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Worldly football fans, or those who have been travelling to matches all around the country over the past thirty years, would have been accustomed to seeing a large police presence at matches involving fierce local rivals. Or maybe at showpiece Wembley finals where crowd control and safety could be in an issue. But for fans of family club Brentford, who have a proud reputation for good left-field humour and a warm welcome rather than mob mentality, incidents of heavy handed stewarding and heavy handed policing have been largely absent from matches. And for good reason too.

One look at the Home Office statistics on Football Arrests underlines how few and far between incidents of anything that could constitute ‘trouble’ is associated with Brentford matches. So, for there to have been tension and ejections at Brentford’s last two away games, mainly as a direct result of inappropriate reaction to our fans’ promotion celebrations, leaves a pretty bad taste in our mouths.

At Franchise FC aka MK Dons on Easter Monday the stewards lost it… plain and simple. Aggressive, borderline-violent, stewarding was in marked contrast to the mood of the crowd… who ‘were only there for the party’. The issue started from a problem which is only going to get worse – seating preventing you standing with your mates. A number of the younger fans who decided they wanted to group together at the back of the stand in order to ‘sing up for the Bees’ and create a decent atmosphere found themselves being aggressively removed from the area by the stewards and thrown out. They stood the back to avoid the age old issue at Brentford games of disturbing the view of the fans who prefer to sit. Some would even say they were being considerate.

The stewards’ unnecessary actions were not thought through at all as it only added fuel to a fire that quite frankly didn’t exist. The fans were boisterous yes. But they were enjoying themselves and having fun. When the stewards waded in there was absolutely no hint of aggressiveness or violence. So why upset the equilibrium?

Brentford Fans have a great relationship with local police officers including Ken ‘the copper’ and Toddy. The local police even appeared in. They’re experienced and are able to strike the right balance between being firm with fans and being fair. And the fans respect that. The Brentford police were not in the stadium at the time – only being admitted once things started to get out of hand. They admitted that Franchise FC’s orange-bibbed wonders lost control of the situation and they had to be called into the stadium to stop things escalating.

Yes, there were some wonderful, jubilant scenes at Franchise FC aka MK Dons. But there was a period during the first half when it could have gone off because of the over-zealous actions of the stewards, one of who we saw take an unprovoked swing at a Bees fan. Several fans were aggressively chucked out for reasons which – and let’s be practical here – were not justified, drilling home the fact that stewards need to embark on a course in common sense alongside all their first aid and combat training.

At Colchester this weekend we saw this OTT shepherding stepped up even further with riot police brought in to stop a celebratory pitch invasion at ANY cost… Dozens of Policemen equipped to avert a Russian-style mass-invasion marched into the stadium with ten minutes to go, and although the away fans’ songs about ‘what a waste of money’ added a sense of humour where there perhaps didn’t deserve one, it left many feeling angry and provoked.

It all started off earlier in the game when the police took it upon themselves to make a point of telling the Brentford fans they were being monitored. They made no attempt to conceal their reconnaissance as they stood up right in front of the stand, took out one of their olde skool BBC match of the day 1979 cameras and started to film the Brentford supporters as they sang behind the goal. They weren’t causing any trouble. They were just enjoying themselves. But the presence of the policeman filming antagonised people.

To be fair the fans didn’t respond. They just continued to sing even more. But surely someone somewhere must have sent these guys on a training course on people skills and crowd management. At what other sporting or public entertainment event would the paying audience be expected tolerate an approach which basically sends a curt message to the customer saying “You are the lowest of the low”? We thought those days were well and truly gone.

On the whole it would appear that the Colchester stewards themselves left Bees fans to enjoy themselves inside in the stands. But there is a story emerging on Beesotted’s Twitter feed that one fan was subjected to racial abuse by a steward.

“@TheChauffeur_: @beesnbeavers @Beesotted 4 of them (policemen) stood laughing as a steward racially abused my son, then threatened to nick him when when he reacted.”

The issue is being now dealt with the Football Supporters Federation policing and stewarding officials so it will be interesting to see what comes of that.

Technically for both games, there should have been a Supporters Liaison Office (SLO) from the home club in the away end who may have been able to appease the situation by creating a dialogue between the fans and the club officials. These SLOs should be contacting fanzine and supporters groups way before the match to ensure the away fans have a great day out whilst at the same time, relay any important information. But SLOs are a myth. We don’t think they exist. Beesotted travel to practically every away game and we have never ever come across an SLO. So there’re part of the problem. It’s something that clubs obviously don’t take seriously as opposed to on the continent where fans groups have enormous voices and would never have let incidents like this get to this stage.

In the same month that we paid tribute to those who died at Hillsborough, perhaps we should remember once again the massive miscarriage of justice and the cover up by the police and authorities which followed those tragic events painting all football supporters in a bad light. Week-in-week out football fans have been paying the price for this warped perspective despite football overall being a much safer, accepting and enjoyable environment than it ever was back in the 80s and early 90s.

And with the football league currently running their , which highlights the fact that away numbers are dropping thanks to obstacles in place including ticket prices, rising costs of travel, TV messing about with fixtures, worst seats in the house, unfriendly stewarding, police interference with KO times and “bubble matches”, this article highlights even more how the different elements involved within football are simply not communicating.

Yes some fans take things to far. And yes some clubs have a reputation that deserves to be policed very closely. But the days where we are all tarred with the same brush of lies should be well and truly over. If wanting to jump up and down inside a football stadium and celebrate promotion after 21 years in the wilderness is a misdemeanour – then something is still very, very wrong with our game and the way football fans are ultimately respected.

The Beesotted lads have stood at the back of the stands at almost every game this season, chatting and singing with fans of every age and era, so we know only too well what goes down. Yes there will always be a fool or two in the pack and we refuse to condone the actions of any idiot. But it is important to be able to differentiate between hi jinx and out-and-out tomfoolery – something some of these police and stewards seems to have immense trouble in doing.

On the flipside, we will also willingly stand up and defend the good name of our supporters until the cows come home – because at the end of the day, we know we don’t deserve to be treated in this way… it should not be tolerated.

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If you have any issues with stewarding and policing at football matches, contact the FSF fair cop (@FSF_faircop) at [email protected] Tel: 07703 519555

Dave Lane and BillytheBee
@beesotted100 and @billythebee99