'Significant' safety risk to fans at Scottish football
Major review of policing in Scottish football highlights inconsistencies in safety checks.
'Significant' concerns over the safety of football fans inside stadiums have been highlighted in a major review of policing matches in Scotland.
In the report, Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts recommended a separate, urgent review over "inconsistencies in the management of safety certificates" issued by councils.
Policing at football in Scotland is generally fit for purpose, the review found.
However, it highlighted cases of clubs deliberately selling more tickets than their stadium's capacity and safety certificates being issued without inspections being carried out.
Unsafe temporary seating was erected at grounds while Rangers were playing in the lower leagues, while tickets were sold for areas that didn't exist, the report revealed.
DCC Roberts, the most senior police officer in the UK with responsibility for football, suggested a multi-agency review should be carried out to "establish appropriate governance and inspection regime for venues used for football and other events".
The South Yorkshire Police chief said the report was not his personal opinion but what people involved in Scottish football had said.
The report, published on Wednesday, was commissioned by Police Scotland just weeks after a crush outside Celtic Park following an Old Firm game.
DCC Roberts said: "The review highlights the excellent capability of Police Scotland in policing football as well as specific areas where the service can develop further good practice and ensure appropriate consistency.
"The Scottish public should be confident that Police Scotland has a proven track record of effectively delivering all manner of high-profile events, football included, and has the requisite capability to work with relevant stakeholders to discharge its responsibilities in keeping football fans safe.
"As such, its operational policing model for football is certainly fit for purpose. The policing of football in Scotland compares well to operation across other European countries and has some excellent examples of good practice, which others should seek to learn from.
"I will be sharing the learning with the rest of UK Policing in order that we can promulgate the good practice from Scotland as many of the recommendations identify issues common to us all."
The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities said "treat their community safety role with high priority".
COSLA president Alison Evison said: "We take the licensing of our stadiums very seriously. That is why we have a strong record of safety on football events activity.
"Scotland's councils engage with partners to ensure the protection of our local communities who attend football matches and other events across the country.
"We treat our community safety role with high priority.
"Going forward if there are improvements identified of course local government and COSLA will work positively with partners to find solutions."
Police Scotland said it was encouraged and reassured by the findings but not complacent.
DCC Will Kerr, of Police Scotland, said: "Police Scotland has an enviable reputation around how it polices large events, including sporting events such as the Ryder Cup and Commonwealth Games, and I'm pleased that this independent review has highlighted this.
"But it is important for a learning organisation such as Police Scotland to reflect on areas where we may be able to improve our procedures or learn from good practice elsewhere.
"Therefore, we will consider the recommendations relating to policing and report to the Scottish Police Authority in due course.
"We have raised other issues outwith the remit of policing with the appropriate and relevant authorities."
Key findings in the report include:
- Police Scotland has significant capabilities, fitting for second largest force in the UK.
- It has experienced and highly competent commanders.
- There are inconsistencies with fan safety across the nation.
- Despite some good examples fan engagement can be improved.
- The role of FOCUS (Football Coordination Unit for Scotland) should be reviewed.
- Excellent examples of diversionary activity.
- A need to make better use of football banning orders.
Games observed during review
- Rangers v Spartak Moscow, Thursday, October 25, Europa League, Ibrox.
- St Johnstone v Hearts, Wednesday, December 5, Premiership, McDiarmid Park.
- Celtic v Kilmarnock, Saturday, December 8, Premiership, Celtic Park.
- Livingston v Hearts, Friday, December 14, Premiership, Toni Macaroni Arena.
- Hibs v Rangers, Wednesday, December 19, Premiership, Easter Road.
- Rangers v Celtic, Saturday, December 29, Premiership, Ibrox.