Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday fans have painted a “damning picture” of the police operation at this month’s Steel City derby, according to a Football Supporters’ Federation report

Followers of Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday want greater co-operation between police and fans ahead of Steel City derbies after voicing dissatisfaction following the match at Hillsborough, a Football Supporters' Federation investigation has revealed.

By James Shield
Wednesday, 13th March 2019, 4:02 pm
Updated Wednesday, 13th March 2019, 4:08 pm
Fans at this month's Sheffield derby: Simon Bellis/Sportimage
Fans at this month's Sheffield derby: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

More than 1,000 people took part in the survey, examining South Yorkshire Police's operation both before and after March 4th's meeting between the two clubs.

The results, published today, "paint a damning picture" according to a statement issued by the organisation with 72.6 per cent of respondents saying the policing was worse than at previous derbies.

The last derby took place at Hillsborough: Richard Sellers/PA Wire.

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Nearly 71 per cent described the organisation of the exit from the stadium as "very poor", with less than five per cent labelling it "good" or very good".

Amanda Jacks, the FSF's director of casework, said: “There is no doubt that the results of this survey should give all stakeholders ample food for thought.

“Unfortunately, South Yorkshire Police’s approach did not meet supporters’ expectations of how a modern high-profile fixture should be handled. Supporters have expressed serious concerns about the force’s communication, conduct and approachability."

When asked how the policing of the the game could be improved, over two thirds of those taking part called for SYP to have "more proactive interaction" with fans.

The two teams faced each other at Bramall Lane earlier this season: Tim Goode/PA Wire.

Noting how 65 per cent felt supporters should be more involved in pre-game planning, Jacks insisted this confirmed both Wednesday and United fans wanted to work with rather than against the force. An independent advisory group, involving representatives of both clubs' support bases and officers, was established earlier this season.

"Notwithstanding their views of policing, it’s clear that supporters want a relationship with South Yorkshire Police," she added. "There are countless benefits, demonstrated by many derbies across the country, to including supporters in planning around major fixtures – this is the one positive to come out of all of this and South Yorkshire Police should listen to their community."

In an interview with The Star, conducted after the goalless draw, Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts pledged to "listen" to fans' concerns about the events organisation.

DCC Roberts, the national lead for football policing, also addressed claims that logistical failures had contributed to clashes outside the ground following the final whistle.

"I think, with any big operation, you tend to do a review," he said, speaking before the FSF's released its report. "We've picked up feedback. We've considered the whole game, pre-match, during the match and post-match. It's to see what went well and what didn't, what we could do better."

FSF Sheffield derby consultation • 1012 respondents from Thursday 7th March to Sunday 10th March 2019.

Pre-match: • 40.7% said policing was worse than previous derbies (51.1% about the same). • Asked to give a score out of 10, with 1 being very poor and 10 being excellent, the pre-match operation was rated on average as 4.2 from all respondents.

Post-match: • 72.6% said it was worse than previously (24.3% about the same). • Asked to give a score out of 10, with 1 being very poor and 10 being excellent, the postmatch operation was rated on average as 1.9. • 70.7% describe the management of the exit from the stadium as very poor, a further 14.8% described it as poor. Just 4.3% described it as good or very good. • Only 11 of 929 fans (1.2%) described police instructions post-match as clear, audible and helpful.

South Yorkshire Police: • 79.5% describe SYP as 'worse than the average' when compared with forces around the country (13% say they're roughly the same). • Only 38.5% would describe SYP's general policing at other home matches as adequate, and 15.2% saying it was good or very good.

Supporter engagement: When asked what they should do to improve their matchday policing, the most popular responses were: • Have more proactive interactions with fans: 66.7% • Include supporters in pre-match planning/discussions: 65.1% • Improve pre-match communications/messages: 53.3% • Improve their engagement with fans through social media: 37.3%