A Crystal Palace supporters’ trust has lodged an official complaint about police handling at the derby match with Brighton and Hove Albion earlier this season.
The game at the Amex stadium on November 28 saw around 150 away fans escorted back to Falmer station before the match began, and false accusations by the police that fans were in possession of ‘knives and knuckledusters’ – an allegation the police has since apologised for.
The lead police officer overlooking the match between the fierce rivals said it was the ‘most challenging football-related disorder that I have ever experienced’.
But the letter by the Crystal Palace Supporters Trust criticised the ‘blanket approach’ by police towards fans, and claimed some supporters who had tickets for the match were turned away, despite not being involved in disorder outside the stadium.
The Trust described how fans were marched in a rolling containment from West Street up to the station, and how the containment grew to 250 to 300 Palace fans.
It claimed: “At a number of points as the rolling containment came to a corner or a stop, the momentum of the group led to jostling with officers, as there was no other direction for people to go in.
“Officers responded by drawing batons and on occasion using them against whoever was closest, including strikes to the head.
“Some officers carried their batons drawn for most of the march.”
It described how the fans were late for the match as a result of the containment and the approach of officers at Brighton station, and when they arrived at the Amex Stadium the turnstiles were closed.
Brighton and Hove Albion said it made the decision to close the turnstiles after reports of some Palace fans without tickets trying to force their way into the stadium.
But the Palace supporters’ trust claimed during half time, some fans were led back to Falmer station despite having tickets.
The letter said: “Fans were greatly inconvenienced by the blanket approach taken by Sussex Police. It should be noted here that the officers on the ground, and by implication the senior officers in charge, were aware that this group contained people of varying ages, many of whom had match tickets, and were therefore not likely to be the people who had contributed to the disorder at the Amex Stadium.”
The letter by the Trust asks for explanation of the following: why fans were being placed in a containment; why the route to the station was circuitous; why there was a delay which was likely to lead to missing the beginning of the match; what the plan was once the turnstiles had been closed; and why fans were being forced back on to trains.”
The Trust said: “The effect of the events of that night has been to significantly damage the trust and confidence of CPFC fans in Sussex Police.”
A Sussex Police spokesperson said: “We can confirm that on April 10 we received a complaint from the Crystal Palace Football Supporters Trust about the policing operation for the Brighton and Hove Albion v Crystal Palace match on November 28 2017.
“Our Professional Standards Department are assessing the complaint in order to determine how it will be investigated.
“We have already apologised to both clubs and the supporters about some information published that was not correct.”
To read the letter by the Crystal Palace Supporters Trust in full click here.