Over the next month or so, we will be publishing a series of interviews with representatives from national and continental supporters’ organisations – discussing their role within football, the issues they face, and their plans for the future, as well as how fans can get involved.
This week, Box To Box contributor James Chisem spoke to Amanda Jacks of FairCop fame.
Can you tell us a bit about FairCop?
Amanda Jacks: FairCop is my twitter name and covers the campaign Watching Football Is Not A Crime, which the Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF) has been running for some years now. It’s all-encompassing and covers everything from dealing with complaints around policing and stewarding to putting out useful information for supporters. Most of my followers are supporters from clubs around the country, although a fair few dedicated football officers follow me, which can mean the occasional lively discussion!
In your experience, what’s the most common policing and/or stewarding issue that supporters have to deal with?
AJ: Policing has vastly improved in recent years, although we still don’t see a consistent picture around the country, and away fans can still contend with over the top policing. Ironically, perhaps, issues around stewarding are on the rise which is a real concern since poor stewarding can and does compromise safety. Almost on a weekly basis I learn about minor incidents that have escalated into more serious ones due to a poor response from stewards who often are doormen whose skills are simply not transferable to football stadia. There is a growing awareness within the industry that there is, at best, room for improvement, which is gratifying. It can’t come too soon.
What’s the most important fact supporters should know about policing and stewarding at football matches?
AJ: It may seem an odd thing to say, but the biggest issue isn’t policing or stewarding but a mentality among fans that I call “expect and accept”. They think being treated poorly is part and parcel of football and for a variety of reasons that I do understand, see little or no point in speaking up. In short, if they don’t, change will happen at a slower pace. I’m only as good as, and can only act on, the information I receive. If fans want to remain anonymous, I will totally respect that. In a similar vein, positive stories are good too—if I receive them, I can share them as best practice.
What would you say is FairCop’s biggest achievement?
AJ: I’m particularly proud of my (minimal!) involvement in several successful legal cases, particularly those that have created legal precedents. We are very lucky to have two amazing solicitors who will advise us free of charge and often go on to represent supporters. In these difficult times, it is very rewarding being able to facilitate access to justice. I also take great pride in individual cases that don’t make the headlines but mean a huge amount to the supporters involved. It’s incredibly rewarding to get phone calls or emails from fans who I’ve helped. Ultimately, I’m just doing my job, but it’s a great one to have!
Who should people contact if they have any problems with the police or stewards?
AJ: Me! firstname.lastname@example.org or 07703 519555. This job isn’t a Monday to Friday, 9-5 one, so whenever I can, I’m happy to help fans outside of traditional working hours.