Public order

Policing football

This APP should be used to develop and/or review existing policy and processes. This will help encourage a consistent approach across forces.

Partnership, cooperation and engagement

Effective football policing is underpinned by:

  • partnership and cooperation between the police service and football clubs
  • police service engagement with supporter groups.

Police service and football clubs

This partnership is the most important component in ensuring that football matches are safe events where the risk of disorder is minimised. A positive and constructive working relationship is necessary at all levels, for example, between:

  • local police commanders and the club’s senior management
  • the club’s safety officer and deployed officers supporting a stewarding operation.

The elements that constitute an effective working relationship include empathy, trust, honesty and clarity of roles and expectations. Both parties may be required to compromise at times. The benefits of an effective working relationship will, however, become apparent when both parties work together on potentially challenging strategic (eg, developing a charging agreement) and tactical issues (eg, responding to an emergency).

Once established, partnership and cooperation will help the clubs and the police to meet their respective responsibilities for safety management and maintaining law and order. See statement of intent. Other benefits include increased trust and confidence from supporters and the wider community in respect of increased safety and the reduced risk of disorder.

Engagement with supporter groups

The police service has an important role to play in the government’s strategy for tackling football disorder. This strategy is based on a multi-agency approach to reducing football-related disorder by:

  • excluding risk supporters
  • including and empowering non-risk supporters, ie, demonstrating that the government and authorities are working on their behalf to ensure safety and security at football events
  • influencing/controlling those supporters who are not currently understood to be risk but who may, under specific circumstances, become involved in anti-social behaviour and/or spontaneous disorder.

Police engagement with non-risk and, where appropriate, risk supporters has numerous benefits. In the case of non-risk supporters (the majority of supporters), the police should try to resolve any concerns that this group may have regarding football policing operations. The mechanisms for formal engagement include the police attending supporter group meetings and forums, and proactive engagement with supporters during football policing operations.

In addition to proactive engagement, the impact of the football policing operation (eg, types of resources used, tactics deployed) will have an effect on the ability and motivation of the majority of supporters to self-police and further exclude the influence and impact of risk supporters. Setting the right strategy and developing an appropriate tactical plan will increase opportunities for proactive engagement and contribute to increasing public confidence.

Definitions of risk and non-risk supporters

The European Union provides the following definitions for risk and non-risk supporters (see Council Resolution OJC/322):

  • risk supporter – a person, known or not, who can be regarded as posing a possible risk to public order or antisocial behaviour, whether planned or spontaneous, at or in connection with a football event
  • non-risk supporter – a person, known or not, who can be regarded as posing no risk to the cause of or contribution to violence or disorder, whether planned or spontaneous, at or in connection with a football event.

It is important that the risk in relation to individuals and groups is quantifiable and dynamically assessed. The risk supporter checklist will help with this process.

Key roles


Forces need to asses how these roles will be resourced.

For information on general police roles relevant to policing football, see resourcing and logistical requirements.

Other roles

Force football resource considerations

Factors that need to be assessed for impact on resourcing:

  • number and status (eg, Premier League, Football League, non-league) of clubs in their force area
  • police responsibilities as outlined in each club’s statement of intent
  • history and reputation of club(s) with regards to actual and/or risk of disorder.

Following assessment of these factors forces must consider and decide:

  • configuration of roles, for example,
    • establishing a dedicated force football policing unit
    • assigning an individual full-time football liaison officer and football intelligence officer for each club
    • assigning some or all of these roles for each club on a part-time basis (addressing any risks associated with this option)
    • combining roles, for example, a full time FIO who takes on the role of police football spotter (spotter)  during football policing operations in other force areas
  • location of roles, for example,
    • in a dedicated football policing unit, ensuring appropriate links and accessibility to other departments
    • amalgamated into other departments (eg, events/operational planning teams, local/force intelligence departments), ensuring that mechanisms exist or are developed to allow effective liaison and working between different roles
  • supervision arrangements for each role (noting that each role is not rank specific)
  • training and accreditation requirements for each role
  • applicability of cadre principles, for example, identifying a small number of commanders to perform the police commander role thus contributing to a consistent working relationship with the club’s safety officer.

