract some proper Neanderthals from The Potteries.
Still, it seems like the modern era has made WMP a different beast” (SC1);
Accounts from PLOs and some commanders acknowledge that they could offer benefits to
policing operations at football as well as at protest events. PLOs discussed how they felt that
football supporters benefited from their involvement in match day operations;
All off this was hugely welcomed by the fans, the feedback was positive some saying it was the best approach
they had seen at football grounds” (PLT1 WMP).
Similarly, other PLOs described how;
“All in all I think this role has been a great success at West Brom. On various occasions I have been
asked by supporters why officers have suddenly started approaching and attempting to talk to them. It is
at this time that I have been able to explain the role of PLT which has always been greatly received as a
step in the right direction” (PLT4 WMP).
A public order commander from WMP also identified similar benefits;
I think what we are getting is we’re getting some really positive feedback on those away supporters that
are coming, and suddenly finding hang on a second, I’ve had a police officer here that’s welcoming me to
wherever … spoken to me and that’s not the police I remember from a couple of .. you know the last time
Police Liaison Officers at Football.
I came here, it was horrendous and I got pushed around, this, that and the other, and word spreads out’
Importantly it was acknowledged by officers that football has changed a lot since the days where
a fear of and focus on football hooliganism dominated peoples thinking and experience and that
it was time that policing reflected this. This would help to make policing of football more Article
10 and 11 compliant as well as potentially improve police legitimacy at and public enjoyment of
“Football has changed and we need to change with it. Clearly we must retain an ability to respond to
sporadic disorder but we should not forget that the vast majority of modern football supporters have paid
large sums of money and travelled large distances to watch this particular form of entertainment. I have
found that fans reactions to being spoken to throughout the day have been 100 % positive. Fans appreciate
being treated as normal members of the public rather than an assumption of disorder” (PLT 5 WMP).
The current study examined the policing of football across multiple events and locations with
different police forces, different personnel and fans and divergent command perspectives as well
as comparative data from PLT and non - PLT events to develop a wider evidence corpus through
which to assess the potential values and problems of PLT use at football. The analysis was divided
into two sections. The first, observational accounts, identified issues relating to risk classification,
pre-planning and preparation, as well as risk and operational deployment. The second, an analysis
of officer and supporter accounts, identified issues relating to risk, accountability and barriers to
change, as well as the potential benefits of policing football through greater engagement and
communication. Overall the analysis suggests that PLT officers at football have the same ability to
create meaningful dialogue with football supporters and increase perceptions of police legitimacy
as they do with protestors at marches and demonstrations (Gorringe et al, 2012; Stott, Scothern &
Police Liaison Officers at Football.
Gorringe, 2013; Waddington, 2013) but that several issues need to be addressed to increase their
effectiveness (Stott et al., 2016).
In terms of pre-planning and preparation for policing football matches, observational accounts
suggest that currently risk classification within the arena of football is primarily an organisational
process to unlock and mobilise resources. However, our study suggests that it is not merely the
‘intelligence led’ risk of disorder that takes president but the risk of not having resources available
if disorder were to occur that drives this process. This in turn appears to result in a strategic focus
on controlling those fans categorised as ‘risk’ specifically, as well as away fans more generally, and
a tactical pre-occupation with using PSU officers and spotters to achieve strategic goals in practice.
This might help explain why when PLTs where used they did not appear to be well integrated with
the wider operation and instead were almost bolted on, that is used as an additional resource with
no clear understanding of how they were to be used or resourced. Overall, this suggests that the
organisational architecture surrounding the policing of football plays a role in the creation of
policing operations that have become ‘stuck’ on identifying and controlling ‘risk’ fans rather than
recognising their important negative and positive duties for facilitating supporters through the
prioritisation of Article 10 and 11 rights (James & Pearson, 2015).
What is more, our observations identified several examples of what we judged to be over and
under resourcing, and subsequent deployments that lacked proportionality in both a psychological
and legal sense. Observations also identified a reluctance to alter deployments or re-categorise risk
as behaviour materialised on the ground in ways that indicated the initial risk assessment was
inaccurate. Not only is this counter to College of Policing (2017) risk assessment directives and at
odds with Article 10 and 11 based approaches but it also has the potential to create negative
intergroup interactions and escalate conflict (Stott, Hoggett & Pearson, 2011; Stott, et al., 2007;
Police Liaison Officers at Football.
