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DON’T KICK OFF: Police urge Watford FC fans to enjoy matches responsibly as new season begins with victory

 Published on: 7th August 2023   |   By: News Bulletin   |   Category: Watford FC

Police in Watford are urging football fans to enjoy the beautiful game responsibly after the Hornets rang in the new season with a 4-0 victory against Queens Park Rangers on Saturday.

Officers work closely with the team at Vicarage Road ahead of, and during, every match day to ensure the safety and security of both home and away fans, and to respond promptly to any incidents that arise.

Former Watford Chief Inspector Ian Grout now works in the constabulary’s Operations team, and his current role involves planning and delivering policing resources for large-scale events.

He said: “Unfortunately, seven people ended up with criminal records for their conduct last season. We have a zero-tolerance approach to aggressive behaviour and will do all we can to pursue those who behave in an unacceptable manner on match days.

“We know most fans simply want to cheer on their team and soak up the atmosphere. They often bring their children too and it can be frightening for younger fans when they witness others drinking heavily and getting involved in physical altercations.

“Sadly there are a minority who take pleasure in causing disorder and disruption, and that intention is not a good mixture with alcohol.

“In one incident in November last year, a 10-year-old boy was leaving Vicarage Road when he, his older brother and their dad were spat at. His 18-year-old brother was then kicked and punched, leaving him with broken teeth and an eye injury. This was hugely distressing for the younger child to witness.

“Officers promptly arrested a man who was subsequently charged. He has admitted the offences and is due to be sentenced later this month.

“Interestingly, the majority of those we dealt with for match day offences last season had no prior convictions. And now, they will have to declare their criminal record if they have a job interview, enrol at university, buy an insurance policy, or apply for social housing. They have potentially closed doors on their future, and it’s just not worth it.”

Ian Pope, head of operations at Watford FC, said: “Alongside the club’s own ‘We’ campaign striving to make football at Vicarage Road as welcoming as possible, we are completely unfazed in supporting the publication of individual incidents by Hertfordshire Constabulary.

“Football should be an activity to be enjoyed, some time with family and friends away from the pressures of work or education. It is not a place where poor behaviour will be tolerated, and we’ll continue to work with our safety and security partners to ensure a comfortable environment for all supporters at our stadium.”

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