Football fans thank police for the way officers handled match between Sheffield United and Millwall

Football fans have heaped praise on and thanked police for its handling of the match between Sheffield United and Millwall on Saturday.

Members of Millwall Supporters’ Club thanked South Yorkshire Police for treating them ‘as fans not criminals’ at Saturday’s game, which finished in a 1-1 draw.

Billy Sharp, of Sheffield United and Jake Cooper, of Millwall battle for an aerial ball during the Sky Bet Championship match at Bramall Lane, Sheffield. Picture: James Wilson/Sportimage

Billy Sharp, of Sheffield United and Jake Cooper, of Millwall battle for an aerial ball during the Sky Bet Championship match at Bramall Lane, Sheffield. Picture: James Wilson/Sportimage

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Michael Avery, of Millwall Supporters’ Club, said better communication was needed between fans and police before games.

He added: “The chairman of our supporters’ club, Kathryn Gale, and our CEO, Andy Ambler, met South Yorkshire Police to iron out what the problem was.

“We’ve had problems in the past with late changes to kick-off times when people have already bought tickets and made travel arrangements.

South Yorkshire Police liaison officers pictured with Millwall supporters

South Yorkshire Police liaison officers pictured with Millwall supporters

Sheffield Heeley MP Louise Haigh, who is also shadow policing minister, said she helped set up meetings between supporters and police before the game.

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She said: “It seems to have been a really positive experience for the vast majority of supporters using this new approach.

“Football has put a huge strain on policing resource and violence in football has become much worse in recent years.

“When violent crime is rocketing elsewhere in the city it’s not acceptable that football is placing such a demand so I think it’s right that club and supporters are being as open as they are.”

Millwall grabbed an injury time equaliser when Jake Cooper netted in the 95th minute.

Mr Avery said: “It all went fine. Even with the 95th minute goal – something like that is when you could expect trouble but there was none.

“It’s credit to South Yorkshire Police for being sensible and you have also got to remember the Millwall fans – it was nice that our entire away support behaved as they did.

“If the police treat us as fans not criminals then it is better for everyone. Our former chairman Reg Burr once said: ‘Millwall is a convenient coat peg for football to hang its problems on’ and that’s still true today.

“If you look at the statistics, the number of arrests at Millwall games are considerably lower than you think.”

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Supt Sarah Poolman, who oversaw the policing operation for the match, said an issue raised by the newly-formed Football Independent Advisory Group was that fans felt policing plans weren’t shared with fans before games.

She said the change in policing methods saw police liaison officers speak to fans before the game as well as accompanying them on Saturday.