Police commander

There is a specific requirement for a tactical or operational police commander to have responsibility for policing the stadium and the agreed footprint. See charging agreement.

The role of the police commander is to:

  • maintain law and order
  • assist the club with its responsibility for safety and crowd management where necessary.

This role reflects the division of responsibilities (including when to take primacy, for example, during a major incident) outlined in the statement of intent.

The police commander requires experience of football policing and relevant training and accreditation. The current level of training and accreditation required to perform the role is:

  • silver (tactical) – Public Order Silver Command Course and the Policing Events Course
  • bronze (operational) – Public Order Bronze Command Course and the Policing Events Course.

They also need to develop and maintain an effective working relationship with the club’s safety officer and the safety advisory group (SAG). This will ensure that the responsibilities outlined in the statement of intent and other police/club protocols are adhered to and issues raised by the SAG relating to football policing operations are addressed.

Football liaison officer

  • acts as a key link between the police and the club and other stakeholders
  • develops and maintains positive working relationships which should enhance spectator safety and minimise the risk of crime and disorder during football policing operations
  • acts as a source of specialist advice on policing that the club and other stakeholders can draw on
  • inputs into and/or ensures that the appropriate logistical arrangements are provided for the football policing operation

The FLO also leads on/contributes to:

  • aiding in the negotiation and development of key documents
  • assisting with the process of allocating match categories to fixtures
  • assisting commanders with the development of appropriate strategy and tactical planning
  • preparing the content for the operation order and conducting briefings.

Responsibility for crowd safety at the stadium rests with the club. The FLO can, however, contribute to crowd safety through their experience, knowledge and impartiality.

FLO role and crowd safety

In addition to possessing knowledge of the DCMS (2008) Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds and FLA (2009) Safety Management, the FLO, at the discretion of the local command team and/or police commander, can:

  • represent the police at the safety advisory group
  • help the relevant local issuing authority with the content and formulation of the General Safety Certificate for the club’s stadium
  • monitor, by attendance and observation, the safety measures provided by the club (eg, stewarding effectiveness, provision of police services)
  • inform the club and/or the SAG of any issues relating to the architectural and structural suitability of the stadium
  • provide safety advice from a police perspective during the development or redevelopment of any football stadium
  • inform and advise on any aspect of crowd safety, as required
  • communicate any issues relating to crowd safety to the local command team and/or police commander with overall responsibility for football policing in the force
  • maintain an audit trail of issues relating to safety and a record of the club’s response.

Football intelligence officer

The FIO provides a focal point for all information and intelligence relating to the club for which they have responsibility. Although the activity of the FIO is generally directed at minimising the impact of anti-social behaviour and criminality, they must also ensure that positive information/intelligence is disseminated to facilitate a balanced and proportionate response by police and club stewarding during a football policing operation.

The FIO also:

  • promotes crime reduction strategies which involve other agencies or bodies, eg, partnership agreements between the police, football clubs and/or recognised supporter groups
  • researches football-related arrests and ascertains how each matter was disposed of by a court or other means
  • attends regional and/or national intelligence workshops and conferences hosted by the UKFPU. These enable FIOs to remain up to date on current issues and share good practice, and leads to the promotion of consistency and national standards.
  • works closely with the football liaison officer and spotters and liaises with:
    • ­other FIOs, local/force intelligence officers and law enforcement agencies
    • ­the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), eg, with the lead football prosecutor on case preparation and disposal
    • the club safety officer and other club officials, eg, to exchange information/intelligence (in compliance with force policy)
    • other agencies, eg, the football authorities, local authorities, supporter groups, local travel companies.
Intelligence role

The FIO directs, collects, evaluates, analyses and disseminates intelligence products, to minimise football-related crime and disorder. These products also help to determine the strategy, tactics, resource levels and support services required for the policing of any football event.