Despite this, where PLTs were deployed, observational data suggests that the police were better
able to respond to information and emerging risk in a more proportionate and dynamic way.
Observations suggest that PLTs could play an important role in providing information to aid risk
assessment thereby improving command decision making and avoiding unnecessary interventions.
This is important as ESIM research shows that risk is dynamic and the outcome of intergroup
interaction and therefore it is vital that the police are able to create and maintain a balance between
their deployments and crowd members’ perceptions of the appropriateness of such deployments
to effectively manage risk in crowd events (Stott & Adang, 2003).
Building on observational data, our officer accounts are illuminating. Our analysis identified how
static definitions of risk within the policing of football created accountability issues for
commanders. These accountability issues in turn may influence police decisions to adopt
command and control orientated approaches, in effect drawing upon an orthodoxy in order to
be able to defend against colleagues’ accusations of failing to ‘get a grip’ should disorder develop
on ‘their watch’. Because of these established processes, to move beyond the orthodoxy may leave
operational commanders susceptible to criticism for going against accepted practice and wisdom.
In other words, our analysis suggests that doing something different is a ‘risk’ in and of itself as it
opens the police up to accountability dynamics associated with ‘on the job’ and ‘in the job’ trouble
(Waddington, 1994). The key reports and developments into the policing of protest crowds
(HMIC, 2009; ACPO, 2010) has to some extent mitigated such accountability issues within the
arena of policing protest through a recognition of the dynamic nature of risk in protest events.
This led to the development of ‘bottom up’ innovation (Gorringe, Stott & Rosie, 2013) that has
evolved into new national strategies and tactics and a supporting evidence base, but this innovation
has not yet occurred within the policing of football and it appears change has not been as self-
evident (Hoggett & Stott, 2012).
Police Liaison Officers at Football.
In common with Stott (2016), further examination of officer accounts identified a number
of additional barriers to and internal tensions with the implementation of PLTs at football that
may hinder such development. Conflict over the role and responsibilities of PLTs compared to
PSU officers and football spotters was identified, as was command concerns that PLT deployment
was taking away PSU resources. This suggests that in order to create internal legitimacy for the
approach, more work is needed to educate mainstream public order officers of the value, role, and
benefit of their PLT colleagues in the policing of football. Such change management issues have
previously been identified in the policing of protest (Hoggett & Stott, 2012). We suggest that in
order to achieve this the growing evidence basis for PLT use needs to be highlighted so that the
resulting clarity of purpose and prior learning can filter down into operational practice.
Despite the range of issues that impacted upon the deployment of PLTs at football, officer and
supporter accounts also suggested several benefits. Firstly, it was identified how PLTs could
address a communication gap created by a lack of engagement of PSU officers at football. PLT
officers discussed how they were able to engage with supporters, both risk and non-risk and
develop rapport with them and work toward the facilitation of legitimate behaviour. Analysis
therefore suggests that their benefits relate to the embedding of ESIM’s four central tenets,
‘EFCD’, (Reicher et al, 2007) within the PLT role when policing football. Secondly, PLOs reported
how their ability to create dialogue and engagement also opened up lines of communication with
supporters that added to the depth and quality of information that they could provide to
commanders to assist with their decision making. It was identified how this information could help
avoid unnecessary or potentially disproportionate actions that may result in an escalation of
conflict as a kind a self-fulling prophecy (Stott & Reicher, 1998).
Thirdly, as with previous research into PLT use in public order events, officers reported a resultant
greater situational awareness (Stott, 2016) which in turn enabled them to ‘problem solve’ as
and when situations developed which helped to manage risk in a dynamic manner. For example,
Police Liaison Officers at Football.
PLT officers spoke about how through engagement they had been able to gain compliance from
supporters, both risk and non-risk, which enabled them to avoid having to use more coercive
methods such as arrest. Finally, supporters suggested that they had noticed a positive change within
WMP where PLTs were used and reported how such experiences compared favourable to those
they had previously experienced when attending football at West Bromwich.
There are of course important limitations that need to be acknowledged. The observations were
conducted over a long time frame rather than within a single season. It is possible police attitudes
towards PLT use at football have altered between the 2014-2017 observations. Similarly, supporter
data from 2017 observations were not matched with comparative data form earlier observations.
