SOUTH YORKSHIRE POLICE were in self-congratulatory mode despite causing chaos in the streets around Bramall Lane after the Steel City derby draw. Never have I witnessed so many police officers being verbally abused at a football match and looking on with resigned expressions or holding their hands apologetically in the air.
Assistant Chief Constable Tim Forber clearly didn’t see it or chose to turn a blind eye. In a statement afterwards he said: The fans that attended the match this evening did so in high spirits and I thank you all for your patience while we managed the dispersal of over 30,000 people out of Bramall Lane into the city centre and beyond.” Adding: “Thank you all for your support of our officers and those officers that travelled to support SYP.”
Steel barriers erected at John Street’s convergence with Bramall Lane and another one barring access further back, forced those heading towards the city centre to walk along a number of side streets before emerging onto St Mary’s Road. Pavement crowded, supporters spilled onto the dual carriageway, angering drivers and holding up traffic.
As the crowd finally reached the roundabout and pedestrian underpass at the end of Bramall Lane, Wednesday fans, held in the ground in order for home supporters to clear the area, began to appear at the same spot. Happily sense prevailed, helped by torrential rain, there was little trouble. But no thanks to the police whose planning was nonsensical.
Surely better to have let United fans exit by their usual route down Bramall Lane and clear the area quickly. Side streets could have been cordoned off to prevent confrontations which, sadly, have happened in the past. Then when Wednesday fans finally exited there would have been no meeting at the roundabout.
I parked two minutes from the ground but thanks to South Yorkshire Police it took me 25 minutes to reach my car by which time the area was filled with Wednesday fans.
Safety at football matches, because of past history, is a sensitive issue for SYP. It’s not easy either and often officers deserve sympathy for what is a difficult and often thankless task under trying circumstances. Nevertheless, you would have thought by now they would be beyond reproach. Whoever planned this operation should take a long, hard look at themselves.
Chances are it won’t happen. Because in the final analysis there was little trouble and few arrests. So tick all the boxes at Police HQ and pats on the back all round.
My experience and that of many others will tell you it was more down to luck than judgment.