Fans in war of words with police

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Motherwell football fans have accused police of heavy-handed tactics after arrests were made during Saturday’s SPL game at St Mirren Stadium.

Police say officers were deployed after flares and smoke bombs were set off, but angry ‘Well supporters accused them of over-reacting, saying innocent fans were systematically quizzed and searched, including children.

‘Well won the game 1-0.

Police Scotland used their own Facebook site to defend their actions, but then received a string of critical comments from fans.

Chief Superintendent Alan Speirs posted: “We responded to a report of flares and smoke bombs being let off which resulted in the arrest of two people. A further two arrests were made in respect of disorder within the stadium.

“The use of flares and smoke bombs poses a significant risk to spectators and staff working within the stadium.

“Police Scotland continues to appeal to all football fans across Scotland not to take smoke bombs or flares into football matches because of the real dangers they pose.

“As always, we are conducting a review of the police deployment in response to those incidents at St Mirren Park, and we’d like to reassure the public that our priority is to keep people safe - which was our main motivation on Saturday.”

Fans responded with warnings that police operations such as this are driving spectators away from football.

Here is a selection of their comments -

John Graham: “Yes there were 2-3 smoke bombs but no flares.I know that the pyrotechnics are not allowed, but nobody appeared to be in any danger or complained from where I was sitting.

“All this stemmed from stewards not knowing how to deal with a lively crowd whose main objective was to bring some atmosphere to a football match.

“Some of your officers admitted they didn’t know why they were there! I tried to get information as to why my son was being held in and when I tried to get him out I was forced to leave the stadium by plain clothes police with stab vests on who refused to give me any news of my son.

“They must have been rather embarrassed when they saw the type of people they were up against. This was just young lads singing their hearts out. The treatment of the Motherwell fans was an absolute disgrace.

“No wonder crowds are so poor when people are treated like this.”

Graeme Cunningham: “If the police were responding why were there undercover officers amongst the supporters? Disgusting over reaction, credit to the fans for keeping calm under provocation from the police.”

Allison Campbell: “These youngsters are only supporting the team they love and try to bring an atmosphere to the ground. They do not cause trouble. The police were bullying kids.”

Rico AF: “Driving fans away with over-zealous policing, they should recognise the detrimental effect they have had on Scottish football.

“Thankfully the fans in question did not react to being provoked by the hordes of police intimidating them.

“Safety of fans? You split up young supporters from their parents and stopped people from exiting the stadium by closing off the exits. Could you explain how this ensures supporters safety?”

Keith Foster: “Motherwell fans were tweeting about the seemingly unusually high police presence, poorly-disguised undercover officers and searches well before any flares/smokebombs/whatever you wish to call them were set off.

“Whatever the rights and wrongs of ‘pyro’ at football matches, it is wholly inaccurate to call such pre-emptive action ‘responding’.”

Gordon Rooney: “Two boys arrested for using smoke bombs. Is this justification for the large police presence? When is it appropriate for officers to be searching children in toilets?”

Jason Henderson: “What happened was one of the most over the top, embarrassing and shameful displays I’ve ever seen from police at a Scottish football match. This was a deliberate attempt to victimise and intimidate young football fans and no amount of the police posting on Facebook will change that.”

Alisdair Malloy: “Surely properly-trained stewards with the assistance of CCTV could deal with a couple of smoke canisters deployed by young boys?

“Where is the justification for the level of response, a build up of officers at half time on the concourse and the searching of teenagers in the toilets?

“The actions of Police Scotland were designed to spark trouble in order to justify them being there in numbers. It is fortunate our fan’s did not respond to this provocation the way the police had hoped.”