Moreover, the analysis is largely conjectural in its assumptions that PLTs helped prevent ‘disorder
since we have no guarantees that the potentially escalatory situations we encountered within the
study would have otherwise developed into actual confrontation. Conducting the same research
within the same season, across the two force areas, from a greater number of games and capturing
data from fans in all of these events would increase confidence in overall analysis. Despite this,
the study set out to address limitations identified in the previous study of PLT use at football (Stott
et al, 2016). It did so through adopting a multi-event, multi-force approach including comparative
data from PLT and non PLT events as well as by capturing supporter perspectives. This evidence
basis therefore helps add to that which already exists and begins to enable specific
recommendations about the precise tactical deployment of PLTs at football to be discussed.
It is apparent that there is growing recognition both external and internal to the police that the
way in which football is managed and football fans treated needs to change. James and Pearson
(2015) identify that there is a human rights issue that underpins this need. While of course this is
important, the theory and evidence underpinning the development and use of communication and
Police Liaison Officers at Football.
engagement based tactics such as PLTs and how they enable compliance with Articles 10 & 11 as
a by-product of their ability to manage crowd dynamics also needs recognition. While the use of
PLTs in the policing of protest in the UK has become common practice, the policing of football
is currently lagging behind in both practice and policy. This paper highlights that there are a
number of barriers that need to be addressed in order to overcome this. For example, it has
identified how this lag results from an organisational architecture in which the primary purpose of
football ‘risk’ assessments appears to be to determine the ability to mobilise resources. In turn, this
feeds into a form of institutional orthodoxy surrounding the strategies and tactics used to police
football. Within this context accountability dynamics place pressure on officers to not deviate from
these established processes resulting in a continuing default reliance on strategies of control and
the primacy of PSUs to tactically deliver this strategy. Despite this, where commanders are willing
to risk innovation, for example through the use of PLTs, the current paper argues that similar
benefits are offered to the policing of football as they are to the policing of protest. Moreover,
while the current paper has focused on PLTs, it is their ability to engage with supporters that
appears to deliver benefits. As such this paper advocates that it is this capability that needs to be
developed and delivered within the policing of football rather than it simply being dependent on
the presence or absence of PLTs. The current paper adds to the growing evidence basis, which,
suggests that in the future the policing of football and protest can become re-aligned through
communication and dialogue based approaches, thus making it human rights compliant and
reducing conflict at and costs incurred by such events.
Police Liaison Officers at Football.
Atak, K., & Della Porta, D. (2016). Popular uprisings in Turkey: Police culpability and constraints
on dialogue-oriented policing in Gezi Park and beyond. European Journal of Criminology, 13(5), 610-
Atak, K. (2017). Encouraging coercive control: militarisation and classical crowd theory in Turkish
protest policing. Policing and society, 27(7), 693-711.
Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO). (2010). Manual of guidance on keeping the peace.
Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative research in
psychology, 3(2), 77-101.Crawford, A. (2017). 12 Research co-production and knowledge
mobilisation in policing. Advances in Evidence-Based Policing, 195.
College of Policing, 2017. Authorised Professional Practice: Public Order. Last accessed 16/01/18.
Council of Europe, 2010. Council resolution of 3rd June 2010 concerning an updated handbook
with recommendations for international police cooperation and measures to prevent and control
violence and disturbances in connection with football matches with an international dimension, in
which at least one Member State is involved. Official Journal of the European Union. 2010/C
165/01. Available from:
Crawford, A. (2017). 12 Research co-production and knowledge mobilisation in policing. Advances
in Evidence-Based Policing, 195.
Denicolo, P. (Ed.). (2013). Achieving impact in research. Sage.
Police Liaison Officers at Football.
Drury, J., & Reicher, S. (1999). The intergroup dynamics of collective empowerment:
Substantiating the social identity model of crowd behaviour. Group Processes & Intergroup
Relations, 2(4), 381-402.
Gilmore, J., Jackson, W., & Monk, H. (2017). ‘That is not facilitating peaceful protest. That is
dismantling the protest’: anti-fracking protesters’ experiences of dialogue policing and mass
arrest. Policing and Society, 1-16.
Gorringe, H., & Rosie, M. (2013). ‘We will facilitate your protest’: Experiments with Liaison
Policing. Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice, 7(2), 204-211.
Gorringe, H., Stott, C., & Rosie, M. (2012). Dialogue police, decision making, and the management
of public order during protest crowd events. Journal of investigative psychology and offender profiling, 9(2),
Gray, D., (2014) “Doing Research in the Real World, Ch 17, London: Sage
Heron, J., (1996).Co operative Inquiry: Research into the Human Condition, London: Sage
Hoggett, J., & Stott, C. (2010). The role of crowd theory in determining the use of force in public
order policing. Policing & Society, 20(2), 223-236.
