Monthly Archives: September 2009

SMT Online Editor’s View: Security and The City

Last night, the Master and Wardens of The Worshipful Company of Security Professionals hosted the organisation’s inaugural Annual Security Lecture. Brian Sims comments on the main points of a superb speech delivered by The Right Honourable Baroness Pauline Neville-Jones.

Not surprisingly, the City of London has always relied upon good security to protect its people, property and world-renowned reputation. Even more so, perhaps, in a post-9/11 and 7/7 landscape that has borne an economic collapse the like of which many of us have never experienced in our entire lifetime.

Ten years ago, the security sector was bereft of any Livery-based lineage and, in the City at least, there was a burgeoning desire to create (and then nurture) a culture that would secure – on an ongoing basis – the basic principles which protect people, property and liberty.

On 26 August 1999, The Guild of Security Professionals was registered with the Chamberlain of the City of London and, on 18 November that same year, an inaugural meeting was held to plan the establishment of a dedicated Guild.

Come the end of 2000, membership had increased to 90. The Windsor Herald designed a special Coat of Arms and The Queen’s Chaplain at The Tower of London was appointed Honorary Chaplain to the Guild.

Then, on 6 January 2004, the Guild became a recognised Company of the City of London without Grant of Livery by order of the Court of Aldermen of the City. The Court was petitioned in January 2008 and, just over one month later, the Court of Aldermen declared The Worshipful Company of Security Professionals to be the 108th Livery Company of the City of London.

The Royal Charter and Hear4U

Today, the Company boasts an impressive 343 members (with 163 Liverymen in the ranks), but there’s no resting on laurels. The organisation has already petitioned the Privy Council for a Royal Charter, while its Hear4U Benevolent Fund – devised and run in association with, and supported by, Security Management Today Online – continues to help members of the security profession who’ve fallen on hard times back to work as quickly as possible.

To its great credit, The Worshipful Company has now begun what it hopes will be an annual fixture in the discerning security professional’s calendar – a security lecture. Something along the lines of The Dimbleby Lectures that ran when black and white television was the next best thing to sliced bread.

The inaugural event was staged last night at 9 Little Trinity Lane, London EC4V 2AD – the location of The Painters’ Hall, itself just a stone’s throw from Mansion House London Underground station.

I was there for two reasons. One, because I’d received a personal invitation from Past Master Peter French, the other because the guest speaker was Baroness Pauline Neville-Jones DCMG, the shadow security minister.

Given the lame excuses we’ve had from the current administration in relation to the lack of spend on the military, what’s being done to combat the insidious creep of cyber crime and the never-ending threat of terrorism, I was more than a little interested to hear what this working peer would have to say on such matters. Particularly so with a General Election just around the corner.

Much of what was said by the Baroness resonated with me to such an extent that I wanted to share it with you. While you’re reading what follows, bear in mind that this is not about party politics. Rather, it’s about coming to terms with reality, being honest with ourselves and doing something to make this world a safe and secure environment for the generations that follow.

Baroness Pauline Neville-Jones: the CV

First of all, by way of setting the scene permit me to relate a little detail about the Baroness.

Pauline Neville-Jones was educated at Leeds Girls’ High School and Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford (where she studied modern history). From 1963 through to 1996, Neville-Jones was a career member of the UK Diplomatic Service, during which time she served in British Missions in Rhodesia, Singapore, Washington DC and Bonn.

Between 1977 and 1982, Neville-Jones served as head of the defence and overseas secretariat in the Cabinet Office (more of which anon), and as deputy secretary to the Cabinet. 1993-1994 saw a 12-month spell as chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee.

From 1994 until her ‘retirement’, Neville-Jones took on the role of political director at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (in which capacity she ably led the British delegation to the Dayton negotiations on the Bosnia peace settlement).

An appointment as a BBC governor followed in January 1998. From 2002 through to 2005, Neville-Jones was non-executive chairman of QinetiQ, the (then) part-owned UK/US defence company. January 2006 saw her appointment as chairman of the Conservative Party’s policy group on national security.

Today, Baroness Neville-Jones of Hutton Roof in the County of Cumbria sits on the Conservative front bench as shadow security minister and is the national security advisor to David Cameron, the Tory leader and (potentially) the next Prime Minister.

