Incidents around the Brighton v Crystal Palace match on Tuesday evening (November 28) have been described as the ‘most challenging football-related disorder that I have ever experienced’ by the man who led the policing operation for the game.
Whilst horrific London TV footage showed the extent of the disturbance, below is an eyewitness report for the man who was in charge of the operation.
Chief Inspector Simon Nelson said: “I have been involved in football policing at all levels and have been a match commander for Albion matches for 12 years, but I have never come across such concerted attempts to cause disorder and engage in violent behaviour.
“By late afternoon, groups of masked people, apparently linked to both Albion and Palace, were seeking confrontation with each other and police around Brighton. Along with British Transport Police colleagues, we had to deal with a number of incidents at Brighton railway station, which caused tailbacks of people queuing for trains, who understandably were frustrated that they were going to miss the start of the match.
“I am sorry that these genuine supporters were inconvenienced, but throughout the operation the safety of everyone involved was our priority.
“Outside the stadium, we dealt with a number of public order incidents, particularly amongst a contingent of away supporters who were being escorted from the railway station. We are aware that a significant number of people attempted to enter the ground with pyrotechnics, knives and knuckledusters, which were found following efforts to gain access through fire exit doors in the south stand.
“At one stage, a large number of people, who are believed not to have had tickets, overran the turnstiles in the south stand to gain access to the away supporters’ section, where several pyrotechnic devices were discharged throughout the match. Stewards were successful in preventing greater numbers entering in this manner.
“A number of Crystal Palace supporters were unable to enter the ground and were held outside the entrance until we were advised by the club that no further people would be admitted. As soon as we were advised of this and as it was not safe to leave them gathered outside the exits from the stadium, they were escorted back to Falmer railway station.
“Despite this, I am pleased to say that any large scale disorder was averted.
“We will be reviewing our operation and discussing the events of the afternoon and evening with the clubs. This was a return to the dark days of football and is not acceptable.
“We will also be carefully studying CCTV from in and around the stadium and the city in conjunction with Brighton and Hove Albion and colleagues from the Metropolitan Police to identify those responsible for the disorder.”
Six people were arrested on Tuesday evening.