To achieve this, the FIO:

  • has a sound understanding of the principles and methods associated with intelligence managementinformation management and covert policing
  • has access to the products, processes and systems used by the local/force intelligence unit
  • develops relevant products such as:
    • initial, interim and final assessments
    • subject profiles, eg, in support of football banning orders (FBOs) on conviction (section 14A Football Spectators Act 1989) or banning orders made on complaint (section 14B Football Spectators Act 1989) (where appropriate, a football banning order unit can assist with these activities).
  • contributes to the development of problem and/or criminal network profiles, eg, relating to ticket touting or racist chanting
  • ensures that intelligence products are disseminated in accordance with local force policy
  • coordinates and manages spotters (home and away) and intelligence gathering teams. This includes conducting intelligence-specific briefings and debriefings.
  • completes and submits match summary reports, items for inclusion in the UKFPU national disorder assessment and relevant graded intelligence reports to the UKFPU.

Police football spotters

The spotter has two main roles:

  • provide a football policing operation with live and relevant information and intelligence on supporter groups
  • act as a link between the police and a club’s supporter community.

These two roles complement each other, eg, a spotter is required to communicate to commanders both positive and negative information and intelligence associated with supporter groups during an operation. To do this, the spotter must acquire a detailed knowledge of a club’s supporter community, and so needs to develop and maintain links with them. This will enhance the general police/supporter community relationship at a club and increase trust and confidence between the spotter and supporter community, thereby increasing opportunities for richer information and intelligence. This will help to reduce the risk of disorder and further promote trust and confidence.

Forces are also encouraged to develop protocols relating to the deployment of spotters.

Spotter role

In addition, spotters must:

  • have experience of policing football operations
  • possess extensive knowledge of the identities, tactics and strategies of persons who engage in violent disorder and other criminal activity associated with football, ie, risk supporters
  • have a sound understanding of the principles and methods associated with intelligence management and covert policing
  • be competent to collect, evaluate and disseminate intelligence products
  • be competent to use relevant technical equipment, eg, video camera
  • engage with the supporter community to improve police understanding of their identities, sensitivities and expectations and to enhance the police/supporter relationships at a club, eg, through developing and maintaining links with local supporter groups.

Forces have the discretion to decide whether their spotters are level 2 public order trained or forward intelligence team (FIT) trained. As a minimum, spotters should be aware of public order tactics and national standards. They will be expected to withdraw during outbreaks of disorder, to be replaced with officers specifically trained and equipped to deal with those situations. This will enable the spotters to identify groups or person(s) away from the seat of the disorder.

United Kingdom Football Policing Unit

The UKFPU, established in 2005, is funded by the Home Office and is accountable to both the Home Office and ACPO. It is responsible for:

  • developing national policy on policing domestic football
  • national coordination of policing preparations and operations (including local force input) for overseas tournaments
  • development and delivery of national strategies for policing international and club matches overseas
  • coordination of the national football intelligence network
  • providing leadership, training and guidance to football intelligence officers (including disseminating and sharing knowledge and good practice)
  • assisting forces in the proactive targeting and development of intelligence regarding active risk supporters by allocating of additional funding to secure FBOs
  • managing the statutory Football Banning Orders Authority (FBOA)
  • acting as the UK National Football Information Point (NFIP), ie, providing a central and single point for the exchange of police information, intelligence and risk assessments relating to any football match with an international dimension.
Information, intelligence and guidance

The UKFPU can provide access to information, intelligence and guidance which can be used to support all aspects of football policing operations, for example:

  • a database of football-related legislation
  • policy advice and guidance originating from the Home Office, ACPO and College of Policing relating to football, eg, ACPO/CPS (2009) Prosecution Policy for Football Related Offences, Home Office (2009) Guidance on Football-Related Ticket Touting Legislation
  • football policing-related news articles
  • disorder assessments/reports.

