Leeds Council gave permission for open top bus celebration at Leeds United to 'disperse crowds'

Leeds City Council has confirmed it was aware about the proposed plans for Leeds United’s open-top bus celebrations at Elland Road last night.

Thursday, 23rd July 2020, 4:57 pm
Updated Thursday, 23rd July 2020, 5:10 pm

The authority claimed the plans were only a contingency to help disperse fans should large numbers turn up to the ground, while agreeing to have the bus “hidden from view” and “not promoted”.

Opinion has been split following the club’s decision to hold the celebration following the final game of the season against Charlton last night, as numerous pleas had been made by both the club and the council for fans to stay away due to concerns around Covid-19.

Many fans who stayed at home have since reacted angrily on social media, suggesting those who broke the rules were rewarded with a trophy celebration.

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Scenes at Elland Road following the title win.

A statement from the council released late this afternoon confirmed it had known about the club’s plan, and claimed the measures were “effective”, as fans left “within 40 minutes” of the event finishing.

A spokesperson for Leeds City Council said: “We were very clear along with the club, West Yorkshire Police and partners that people should not gather at Elland Road or indeed at any other venue in Leeds to celebrate promotion to the Premier League or the presentation of the Championship trophy.

“Following a meeting of the Leeds United Safety Advisory Group earlier this week, contingency plans were considered and prepared for the likely event that large numbers of fans did not adhere to the Covid-19 safety messaging and gathered outside Elland Road last night, and how to ensure they dispersed in the safest and quickest way possible.

“This included closing Lowfields Road to traffic and also an agreed approach to have the open-top bus at the ground but hidden from view and not promoted, only to be used if significant numbers of fans gathered as a method of bringing the gathering to an end effectively.

“As several thousand fans were outside the ground, the decision was taken to deploy the bus plan which proved effective as most of the fans left the area within 40 minutes of the team celebrations concluding.

“All parties involved recognise the difficulties around this decision, which was made only as a method of ensuring the fans dispersed if significant numbers gathered, and would wish to thank all those fans who adhered to the requests to stay safe and stay away.”

A statement from Leeds United released this morning said: “Following consultation with the SAG and Council, Leeds United arranged for a bus to be parked outside the East Stand reception as a contingency to assist dispersal should a crowd congregate at Elland Road despite a month long campaign from the club and supporter groups to encourage supporters to stay at home.

“The safety group believed was that a brief appearance from the players with the Championship trophy, would help to signal an end to proceedings, encouraging fans to head home safely.

“In challenging circumstances fan safety has always been our priority.”