Travelling supporters to be targetted by new Transport Police unit
In one of the first long-term operations of its kind in Scotland, British Transport Police (BTP) said a dedicated football team within the force would be effective at identifying and deterring problems caused by fans on the railways.
BTP said it would not comment on the number of officers being deployed within the unit but said it was already operating with three men, two believed to be affiliated to Partick Thistle and another to English top-flight team Tottenham Hotspur, arrested for alleged disorder at Glasgow’s Queen Street station in recent days.
The move comes on the back new figures showing a rise in football-related incidents on the rail network. According to BTP, during last season there were 86 incidents of disorder recorded that could be directly linked to fans.
But already this season there have been 56 incidents recorded. Incidents range from rowdy and boisterous shouting and singing; religiously offensive and sectarian chanting as well as assaults of a physical and sexual nature.
Insisting football-related disorder was “not solely about the central belt”, BTP said supporters of teams from all Scottish leagues have indulged in anti-social behaviour in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Motherwell, Bathgate, Stirling, Paisley Kirkcaldy, Falkirk, Dumfries and as far north as Brora.
The force also said supporters of English Premiership teams returning north also pose a risk, creating the potential for cross-border services to be disrupted. Supporters who travelled from Lancaster recently were required to be escorted from a train when it arrived at Glasgow’s Central station.
The force added that “supporters of the national team are not immune from being involved in disorder”.
One source said that while the new unit would have some input into the often controversial Police Scotland equivalent FoCUS, it did not have the same “baggage”, adding that the public was often reassured by the presence of officers on trains.
The source added that BTP were less confrontational in their attitude towards football supporters and often tapped into UK-wide tactics and approaches which FoCUS were less inclined to use.