The UKFPU can also be contacted for advice regarding football policing operations with an international dimension, eg, international fixtures involving the English and Welsh national teams, English or Welsh teams participating in European tournaments/pre-season friendlies.

British Transport Police

BTP is responsible for policing football supporters who use the rail network across England, Wales and Scotland. Its capability includes staff who are experienced in policing football supporters, for example, football intelligence officers and spotters. Forces should consider inviting BTP to be part of the planning and resourcing process. This is particularly important for football policing operations which involve supporters entering, leaving and/or travelling around a force area by rail. If forces are planning to use powers under section 27 of the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 as part of a football policing operation (ie, giving directions to individuals to leave a locality), consultation with BTP is required if it is anticipated that the convergence of a crowd at a railway or underground station could occur.

BTP focuses on monitoring and engaging with supporters who are using the rail network during football policing operations. They are also actively engaged in tackling any anti-social behaviour (eg, involving alcohol) especially on late trains, which causes disruption and is unpleasant for members of the public and rail staff. Forces should also be aware that BTP liaises with train operators on football-related issues.

Safety officer

A club is responsible for appointing an occupationally competent safety officer, who is responsible for safety management. The club’s safety officer:

  • holds overall control of operational safety management during an event
  • is easily identifiable and contactable throughout the event
  • has the authority to make safety-related decisions without having to refer to senior management or a board member
  • possesses detailed knowledge of stadium regulations and contingency plans.

During an operation, the safety officer will be in command of a control point (sometimes referred to as the stadium control room or ground operations centre). The control point acts as a hub for communications and monitoring (eg, to monitor safety and public order, and to coordinate responses to incidents and emergencies). This is, therefore, where the police commander should be located during an operation. For further information on the control point, see FLA and Football Stadia Improvement Fund (2005) Control Rooms. This close proximity of the commander to the safety officer facilitates communication and, if required, any decision making regarding variation of responsibilities and primacy as outlined in the statement of intent.


Duties include:

  • ensuring crowd safety during a football operation, thereby fulfilling the club’s responsibilities as outlined in the statement of intent
  • assisting with the circulation of spectators
  • preventing overcrowding
  • reducing the likelihood and incidence of disorder, eg, by searching spectators (with police support if necessary)
  • providing the means to investigate, report and take early action in an emergency (eg, in accordance with a stadium evacuation plan)
  • ensuring supporters comply with ground regulations.

Football Association, Premier League and Football League

The Football Association (FA) is the governing body responsible for all regulatory aspects of the game of football in England. Its activities include promoting the development of the game, sanctioning all matches, leagues and competitions played in England and overseeing the administration of the game’s disciplinary system. (The disciplinary system applies to all participants in the game – each club, player, competition, match official and any other person involved in the game in England is bound by the FA Rules.) The FA organises the FA Cup, FA Trophy competitions and all international matches played by England’s national representative teams, most notably the men’s senior team in the FIFA World Championships, the UEFA European Championships and friendly fixtures.

The Premier League and The Football League are the two senior leagues and, as such, have an important role to play in the management of football in England and Wales. Both leagues have a number of representatives who sit on the Board of the FA. Both leagues are responsible for managing their respective league football competitions and acting in the best interests of their member clubs. They have their own rules and regulations, which their member clubs have to follow.

As well as managing the Championship, League One and League Two competitions, the Football League is also responsible for the end-of-season play-off matches, the League Cup and the Football League Trophy competitions.

Key documents

Three documents provide the framework which dictates both strategic and tactical planning for football policing operations:

Developing and agreeing the content of these documents requires the force and club to work together. The football liaison officer and football intelligence officer must be available to assist with preparing these documents, even if they do not ultimately sign them off on behalf of the force.