Hoggett, J., & Stott, C. (2012). Post G20: The Challenge of Change, Implementing Evidencebased
Public Order Policing. Journal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling, 9(2), 174-183.
Hoggett, J., & Stott, C. (2010). Crowd psychology, public order police training and the policing of
football crowds. Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management, 33(2), 218-235.
Holgersson, S. and Knutsson, J. (2011), ‘Dialogue Policing: A Means for Less Crowd Violence?’,
in T. D. Madensen and J. Knutsson, eds, Preventing Crowd Violence: Crime Prevention Studies.
Boulder CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers.
Police Liaison Officers at Football.
Jacks, A (2015). Football Supporters Federation.
millwall-restrictions-WYP (accessed 5th December 2017).
James, M., & Pearson, G. (2015). Public order and the rebalancing of football fans’ rights: Legal
problems with pre-emptive policing strategies and banning orders. Public law, (3), 458-475.
Johnson, R. B., & Onwuegbuzie, A. J. (2004). Mixed methods research: A research paradigm
whose time has come. Educational researcher, 33(7), 14-26.
O’Connor, D. (2009). Adapting to protest: Nurturing the British model of policing. London: Her
Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary.
Rai, R., K (2012) A participatory action research training initiative to improve police effectiveness.
Action research, 10 (3), 22524
Reicher, S. D. (1996). ‘The battle of Westminster’: Developing the social identity model of crowd
behaviour in order to explain the initiation and development of collective conflict. European Journal
of Social Psychology, 26(1), 115-134.
Reicher, S., Stott, C., Cronin, P., & Adang, O. (2004). An integrated approach to crowd psychology
and public order policing. Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies and Management,
17(4), 558572.
Reicher, S., Stott, C., Drury, J., Adang, O., Cronin, P., & Livingstone, A. (2007). Knowledge-based
public order policing: principles and practice. Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice, 1(4), 403-415.
Stott, C. (2009). Crowd psychology and public order policing: an overview of scientific theory and
evidence. Submission to the HMIC Policing of Public Protest Review Team (http: //content. yudu.
com/Library/A1vpaw/HMCICSubmissionCrowd/resources/1. htm).
Stott, C. (2011). Crowd dynamics and public order policing. In T. Madensen, & J. Knutsson
Police Liaison Officers at Football.
Preventing crowd violence. Boulder Colorado: Reinner.
Stott, C. (2011). Crowd dynamics and public order policing. In T. Madensen, & J. Knutsson (Eds),
Preventing crowd violence. Boulder Colorado: Reinner.
Stott, C., & Adang, O. (2003). Policing Football Matches with an International Dimension in the
European Union: understanding and managing risk. Unpublished report to the UK Home Office.
Stott, C., Adang, O., Livingstone, A., & Schreiber, M. (2007). Variability in the collective behaviour
of England fans at Euro2004:‘Hooliganism’, public order policing and social change. European
journal of social psychology, 37(1), 75-100.
Stott, C., Adang, O., Livingstone, A., & Schreiber, M. (2008). Tackling football hooliganism: A
quantitative study of public order, policing and crowd psychology. Psychology, Public Policy, and
Law, 14(2), 115.
Stott, C., & Drury, J. (2000). Crowds, context and identity: Dynamic categorization processes in
the' poll tax riot'. Human relations, 53(2), 247-273.
Stott, C., Hoggett, J., & Pearson, G. (2011). ‘Keeping the Peace’ Social Identity, Procedural Justice
and the Policing of Football Crowds. The British Journal of Criminology, 52(2), 381-399.
Stott, C., & Pearson, G. (2006). Football banning orders, proportionality, and public order
policing. The Howard Journal of Crime and Justice, 45(3), 241-254.
Stott, C., & Reicher, S. (1998). How conflict escalates: The inter-group dynamics of collective
football crowd violence'. Sociology, 32(2), 353-377.
Stott, C., Scothern, M., & Gorringe, H. (2013). Advances in liaison based public order policing in
England: Human rights and negotiating the management of protest?. Policing: a journal of policy and
practice, 7(2), 212-226.
Police Liaison Officers at Football.
