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The Plod - Lincoln Style
By: Bill Osborne
THE changing of the Lincoln fixtures kick off times, at the request of the police, may seem to be a sensible idea if it helps the police to avoid clashes between rival fans.
But one would hope that the Lincoln Constabulary treat the bulk of the Grimsby Town fans a lot better than they have in the past.
The police have a duty to prevent street battles, a difficult task at the best of times, and they have to have a strategy to prevent them. Not an easy job.
But that strategy must not include treating all fans as trouble makers.
There is nothing wrong in the police escorting visiting fans from public transport areas to the ground to ensure a safe passage for the majority who are there only to see their team play. That is good for them and good for the police in their aim to avoid public disturbances.
But herding people into pubs they did not want to go to and holding them in the ground after a game causing some to miss their connections on public transport to return home is over the top.
Every fan should support the police in their efforts to avoid trouble at football matches but by the same token, the police should not instigate problems. Mistreating the bulk of supporters who are not trouble makers causes ill feeling and has the potential to cause the very problems that they are trying to avoid.
In my own experience, particularly in Lincoln and Sheffield, if the police had communicated their intentions and reasons for the restrictions they imposed upon fans, it would help the fans to understand what the police were trying to achieve and help to dispel any ill feeling.
At both Sheffield and Lincoln when we asked the police why they were holding us back in the ground and at the car parks, we were told to piss off, which caused more than a few problems.
Had the police told us to hang on awhile as they were expecting trouble or whatever, we would have understood better what they were trying to achieve.
I will always support the police. They are not pigs. They are just ordinary people doing a thankless job. Undermanned and under resourced, theirs is the most difficult of occupations.
But the whole scenario changes when they deal with football fans.
There seems to be a nationwide belief among police forces that football fans are 'the enemy' whereas the majority are law abiding citizens intent only on supporting their team.
Sure they chant and sing. But that is not a crime. And when they are singing and chanting, they are far too busy to be fighting in the streets.
It might be a good idea for police to communicate with supporter groups or their respective clubs before the games and inform the fans what special measures they will be taking to avoid problems.
Fans are not stupid, well not all of them, so a brief on what to expect will help to avoid any misunderstandings and perhaps bring better co-operation from the fans. Both the police and the fans have one aim. The fans want to go to a football match safely and return home safely. The police to enable them to do that, with the minimum of public disorder.
That can never be achieved unless both understand each others aims and by co-operating with each other.
The relationship between fans and police has hardly changed over the last 50 years. Maybe it's time someone started looking at alternative approaches to the problem.
Especially in Lincoln!
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