Statement of intent

This document outlines the division of safety-related responsibilities and functions between the police and the club. The content must, therefore, be discussed and agreed by the local force and club. Although the content will need to be tailored to meet local requirements, the statement of intent should cover:

  • a section stating that it is not a legally binding contract or agreement
  • the club’s responsibilities for overall safety of the event, for example, stewarding and adherence to conditions identified in the safety certificate
  • the local force’s responsibilities for dealing with crime and disorder in relation to the event, eg, prevention and detection of crime
  • primacy issues, eg, the circumstances in which the police will move from a supporting role to taking primacy for decision making/intervention during an incident at the event
  • variation, ie, how any amendments to the statement of intent will be agreed and recorded.

Once agreed, a written version of the statement of intent must be signed by relevant representatives from both the club and the force, for example, the club’s safety officer and the local commander. The document should be reviewed, updated (if necessary) and signed by the club and the force on an annual basis.

Charging agreement

This needs to be agreed annually by the club and the police to cover the costs of football policing operations. When negotiating and developing a charging agreement, forces should make reference to ACPO (2010) Guidance for Football Deployment and Cost Recovery (which also contains a template).

A key component will be an agreed footprint. This is land in the vicinity of the stadium which is under the control of the club and/or where the police presence is for the benefit of the club and purposes of the match. Agreeing both the footprint and charging agreement requires open and honest negotiation between the police and the club. The focus during these negotiations must remain on reaching an agreement that ensures safety and reduces the risk of disorder. Agreement will be facilitated by effective partnership, cooperation and engagement. Football policing practitioners, eg, the football liaison officer, should be involved in this process with, if necessary, support from the local/force senior management team and force finance department.

The content should cover:

  • a request for special police services under section 25 of the Police Act 1996
  • the fixture list of matches for the season
  • an identified plan of the ground with the footprint of controlled areas clearly identified
  • a schedule of planned deployments for each category of match for the ground, with standard charges for the categories
  • a schedule of chargeable rates for the season
  • a variation statement to include changes to categories and additional matches
  • a set of key contacts for both the police and the club who are authorised to deal with urgent items.

Strategic considerations

In parallel with the development and agreement of key documents, the following areas need to be developed by the force and club during the pre-season:

Match categories

A standardised set of categories is used to highlight the risk of disorder associated with individual football fixtures:

  • category CS – club security only (ie, police free fixture, noting that a limited number of football policing practitioners may be deployed, eg, commanderspotters)
  • category A – low risk of disorder
  • category B – medium risk of disorder
  • category C – high risk of disorder
  • category C-IR – category C with increased risk of disorder.

Forces should use these categories as a planning tool to ensure that the appropriate number of policing resources can be deployed to minimise the risk of disorder at individual fixtures. The police and club should meet during the pre-season to agree on the:

  • policing resources that are required to minimise the risk of disorder associated with each match category
  • initial match category allocation for all known fixtures for the forthcoming season.

The presence/advice of the football intelligence officer and football liaison officer will help this process.

There is no prescriptive method for calculating the policing resource requirements that should be assigned to each match category. The proposed requirements should, however, reflect an objective and justifiable assessment of the resources required to minimise the risk of disorder. To achieve this, various resource-related factors will need to be considered.

There are benefits associated with closely involving the club during this process, for example:

  • the Football Safety Officers Association (FSOA) keeps records which can add value
  • it should help progress the development of a charging agreement as the costs associated with the match categories can, in conjunction with the initial allocation for each fixture, be calculated for the season
  • the club and other stakeholders (eg, local authority, other emergency services) can plan for their own resource requirements.
Resource-related factors
  • the resources allocated to each match category during the previous season (taking account of the impact of relegation or promotion if applicable)
  • an assessment of whether the number of police resources used was appropriate for the previous season’s fixture involving the same teams
  • the anticipated attendance – but only insofar as it affects potential disorder
  • the significance of a fixture, eg, local derby or cup fixture
  • the division of responsibilities outlined in the statement of intent
  • any other issues as raised by the force or club, for example, from the safety advisory group relating to the club’s stewarding resources or ground infrastructure.