Stott, C., West, O., & Radburn, M. (2016). Policing football ‘risk’? A participant action research
case study of a liaison-based approach to ‘public order’. Policing and Society, 1-16.
Stott, C. (2011). Crowd dynamics and public order policing. In T. Madensen, & J. Knutsson
Preventing crowd violence. Boulder Colorado: Reinner.
Stott, C. (2011). Crowd dynamics and public order policing. In T. Madensen, & J. Knutsson
Preventing crowd violence. Boulder Colorado: Reinner.
Waddington, D. (2013). A ‘kinder blue’: analysing the police management of the Sheffield anti-‘Lib
Dem’protest of March 2011. Policing and society, 23(1), 46-64.
Waddington, D. (2017). Police Liaison Approaches to Managing Political Protest: A Critical
Analysis of a Prominent UK Example. In Community Policing-A European Perspective(pp. 83-97).
Springer International Publishing.
Waddington, P. A. (1994). Coercion and accommodation: Policing public order after the Public
Order Act. British Journal of Sociology, 367-385.
Police Liaison Officers at Football.
... Hoggett and West (2018) note growing recognition that the way in which football in the UK is policed needs to change in line with those witnessed toward protests. However, despite the evidence of the success of PLTs in reducing intergroup tensions at protests (Gorringe et al., 2012) there is still a significant resistance to the adoption of PLTs within the policing of football in the UK (Hoggett & West, 2018;Stott, West & Radburn, 2018). During field work on the use of PLTs at football among the few forces willing to innovate in this direction, Stott, Havelund, and Williams (2018) noted that officers "openly expressed their view that PLT did not have a place in policing football" (p. ...
... Waddington, 1999), which resonates with the broader issues of the resistance to change in the police service at large (College of Policing, 2015). Hoggett and West (2018), when analyzing a trial deployment of PLTs at football by the West Midlands Police also draw attention to what Reicher (2006, 2009) referred to as the accountability dynamics of policing public order. Reicher (2006, 2009) had earlier highlighted the impact that these accountability dynamics played within all levels of the police organization, especially in commanders' decision-making processes during both tabletop public order practice exercises and actual operations. ...
National security priorities, result-oriented pressures, and cost sensitivity are common features of contemporary policing. While the global shift to evidence-based policing (EBP) increased police reliance on behavioral science research on interrogation and interviews, skepticism about the effectiveness of “soft” science is pervasive and “hard” sciences have been privileged. Psychologists have consequently been challenged to fulfill their roles in compliance with the four key principles that underpin psychologists' codes of ethics, namely, respect for rights and dignity, competent caring, integrity, and social responsibility. This chapter reviews the alignment of these principles with the relational skills implicit in the four tenets of the leading theory in international police practice, procedural justice (PJ). An analysis of research constructs applied in contemporary interviewing research demonstrated the integral connection between these relational skills and effective interviewing of high-value detainees. These links are present both in a “ticking bomb” scenario as well as less exigent contexts. By mapping the links between ethical principles, PJ tenets, relational research constructs and outcomes, this chapter offers a potential framework for behavioral scientists in policing contexts to develop their ethical literacy and better articulate and evaluate potential ethical issues in their practice. Adherence to PJ tenets can reduce psychologists' role conflicts and facilitate the ethical practice of psychology and EBP.
... In line with the arguments put forward by Pearson and Stott (2022), when describing violence and disorder, some described how much of what took place was less a product of premeditation among risk fans and more as something emerging from circumstance. A similar observation is made by Hoggett and West (2018) when discussing how people with no pre-existing intent can and do become involved in football-related disorder as a function of the interactional dynamics of crowd events. ...
Discretion is a key feature of policing, yet its surrounding research has historically been heavily reliant upon exploring interpersonal or dyadic encounters between individual officers and members of the public. More recently, studies have explored how discretionary decisions by police officers impact upon and interact with group-level and organisational processes but few studies have explored the relevance of discretion to debates in the literature on public order policing. Correspondingly, there is to date only a limited body of research exploring the nature and dynamics of dialogue-based football-related public order policing. This study addresses these combined gaps by drawing upon data from interviews with specialist football officers, referred to as ‘spotters’ or Dedicated Football Officers, from five English police forces. Our analysis critiques the idea that these specialist roles revolve merely around the surveillance, categorisation and enforcement of fans who are considered to pose a risk to public order. We highlight how these officers understand their roles in terms of the use of discretion. We argue that in a complex intergroup environment officers utilise discretion to manage perceptions of their legitimacy among supporters. This ‘social capital’ in turn enhances their capacity to de-escalate and avoid disorder through the promotion of self-regulatory behaviour. We discuss the relevance of our study for theoretical approaches to understanding discretion and consider the implications of our analysis for developing a more formal dialogue-focused and discretion-based approach to football crowd policing in and beyond England and Wales.