An impressive CV, then, but would there be a delivery to match? So many politicians let us down after such a big build-up, whether that be on television or on The Hustings, but Baroness Neville-Jones is not of that ilk. Her speech was quite brilliant, hitting not just one but a whole box of nails slap-bang square on the head.

Protecting people, property and liberty

A few pleasant words about The Worshipful Company passed by her lips – there was mention of support for innovative products and solutions that “protect people, property and liberty” etc – before the Baroness waded into the Government over its woeful neglect of our Army, the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force.

Security and national defence does not come cheap,” said the Baroness. “There’s a growing recognition and alarm about the huge hole that currently exists in our defence budget. This doesn’t square with the military’s growing procurement list, and the increasing cost of the equipment it needs to purchase.”

So what would the Tories do to square that particular circle? “We will have to do things differently, and would want to do things differently,” expressed Neville-Jones.

“For a start, I want to see security manufacturing remain in this country. We need to retain our excellent engineering and design capabilities. It’s fair to say that we may have to get used to having 80% of our desired capacity in place at any one time. In a nutshell, we need different, faster and better procurement.”

The State and total security

“The State can never hope to provide total security,” explained the Baroness, clad from head to toe in black hues as if in mourning for the Brown administration. “If it ever tried to do so it would alter society in a fundamental manner, and not for the best. It’s fair to say that security cannot always be a top-down exercise. The difficulty all of us face all of the time is how to make people want to engage with the security sector in a meaningful way.”

Turning specifically towards the City of London for a moment, the Baroness explained that much has been done to strengthen this region of the Capital. Necessarily so. It’s a region of massive strategic importance (as demonstrated on a regular basis by the excellent City Security publication).

“London is a global hub with an iconic status,” opined the Baroness, “and we must be careful not to divorce the City from the rest of the Capital. We need London to be seen as a coherent whole, particularly when it comes to security provision.”

As we all know, during an economic crisis like the one we find ourselves embroiled within at present, political extremism has a tendency to come to the fore. “The prime threat at the moment emanates from Islamist extremism,” added the Baroness. “A successful attack could damage confidence in the City still further.”

One wonders where we would be if such a scenario were ever played out, and yet there’s still plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that guarding companies are picking up work at ludicrous rates right in the heart of The Square Mile.

Downgrading the threat level

Of course, back in July the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre changed the UK’s threat level from severe to substantial. Almost in parallel, the Government’s long-awaited counter-terrorism strategy update – in the shape of CONTEST2 – duly appeared.

“I’m not sure that much progress has been made with the Prevent element of that strategy,” said the Baroness. “There has been a considerable focus on security for crowded places but, no matter the scenario, one truism is always there – we must never become complacent nor over-confident in any way.”

That’s a very salient point indeed, even more so for City firms who are under threat from all sorts of groups, from the Animal Rights movement through to anti-Capitalists and the aforementioned extremists who’d just love to cause mayhem in one of the world’s three largest financial centres.

Baroness Neville-Jones also suggested that we should learn as much as we can from the terrorist attacks in Mumbai and Lahore.

“These attacks have worried city authorities the world over. What characterised the Mumbai atrocity was the deployment of small attack and assault teams. They were prolonged, running attacks and battles that brought the city to a standstill for three days or more. It took days for the authorities to regain control of the major hotels, for example.”

Interestingly, the Baroness also mentioned the issue of extreme weather conditions and how they can affect security. “I’m genuinely concerned that the Government has not paid enough attention to natural hazards [which formed a significant strand of the Pitt Report, of course]. There are most certainly unrealised synergies between security and natural hazards that must be addressed.”

What would the Tories do, then?

Then we came to that portion of the speech everyone had waited to hear. Assuming that a Conservative Government is voted back into power next May at the General Election, what are that party’s security policies likely to be?

“For a start, we want to allow individuals to be more involved in determining their own security regime,” explained Baroness Neville-Jones. “That would be part of our strategic direction. Proper strategic direction on security is based on solid organisation. To some extent the Cabinet Office seems to have lost its way of late, but a Conservative Government would put that right.”

Baroness Neville-Jones was so astute when suggesting that, whenever a different type of threat rears its ugly head, the current administration’s knee-jerk reaction has been to create a new body for addressing that threat without any regard for organisations already in place. The Critical National Infrastructure agenda was cited as a case in point.