An initial assessment produced by the football intelligence officer can also be used to help calculate the resource requirement against each match category. This initial assessment can also be used as the basis for allocating a match category against each individual fixture.

The policing resource requirement for each match category should be reviewed in conjunction with the club as the season progresses. The initial match category allocated for fixtures will also need to be reviewed as each one draws closer, using the interim and final assessments.

Gold strategy

An overarching gold strategy may be developed at the start of the football season, but it must be dynamic and capable of revision in light of any amended threat analysis and assessment. The national decision model (NDM) can be used to help the development of strategy. Other stakeholders, for example, the club, local authority and supporter groups, should also be consulted.

The strategy will be influenced by a number of factors:

  • the responsibilities of the police as outlined in the statement of intent
  • intervention/arrest/investigation strategy
  • the intended policing style, for example:
    • normal policing
    • unobtrusive/low-key policing
    • firm but fair
    • proactive engagement with supporters
    • high visibility
    • respectful of human rights and proportionate.

For further information on the relationships between policing and crowd management/crowd dynamics, see crowd behaviour considerations.

The strategy, its rationale and any revisions or amendments should be recorded as part of an audit trail. See development of gold strategy for further information on developing strategy.

Contingency planning

The club is responsible for developing contingency plans as part of its safety management responsibilities.

The police, through the safety advisory group, should ensure that relevant advice and support is provided for the development of these contingency plans. This could include assisting with the development of a suitable exercise regime, for example, arranging and/or participating in table-top or live exercises. This process will also help to ensure that the club’s contingency plans are aligned with those of the police and are compatible with them (eg, a major incident plan).

The contingency plans and the police role in them must be incorporated into the tactical plan, the operation order and briefing. It may also be beneficial to test some aspects of the contingency plans in partnership with the club’s safety officer and stewards during a football policing operation, eg, during low-risk and non-eventful operations.

Contingency plan examples
  • fire
  • bomb threat, suspect package, terrorist attack (including chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear)
  • buildings and services:
    • damage to structures
    • power cut or failure
    • passenger lift or escalator failure
    • gas leak or chemical incident
  • safety equipment failure:
    • turnstile counting mechanism
    • closed-circuit television
    • public address system
    • electronic information boards
    • stewards’ radio system
    • internal telephone systems
    • fire warning and other fire safety systems
  • crowd control:
    • surging or crushing
    • pitch incursion
    • late arrivals or delayed start
    • lockouts including progressive turnstile closure
    • disorder inside the ground
    • large-scale ticket forgery
  • emergency evacuation
  • severe adverse weather
  • ticketing strategy in the event of an abandoned fixture
  • features/considerations specific to the location.

Police/club protocols

The local force and club should agree and document any protocols which will influence and affect the gold strategy and/or tactical planning.

The following issues may be addressed through appropriate police/club protocols (not exhaustive):

  • identifying discrete phases for the football policing operation and club safety management operation, eg, pre-match, during the match, closing stages of the match, post match
  • agreeing how incidents of racism will be dealt with at the ground, see ACPO, Premier League, FA & FSOA (2004) Tackling Racism in English and Welsh Football
  • identifying the mechanism for half-time briefings, for example, location and roles required to attend
  • any requirement for a joint media strategy
  • decision on who will brief match officials
  • methods for communicating ground regulations to deployed police resources
  • policy on police/club role in removing spectators from seated areas
  • policy on police/club role in protecting the playing surface
  • policy on licensing issues within the stadium.

Tactical considerations

Addressing and implementing the following tactical considerations will provide a framework for delivering a successful football policing operation.

Tactical planning

Operational planning provides general information on developing a tactical plan for a policing operation and the role of a tactical planning group. The key roles associated with policing football should be involved in tactical planning.

A football policing operation needs to consider the following in relation to tactical planning.

Forces may wish to develop a suite of tactical plans which can be applied to the standardised set of categories, eg, a tactical plan which is applicable to match category ‘C’. This off-the-shelf option may reduce cost and avoid duplication of effort, but the tactical plan will still need be reviewed and, if necessary, amended to ensure it is relevant and applicable. A clear audit trail of decision making should be kept.