... In Scotland ultras groups are comprised predominantly, but not exclusively, of young people; and such groups have direct experience of the enforcement-led and surveillance intensive policing practices that were adopted following the passing of the 2012 Act (see Lavalette and Mooney 2013). Importantly, and recognising the heterogeneity in the football fanbase signalled by the presence of ultras, recent research on the policing of football fans has explored the effectiveness of new innovations, particularly the use of dialogue-based and non-coercive approaches (Hoggett andWest 2018, Stott et al. 2018). ...
Full-text available
The recent history of the policing of Scottish football has been tempestuous. The enactment of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 subjected those attending regulated football matches to a range of new forms of control, and mobilised significant fan resistance that resulted in the Act’s eventual repeal in 2018. By this time, however, significant damage had been inflicted upon fan-police relations, with a concomitant impact on communication and fan engagement. Drawing upon the findings of qualitative research conducted in Scotland, the analysis herein documents a recognition on all sides of the poor state of fan-police relations following the implementation of the original Act. This research traces an emergent shift in some policing sensibilities towards more constructive forms of police-fan engagement and communication following the Act’s repeal. However, the study also highlights significant challenges to such emergent sensibilities, acknowledging, via a case study, that they exist in parallel with still highly problematic practices and approaches in the policing of football fans in Scotland.
In this chapter we explain how the development of Public Safety and Public Order Policing in England and Wales since the death of Ian Tomlinson in 2009 led to a move towards approaches more explicitly based on the facilitation of the legitimate intentions and dialogue with crowd participants. However, while these developments, including the introduction of Police Liaison Officers, have largely been successfully implemented and embedded nationally towards the policing of protest, they have yet to be systematically applied into the domain of the policing of domestic football in England and Wales. This is perplexing, given that the crowd science which led to the changes draws extensively from research on the policing of football crowds. Perhaps unsurprisingly, where dialogue-based approaches are used in football, we demonstrate in this chapter that they are also effective. We cover some of the empirical evidence and theory arising through our research, from the UK and internationally, which strongly suggests that a route to more efficient and effective football crowd policing, even in high-risk scenarios, is through implementing a graded, facilitation, and dialogue-based policing approach. This new data also further reinforces our contention that ‘risk’ is primarily not about the presence, or indeed absence, of fans categorised by the police as ‘risk’, but is instead an outcome of interactional dynamics that occur during the event itself.
In this chapter, we set out detailed proposals for improving football crowd management and regulation. In line with the arguments we have set out in this book about the importance of viewing football crowd management as an intersection between law and policing, we argue that reforms are needed to both of these strands. We argue that legal reforms are required to remedy outdated and ineffective laws and improve the legitimacy of the law in the eyes of fans, thereby also improving the ability of the police to maintain good relationships when enforcing these laws. Such changes include reform to the law on invading the pitch, a reining in on football banning orders ‘on complaint’, the abolition of two sections of the Sporting Events (Control of Alcohol, etc.) Act, and bringing fan representatives into the heart of decisions about stadium safety. In terms of reforming policing, we propose that human rights considerations are put front and centre of football policing operations, and that forces look to improve their practices around intelligence-gathering and dialogue with fans. This can be assisted by the creation of specialist football policing units, the development of the role of the Operational Football Officer, more community-focused and violence reduction-focused approaches to football disorder, and the use of Supporter Liaison Officers.
In 2019, the reported cost of policing football, according to an infographic on South Yorkshire Police’s website, was £48 million per season with £5.5 million being recovered by the police from football clubs. These figures were discussed in Parliament and deemed accurate by politicians. Chief Constable Mark Roberts, the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for football policing, says police forces cannot continue to subsidise a multi-billion-pound industry. This research uses Freedom of Information requests submitted to all police forces in England and Wales to establish the true cost of football policing. The results demonstrate that previous data is unreliable, as the actual amount recovered through Special Police Services from football clubs averaged £10 million per season between 2015 and 2019. This paper shows that police forces do not have a grasp of how much is spent on football policing, and the £48 million headline figure is likely overestimated, raising concerns about the lack of transparency over the data in the South Yorkshire Police infographic. Finally, the paper calls for further research to establish the exact cost of football policing and consideration of more efficient methods of football policing that can help to reduce costs and prevent disorder, not only in England and Wales but across Europe.
