Wednesday 24 July 2024
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Meet the Nottinghamshire Police officers keeping football fans safe over the festive season

Providing there’s no trouble, policing a football match can look easy to supporters. But for PC Simon Travell and PC John Albanese, there’s a lot more to it than watching the crowd for 90 minutes on a Saturday afternoon.

The duo are Nottinghamshire Police’s two dedicated football officers. PC Travell attends Nottingham Forest fixtures both home and away, while PC Albanese has responsibility for Mansfield Town and Notts County matches.

Between them, they’ve clocked up 20 years policing football matches and they’ve always had a busy ‘to-do’ list that is designed to ensure public safety on matchdays.

PC John Albanese centre while policing a fixture at Mansfield Town.jpg
PC John Albanese (centre) while policing a fixture at Mansfield Town

“Being a dedicated football officer is a full-time job,” says PC Travell. “I mostly work Tuesday-Saturday and there’s always stuff that needs doing. For example, today (a Wednesday shift) I’m following up on video evidence gathered from body cameras worn by officers during the Swansea v Forest game a couple of weeks ago, as well as the recent home fixture against Hull.

“Tomorrow I’ve got a home visit on a 15-year-old lad who is going to away games probably without his parents’ knowledge. There’s a safeguarding issue there – if something were to happen to him and Notts Police were aware he was going to matches, we’d have some serious questions to answer.

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PC John Albanese is responsible for policing at Mansfield Town matches
PC John Albanese is responsible for policing at Mansfield Town matches

“Yesterday we had a meeting to plan ahead of Forest v Derby on 22 January. That’s obviously a big game so the planning for that starts weeks in advance and detailed briefings are drawn up as part of that.

“For away games, I compile assessments for the home force – how many Forest fans are going, how many coaches are going, what trains will supporters be catching etc. I have to do three reports – an initial report four weeks ahead of the game, then an interim report and then a final report.

“That’s just gives you a small flavour of what we do. It’s a busy job but also an interesting one.”

That was certainly the case in May 2019 when Mansfield Town travelled to MK Dons for the final match of the season, where the winner would secure promotion into League One. Emotions were running high and it was MK Dons who prevailed with a 1-0 win, sparking a celebratory pitch invasion that quickly turned ugly.

“You had disgruntled Mansfield fans were who not happy that MK Dons fans were running on the pitch celebrating in front of them,” recalled PC Albanese. “It led to Mansfield supporters also going on the pitch and there was mass disorder. You even had Mansfield fans fighting among themselves as they couldn’t tell who were the MK Dons fans.

“That led to 34 people being convicted in court for offences such as throwing a missile and assaulting an emergency worker.”

Thankfully, not every matchday involves that level of disorder. Yet even when there are no arrests, PC Travell and PC Albanese typically find themselves working a ten-hour shift.

“If it’s a home game with a 3pm kick-off, my shift will start at 9am at Force Headquarters,” says PC Travell. “I’ll come in and check the final briefing and any last-minute intel we need to be aware of. I’ll check in with the control room to see if they’ve got anything we need to be aware of. I’ll then call the dedicated football officer who covers the team Forest are playing that day and see if they’ve got any information that we need to know. Then I’ll check in with the police match commander, who is a high-ranking police officer and is responsible for ensuring overall safety.

“Once that’s all done I’ll travel to the ground and meet the police spotters, who are there to provide live intelligence on supporter groups. We’ll have a team briefing where we’ll go through all the relevant information for that day including any intel that’s come in and the threat assessment.

“We’ll then split into two groups. One will go and police the city centre and the other will stay in the vicinity of the stadium. They’ll be the eyes and ears for the matchday commander so that a decision can be made regarding resources.

“That’s all just phase one! Phase two is the match itself and we’ll all be inside the stadium. That includes engaging with fans and feeding back any intel that can shape decisions around phase three, which is policing after the game has finished.

“If there’s been any arrests you link in with the force’s prisoner handling team. It’s usually gone 7 or 8pm before your shift actually ends. It can be a long day but it’s an enjoyable role and I am pleased to say that we often get reports from both home and away supporters that say how fairly they feel Notts Police treat football fans.”

Those who do commit serious offences can find themselves in court, where they may be issued with a banning order the prohibits them from attending football matches for a set period of time.

But with thousands of supporters turning up on a matchday, PC Travell admits it is challenging to spot everyone who is breaching such an order.

“It can be difficult if they’re clever to not sit where they usually sit,” he said. “That said, we do identify people, through intelligence, that people have gone to games and we have dealt with them.”

It is often said football is all about getting results. The same can be said of policing – and with crowd trouble a rare occurrence in Nottinghamshire, PC Travell and PC Albanese are certainly succeeding in their roles.

* The role of a dedicated football officer is one of many interesting jobs that exist within Nottinghamshire Police. To see our latest vacancies, visit our careers page: Nottinghamshire Police Careers | Nottinghamshire Police

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