Keele Professor leading revolutionary football policing project to make matchdays safer

A new policing project being coordinated by a Keele academic is set to help the way that football matches are policed and stewarded.

Led by Professor Clifford Stott from Keele University’s School of Psychology, “Project ENABLE” brings together leading academics, the English Football League (EFL), police forces and football clubs in a bid to develop research-led and innovative approaches to crowd safety and security.

The project will look at the current matchday policing and stewarding protocols employed by a number of UK police forces and football clubs, with the intention of building research that empower public safety without negatively impacting on fans’ experiences. In doing so, it is designed to assist police forces and football clubs to develop more effective and financially sustainable approaches to crowd management.

Professor Stott, a world-renowned expert on football crowd behaviour, said: “This is a groundbreaking project drawing on decades of expertise.

“For the first time in the UK we now have an opportunity to examine the complex issues surrounding crowd management in football in a more objective way. Because our project also involves all of the key stakeholders, it will ensure the rapid uptake of our research in ways that will help our partners quickly embed good policy and practice in evidence-led ways.

“We hope that by working together our collaborative work will lead to very positive outcomes and help enhance security, improve supporter safety and empower fans’ positive experiences at football grounds across the country.”

EFL Head of Policy, John Nagle, added: “Safety and security is at the forefront of the matchday experience for all EFL supporters and this project is important because it will assist in developing cutting-edge crowd management techniques that will improve safety and the positive experiences of fans.

“The benefits of this research-led approach will be twofold. Firstly, it will enable police forces and EFL clubs to use the latest knowledge and good practice to make the matchday experience as safe as possible.

“Secondly, innovations arising from the project could not only enhance safety for supporters, they could also help reduce the cost to the taxpayer of policing football matches by ensuring resources are only targeted precisely where and when they are needed.”

ENABLE is also supported by the Football Supporters’ Association, which will be integrated into the project through a place on its steering committee.
Kevin Miles, Chief Executive at the Football Supporters' Association, said: "The FSA is delighted to be an active participant in ENABLE together with the EFL. We feed into observations of matchday policing operations and have a place on the steering committee.

"The initiative isn't without its challenges but we have already seen positive changes in how supporters are policed and it's already clear that supporters respond far better to a community-driven, engaged style of policing as opposed to always being treated as a potential public-order problem."

Picture credit: English Football League (EFL)