Background In 2021, a fan-led review of football governance in England recommended that legislation surrounding alcohol and football be reviewed to determine whether it is still fit for purpose, the first such review since the mid-1980s. Restricting football fans’ alcohol consumption has been debated in the UK for over 40 years. However, more research is needed into the current attitudes of fans and influential stakeholders on this matter. Methods Focus groups with football supporters (n=79) and semi-structured interviews (n=15) with key organisational stakeholders were conducted between November 2019 and February 2021. Focus groups included fans who regularly attended matches and supported various teams from professional leagues in Scotland and England, casual fans who usually watched games at home or in bars, and fans who followed the Scotland and England national teams. Stakeholders were selected to represent organisations likely to be instrumental in any regulatory change, such as the UK and Scottish Governments, Police, football supporters’ groups and safety organisations. Results The current law does not allow for alcohol to be consumed within view of the pitch. Participants from England suggested this could be changed. While in Scotland, where the legislation only allows alcohol to be sold in hospitality, most participants were in favour of allowing the general sale of alcohol at football stadia via a pilot scheme. The reasons for these changes included: reducing unhealthy drinking behaviours; minimising the health and safety risk of fans arriving at the stadium just before kick-off; and a potential increase in much needed revenue for clubs. Conclusion Our data suggests an evidence-based review of current laws regarding alcohol and football may be appropriate. However, any discussion regarding changes to the law regarding alcohol at football stadia, including potential pilot schemes, should be evaluated and monitored in terms of both financial impact and the impact on public health and safety.
This chapter explores the relationships between crowd theory, police psychology, and the policing and dynamics of crowds. This chapter begins by providing an overview of research on police understandings of the crowd and their relationship to public order policing. We will highlight how a body of 19th century crowd theory still informs and dominates contemporary police understanding of crowds, a psychology which in turn drives repressive forms of crowd control designed to deal with “troublemakers” and the “mindless mob.” In so doing we aim to show the importance of police psychology for driving particular forms of social action. The chapter then moves on to provide an overview of the social identity approach, now the dominant psychological model of crowd action. We will highlight some of the core theoretical concepts and ideas underpinning this psychological theory of crowd action to demonstrate its explanatory power. We will argue that according to this approach, collective action in a crowd, rather than being “mindless,” actually reflects a socially determined identity that can be shaped and reshaped by interactions with police. This chapter will then consider a program of research focused upon the application of this theoretical approach to the policing of crowds to demonstrate how it was used to reshape police psychology and practice. We will show how approaches to policing based upon this perspective drove a highly effective crowd management approach that moved police away from a focus upon coercion toward facilitation and dialogue. We argue this body of research further demonstrates the importance of police psychology in shaping public order policing and outcomes. The chapter concludes with a discussion of why crowd theory and police psychology plays such an important role and highlights the importance of and barriers to shifting police psychology away from outdated understandings of the irrationality of crowds toward a more scientifically informed evidence-based approach.
Full-text available
The policing of football supporters in the UK is resource-intensive and expensive, with football crowds seen by many forces as inherently prone to misbehaviour, disorder and violence. As a result they are regularly subjected to high-profile, heavy-handed and intrusive policing strategies that are often designed with the imposition of a civil "banning order" on supposed "risk supporters" in mind. This article analyses underlying assumptions about the nature and risk of football crowds and, drawing comparisons with the ways in which political protests are policed and applying jurisprudence from a series of high-profile protest cases, questions the legality of dominant policing approaches to football crowds under both English public law principles and the European Convention on Human Rights. It concludes by proposing how strategies could be developed in a way that both protects the public and the rights of supporters who may on occasion associate with those suspected of engaging in football-related disorder.
This paper aims to extend the social identity approach to crowd behaviour (Reicher, 1984, 1987) in order to understand how crowd events, and crowd conflict in particular, develop over time. The analysis derives from a detailed account of a violent confrontation between students and police during a demonstration held in November 1988—the so-called ‘Battle of Westminster’. It focuses on how students came to be involved in the conflict, how the conflict spread and upon the psychological consequences of involvement. This analysis is used to develop general hypotheses concerning the initiation and development of collective conflict. It is concluded that, while the social identity model is of use in understanding these phenomena, it is necessary to recognize how social categories are constructed and reconstructed in the dynamics of intergroup interaction.
