FSA demand meeting with Chelsea and Met Police over Leeds United fans' 'concerning' Stamford Bridge reports

The Football Supporters Association will request a meeting with the Met Police and Chelsea after ‘concerning’ reports about the treatment of Leeds United fans at Stamford Bridge.

By Graham Smyth
Friday, 24th December 2021, 7:06 am

In a letter sent to Leeds, Chelsea, West Yorkshire Police and the FSA and seen by the YEP, Leeds United Supporters' Trust said they were inundated with the accounts of Whites supporters which alleged poor management of their entry and exit from the stadium for the game on December 11.

The letter stated: “We assumed that the horrors of the 1980s and the unsafe movement of fans into stadia were a thing of the past but Saturday at Stamford Bridge did much to dispel this.”

The issues raised included repeated requests for supporters to produce their match tickets to get into the away end, turnstile technology failing and police on horseback blocking the route to the turnstiles which caused bottle necking and crushing with children and disabled fans caught in the midst of it as kick-off approached.

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The Trust said Leeds fans also complained about Met officers having their batons drawn and using ‘unnecessary force’ before the game, with an apparent loss of control when supporters left the ground at full-time leading to disorder.

The letter continued: “It’s unusual for us as a Trust to get so many emails and posts about bad match day experiences, but Chelsea FC are lucky not to have had a serious crushing incident on their hands. We hope that someone will respond, both with an apology to Leeds United fans who attended that game and for the relevant clubs to act to ensure this doesn’t happen to any fan (of any club) in the future.”

James Roche, a Leeds United away season ticket holder, told the YEP his requests for help and concerns over a potential crush fell on deaf ears.

“I got to the ground around maybe 2.45pm and there was a sizeable crowd trying to get in,” he said.

CONCERNING REPORTS - Leeds United fans have complained about the policing and stewarding at Stamford Bridge. Pic: Leeds United Supporters Trust

“As we moved nearer there was not a lot of movement on my side into the crowd and I was starting to get pushed from people behind who complained it was people behind them. I couldn’t really go anywhere and was getting concerned as I was essentially being pushed into the thousands in front of me.

“I was next to the barriers, right next to the police. Some barriers had been knocked over and I had to step around a policewoman over the barrier to avoid being pushed into someone further.

“On multiple occasions I asked for help from the police and was told it was Chelsea’s fault and essentially their responsibility. There were at least 10 to 20 police lined up, but no one seemed to do anything. At one point Leeds fans broke open some doors, potentially fire exit doors, to get in. I suspect that was for some to avoid getting pushed further and to just get in.

“It was genuinely the most concerned I’ve been to get into a ground in the years I’ve been going.”

Leeds fan James Rowland told BBC Leeds he arrived 20 minutes before kick-off and couldn’t see the turnstiles from the back of the queue. “It was horrible,” he said. “There were times in the 80s and 90s when it was pretty ugly but I haven’t been in a situation like that for many years.”

He had to abandon his attempt to get to the turnstiles to help a fellow fan having an asthma attack and having rejoined the back of the queue eventually entered the ground at 3.25pm.

The FSA is collating the statements of Leeds fans and plans to request a meeting with the Met and Chelsea Football Club. Amanda Jacks of the FSA told the YEP: “I’ve received numerous concerning complaints with lots of common themes.”

In a statement released to the YEP the Met said crowd safety as fans entered the ground was Chelsea’s responsibility but when an issue arose over a ‘surge’ of supporters their officers were on hand to assist stewards.

It read: “Officers from the Met worked with Chelsea FC ahead of the planned match on Saturday 11 December, at Stamford Bridge against Leeds FC.

“Whilst the responsibility of the queues and turnstiles and crowd safety at those points is the responsibility of Chelsea Football Club the Met had a policing plan in place around the footprint of the ground.

“At around 14:45hrs it became clear that there was an issue with a surge of fan entry into the stadium. Officers were on scene and assisted the stewards in the management of getting fans through the turnstiles. Police remained on scene throughout the duration of the match.

“No arrests were made.”

Chelsea FC did not comment despite requests.