Information/intelligence assessment

Relevant issues that impact on tactical planning may arise from:

An assessment of these issues may affect the tactical planning in the following ways:

  • identifying a requirement to amend the original match category for a fixture, if a higher or lower risk of disorder has been identified. If the match category is amended, it is essential that this is communicated to the club along with the reasons why, to ensure appropriate amendment regarding cost recovery under the charging agreement.
  • identifying other factors/events which may impact on the football policing operation, for example, if protest is planned or there is an increased chance of city centre disorder.

Command structure and command support

There is a requirement for a clear command structure. Forces are encouraged to develop and implement a set of command structures which reflect the risk of disorder associated with the match categories and meet the gold strategy for football policing operations.

The precise configuration of the command structure may vary depending on the match category applied to the fixture. For example, a fixture with a low risk of disorder may have the silver commander fulfilling the role of the police commander, with only one or two bronze commanders with geographic responsibilities required. For a fixture where there is a high risk of disorder (eg, where there is an additional risk of football-related city centre disorder), the silver commander may be based at a force control room while a bronze commander conducts the police commander role supplemented by additional bronze commanders with geographic or functional (eg, intelligence, crime) responsibilities.

Appropriate command support and other support structures will help command decision making. Additionally, the police commander will require support at the stadium control point so that there is a police presence there at all times that the club’s safety officer and other officials can consult if required.

Whatever the configuration of the command structure and command support, it is important that it is documented, communicated and understood by all participants in the football policing operation.

Resourcing and logistical requirements

A logistics and/or operations planning department is likely to be responsible for making resourcing and logistical arrangements. The football liaison officer should, however, quality assure this process if the department/staff are not routinely involved in resourcing or making logistical arrangements for football policing operations.

The resources for a football policing operation will include the key roles and other staff, eg, public order trained staff. See resource considerations and current operational capacity for further information on potential relevant resources.

It may be prudent for forces to consider developing a resourcing and logistical package for each of the match categories, eg, by combining resources into serials/police support unit (PSU) structures. This process would aid the development of a suitable charging agreement, although such packages would need to be reviewed and, if necessary, amended to meet the requirements of the tactical plan.


Briefing is essential to successful operational deployment. There must be a command team briefing on the day of the football policing operation. This should include all commanders, the football intelligence officer, the football  liaison officer and any other staff deemed necessary. This briefing provides the opportunity to communicate and clarify roles, responsibilities and deployments, especially in light of the final assessment provided by the FIO.

All staff involved in the football policing operation must then be briefed. Commanders may brief their own resources or hold an all staff briefing at one venue. The club safety officer should also be briefed to help identify and communicate the impact that the police and club plans will have on each other.

Commanders and key staff should consider holding a briefing at half-time, to revisit and assess the tactical plan in light of the developing nature of the event.

Initial, interim and final assessments

The football intelligence officer is responsible for developing these assessments.

Initial assessment

Presents the opportunity to assign match categories against individual fixtures during the pre-season. This helps to establish an appropriate charging agreement. Areas to be consider when developing the initial assessment include:

  • anticipated attendance for a fixture
  • significance of the fixture
  • any previous history of disorder
  • previous behaviour of each supporter group
  • date, day and time of the fixture
  • any other known events which may coincide with the fixture
  • other relevant graded intelligence relating to risk or non-risk supporter groups.

Interim assessment

Is required for the tactical planning phase of a football policing operation. It requires the input of both the home and away team FIOs. It should be disseminated prior to any tactical planning meetings. The content of the interim assessment should be based on the initial assessment but will include more up-to-date information/intelligence, for example:

  • information regarding ticket sales
  • known travel arrangements for visiting supporters
  • any relevant previous history concerning the fixture
  • any other relevant graded intelligence.