The case study presented in this chapter focuses on the work of a 15-person Police Liaison Team in relation to a large-scale political protest in the major English city of Sheffield in March 2011. The chapter utilises participant observation and interview data, and initially employs the author’s Flashpoints Model of Public Disorder to emphasise how a combination of contextual factors and dynamic processes—underpinned by a strong Community Policing orientation—were conducive to a highly permissive style of policing, which strove to facilitate the protest’s main objectives. The same body of data is also used to address the cynical suggestion that this particular style of policing actually constitutes a ‘sham’, insofar as it is chiefly designed to secure the protesters’ compliance with the police’s own agenda.
This chapter argues for a transformation in the relations between researchers and police partners in the co-production of knowledge to inform policing strategies and practices. In contrast to certain dominant models of Evidence Based Policing, co-production affords a different understanding of the generation, mobilisation and application of knowledge. It requires a fundamental refiguring of both the way researchers engage with police partners and the place and value of knowledge, data and evidence within policing. The attributes and challenges of co-production are explored and analysed drawing on experiences from existing police-university collaborations. It highlights the significant hurdles that need to be negotiated to realise the necessary structural and organisational change that co-production demands. Co-production embraces a plurality of sources of data and raises questions about the nature of power relations between partners and the dangers of collusion. The chapter advances a vision of the division of labour that is structured around the ‘independent interdependence’ of researchers and practitioners.
In the wake of the death of Ian Tomlinson at the London G20 protests in 2009, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of the Constabulary proposed a number of reforms aimed at making public order policing strategies more ‘human-rights compliant’. One of the most significant developments has been the introduction of Protest Liaison Officers whose role is to build links between police and protesters through the establishment of dialogue and relationships based on trust. These developments have led to a burgeoning scholarship in public order policing in recent years. Whilst some studies have documented the development of ‘dialogue policing’ strategies, none have yet captured the complex interplay between these practices and the more overt forms of coercion and control experienced by protesters. In this paper, we begin to fill this lacuna. Drawing on unique data on the experiences of anti-fracking protesters – a hard to reach group whose narrative has not been presented in the academic literature to date – we contrast official accounts with the material conditions faced by protesters. Focusing on protesters’ experiences of both dialogue policing and mass arrest, we find little evidence of the progressive ‘shift’ reflected in official public order policing discourses. Rather, we argue that dialogue policing can have a legitimising function, enabling the police to define protest groups as irrational and ‘uncooperative’ and therefore ripe for violent policing.
The policing of riots and uprisings poses severe challenges to the police. Yet the police are often culpable in the disturbances touched off by a precipitating incident of police violence or a crackdown on a peaceful protest. The Gezi Park uprisings in Turkey also broke out shortly after excessive force by the Istanbul police against a handful of peaceful activists in Taksim Square. In the aftermath of the mobilizations, however, a drift towards a ‘zero-tolerance’ approach has prevailed over protest control strategies. Drawing on field notes, interviews with activists, excerpts from the news media, protest event analysis and secondary literature, we argue that the chances of dialogue-oriented policing are hampered by two major predicaments in Turkey. The first pertains to the negative biases in police perceptions about protests and protesters that serve to justify and perpetuate a conflict-driven understanding of policing. The second is rooted in the institutional and policy realm and stems from the prevalence of a law-and-order approach to crowd control and public order.
This paper reports upon the first formal academic analysis of the deployment of a dialogue based and explicitly non-coercive ‘Police Liaison Team’ (PLT) within the public order policing operation surrounding a football fixture. The study uses an approach based upon Participant Action Research to first generate changes to operational practices and then to analyse the consequences of these changes upon the dynamics of the event and of the public order policing operation itself. Data is drawn from multiple sources including direct observation and post event focus groups. It is argued that the PLT played an important role in terms of enhancing police capacity for dialogue and communication with ‘risk’ fans, adding depth and quality to risk assessment as well as assisting in the avoidance of ‘disorder’ and police coercion. Problems were identified in terms of strategy, inappropriate deployment of the resource by police commanders and resistance to change among police staff. The implication of the study for understanding ‘risk’ is discussed along with the role of PLTs in helping to achieve proportionality and efficiency in the policing of football.