Independent review of policing at football matches

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An independent expert will be commissioned to review policing at football matches in Scotland.

Deputy Chief Constable Will Kerr told the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) the appointment of the expert will be finalised in the next couple of weeks, with the review expected to be completed by Christmas.

He said Police Scotland has an “enviable reputation” for how it polices large events, but that any “mature organisation” has to be able to challenge itself about how it could do better.

News of the review emerged just over three weeks after fans were injured in a crush at an Old Firm game.

Five people needed medical treatment following the incident at Parkhead as fans tried to get into the stadium before the first Celtic v Rangers game of the season on September 2.

Police Scotland stressed the review is not specifically about that incident or any other, but about the policing of matches in a wider sense.

Mounted police at Parkhead
Mounted police outside Parkhead for the Old Firm game (Jeff Holmes/PA)

“Whilst we’re comfortable in how we police football matches, any mature learning organisation has to be comfortable enough to challenge itself and to reflect a bit, particularly where there is a public debate around how football matches are policed and to challenge ourselves about whether we could do it better, whether we could do it differently, whether we could make some changes, and that’s exactly what, having spoken to the chief over the last couple of years, we’re very keen to do.

“I’m writing the terms of reference for an independent professional assurance review of how we police football matches generally across Scotland.

“Essentially I want the review to be in two parts – one how we functionally police football matches, how we gather intelligence, the flexibility of our deployment practices, how we manage risk at football matches.

“But equally importantly how the policing of those football matches feels, the tone and presentation of them, so we’d be very keen that the person we’re going to commission speaks to a range of stakeholders involved in football matches, everything from SFA to SPFL right through to some supporters’ clubs and football clubs themselves.”

One person was taken to hospital after falling from a wall while four others were treated by first-aiders at the scene following the crush on Sunday September 2.

Celtic FC apologised for the incident and has held talks with police about what happened.

The club has also ordered an independent review which will look at factors such as what may have contributed to the incident and improvements that could be made to stop anything like that happening again.

Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins said: “The incident at Celtic Park is already subject to a multi-agency review and debrief, which we are fully participating in.

“The Police Scotland review which was announced at the Scottish Police Authority Board meeting today is not about a particular incident or match, but about the policing of football in a wider sense.

“I want to reiterate what DCC Will Kerr told the SPA: while we are comfortable in how we police football matches, any mature learning organisation has to also be comfortable enough to challenge itself, particularly when there is public debate around how matches are policed.”

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