Final assessment

Is to ensure commanders are aware of any information/intelligence which may impact on the football policing operation but which has not been captured by the interim assessment, for example, notification from a spotter that risk supporters have changed their mode of travel on the day of the fixture.

The combined contents of the interim and final assessment should be used to develop an intelligence briefing document which is communicated to relevant staff.

Deployment of spotters

Spotters should be deployed for football operations when an assessment indicates that a risk of disorder is high (eg, based on intelligence, the history/profile associated with an individual fixture). In these circumstances, spotters will provide invaluable knowledge and context which will benefit command decision making (eg, how resources can be effectively deployed).

Consideration must also be given to deploying spotters to both home and away fixtures where, although the risk of disorder at an individual fixture is assessed to be low, there may be opportunities to:

  • build links and increase trust and confidence between the supporter community and the police
  • collect intelligence which can be used to help obtain future FBOs.

Regardless of the assessment for individual fixtures, forces are encouraged to develop protocols that include:

  • the establishment of reciprocal arrangements for spotter deployment between forces
  • a mechanism for recording the decision and rationale behind spotter deployment to football policing operations
  • a mechanism which enables spotters to feedback the outcomes of their activity to supervisors/commanders, to ensure that they continue to be deployed effectively.

Planning for spotter deployment

The effective deployment of both home and away team spotters during a football policing operation reduces the risk of disorder, increases opportunities for intelligence gathering and helps to develop links with football supporter groups.

The tactical planning process should identify:

  • the number of spotters required for the operation
  • how they will be briefed, tasked and supervised, eg, by the football intelligence officer and/or through a dedicated intelligence cell
  • where and when they will be deployed, eg, at points along the route travelling supporters are taking, at known locations where risk supporters congregate
  • if there is any requirement for additional personal protective equipment
  • the requirement for technical equipment, eg, cameras, and the parameters associated with their use
  • dress state, ie, uniformed deployment as a default, although they should be distinguishable from colleagues via insignia or uniform markings. (Note: if the spotters are not in uniform, surveillance may fall within the remit of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. Authorisation for surveillance should then be considered and sought as part of the planning process.)

Operational spotter deployment

When deployed during a football policing operation, spotters:

  • collect, record and disseminate intelligence
  • engage with supporters to help develop links and build trust and confidence
  • help identify known or suspected persons or groups involved in disorder or crime
  • help identify persons subject to FBOs
  • provide information on the behavioural patterns of supporters
  • identify potential individuals who may be suitable for recruitment as covert human intelligence sources
  • identify potential flash points/hot spots for disorder
  • prevent the infiltration of visiting supporters into home areas of the ground and identify those visiting supporters who gain access to such areas.

Due to their knowledge and links with supporter groups (including risk supporters), spotters should be deployed to areas where there is the potential for either spontaneous or pre-planned disorder. Although this particular type of deployment will need to be dynamically risk assessed and approved by/communicated to commanders, the spotters’ knowledge and links could prevent or reduce any disorder. Where disorder occurs, spotters should revert to their role as intelligence gatherers as this will enhance both the opportunities for obtaining future FBOs and/or assisting any post-match investigation.

Debriefing and review

Once the football policing operation has ended, a debriefing should be conducted to identify opportunities for organisational and operational learning (eg, an assessment of whether the level of police resources used was appropriate, effective and efficient).

Debriefing also helps to support intelligence and evidence gathering, for example, to secure FBOs, and identify/address any welfare, partner and community issues that may require action. For these reasons, a debrief with the club safety officer should be part of the process for debriefing the football policing operation. The outcomes of debriefing should link into reviews of the gold strategy and tactical planning that are conducted during and at the close of the season (eg, reviewing the policing resource requirements against the match categories).

The debriefing and review process should capture good practice and highlight areas for improvement. The implementation of any recommendations should be monitored as these can be used as the basis for future planning.

Need to cite this article in your essay, paper or report? Please use:

College of Policing (2013) : Policing football [Internet]. [Accessed 30 June 2015]