Police chiefs have warned football fans intent on violence at next month’s Sheffield derby that there is ‘nowhere to hide’.
With three months of planning having gone into the police operation for the Sheffield United v Sheffield Wednesday fixture, police chiefs have warned fans to expect significant numbers of officers on the streets and in United’s Bramall Lane stadium for the Friday night fixture.
But they have warned that a sophisticated CCTV system recently installed at the ground means that cameras can pick up fans on every single seat in the stadium.
Superintendent Simon Wanless, who is in charge of the derby day policing operation, said the system will be utilised to identify anyone involved in violence or disorder – on the night and afterwards.
“Sheffield United’s CCTV system is almost identical to that used at Wembley – it is very sophisticated and gives us a view of every single seat in the stadium. It means that there is literally nowhere to hide,” he said.
“If anything is thrown then cameras can track back to who exactly was responsible. They will be used on the night and afterwards to ensure that should anyone engage in disorder or violence we can identify them and seek prosecutions, banning orders and potentially club lifetime bans.”
Crowd control barriers will be used around Bramall Lane before and after the November 9 fixture to keep rival fans apart.
Police horses and dogs will be used, the police helicopter will be deployed and mobile CCTV cameras will be utilised.
Officers will also use hand-held and born-worn cameras to film the crowds for evidence gathering purposes should disorder break out.
The police operation, involving officers drafted in from forces across the country to boost numbers, will run from the morning of the derby day right through to the early hours after the game.
Supt Wanless described the much anticipated first Steel City Derby of the season as a ‘highlight of the sporting calendar in Sheffield’ and his policing plan has been drawn up ‘to keep the public safe’.
“It is an unfortunate side of football that rivalry can spill over into violence,” he said.
“Some fans may see the policing operation as overbearing, but the reason is to protect people and ensure their safety.
“I would feel very uncomfortable if anyone felt intimidated or threatened or was injured as a result of us not having an effecting plan in place.
“These plans are not drawn up in isolation, but with co-operation from both clubs, with safety at the forefront of all our minds.”
He said the game was a ‘significant event’ for Sheffield and to avoid the risk of hooliganism marring the game, fans would be kept apart for as long as possible – both before and after the fixture.
Barriers will separate the fans on the streets, there will be segregation zones in the stadium and Wednesday fans will be encouraged to remain in the stadium after the game to allow United fans to disperse.
Wednesday bosses have also been asked to only sell tickets to their ‘top tier’ of loyal season ticket holders.
Fans who with a history of violence and those suspected of posing a risk will receive police visits ahead of the games, where officers will warn them that they are on the South Yorkshire Police radar.
“Supt Wanless added: “We are doing everything possible to deny any fans intent on disorder the opportunity.
“We want fans to enjoy the fixture without incident and to leave rivalries on the pitch.”