“The military is best placed for the essential command and control role,” asserted the Baroness. “They need to be in a position to play an enhanced role but, at the moment, we can only rely on the fully-trained personnel who have not been deployed abroad. In other words, at this moment in time the Army’s availability cannot be guaranteed in numbers. As a result, the first responders cannot build the military into their forward planning.”

The whole issue of cyber security has, almost inevitably, ascended the corporate agenda. Baroness Neville-Jones preferred to talk about “cyber insecurity”, and she was perfectly right to do so.

“The cyber security plans laid down by the Government earlier this year did not go far enough. The Government and the citizens of this country are not geared up to fight cyber-crime. The larger finance houses will be, but they’re still vulnerable to attacks. Close and specialist attention needs to be paid to this subject.”

One of the basic problems here is that private sector organisations are never that well disposed towards talking about attacks perpetrated against them. There’s reputational damage to be considered and, as the Baroness explained, there’s really no one central office to which those attacks may be reported.

Serious level of ignorance within Government

“To be quite frank, there is a serious level of ignorance within Government about the vulnerability of its own systems,” outlined Baroness Neville-Jones, who then waxed lyrical about a Conservative Government that would establish Cyber-Security Operations Centres as a central conduit for all attack information.

“We need a common operational agenda and threat assessment in order to realise an agreed situational awareness across the nation.”

The focus of Baroness Neville-Jones’ speech then moved on to the role of the smaller business in security planning.

Business continuity planning in such organisations can still be primitive. Also, management will tend to forget about the supply chain and its security and safety. That said, some excellent work has been done – and is being done – by local resilience Forums to make sure these issues are firmly on the agenda.”

For its part, the Government should make information about the risks facing SMEs readily available at all times and, more importantly, guide them as to how they can respond. “The National Risk Register does not yet provide this information,” said the Baroness. “This is the kind of detail that simply must be dispersed or we’ll always be stuck in this vicious circle.”

Clearly, much thought needs to be given to how companies can fit into an agreed and overarching local approach to security.

Concentrated training and co-operation

While the country is vulnerable to numerous security threats, so too is the City. “The threats can be ameliorated by concentrated training and co-operation,” outlined the Baroness.

“I would say again that the Government cannot provide nor guarantee total security,” she continued. “This is not about the State abdicating its responsibility to its citizens. Rather, it’s about true security and resources being activated and energised by trust and co-operation in direct support of shared goals.”

According to Baroness Neville-Jones, the single biggest deterrent we have to combat the terrorist threat is convicting those who are guilty and putting them behind bars. There has been success here of late with the Court case involving the liquid bomb plotters who were scheming to destroy commercial airlines and wreak as much havoc as occurred on 9/11. If that plot had succeeded, there would have been massive political repercussions.

The Baroness was also very clear on the state of policing in this country. “Too many warranted officers are stuck in the office while the PCSO’s patrol the streets. That’s not right. We have presided over a situation where anti-social behaviour has been allowed to destroy our society. This problem is widespread.” Indeed it is. Again, only the sternest of sentences for those convicted are good enough. The Judiciary’s ‘slap on the wrist’ culture must be halted.

“One of the problems is that, as a nation, we are riddled with standards,” explained the Baroness. “There are different security standards for different airports and ports, etc. There is a demonstrable need for interoperability on a much wider scale than is the case at present.”

Afghanistan: is there an answer?

The Afghanistan situation arose in open Q&A, and to her credit the Baroness didn’t dodge the subject. “Obviously, we would prefer the country not to be in the position it is now in terms of the military involvement, but that is where we are.”

As far as Baroness Neville-Jones is concerned, the “eye was off the ball for far too long”. The strategy in Afghanistan was not correct. “We cannot pull out yet, though. The political ramifications of doing so now would be huge. The security threat here on home shores would deteriorate further.”

In Afghanistan, we simply must not confuse insurgency with terrorism. What we have there at the moment is the former, but is it too late to get our act together? For Baroness Neville-Jones, the answer is an emphatic: “No!”

The topic of piracy on the high seas has been prevalent of late, with a spate of hijackings, thefts and physical assaults on crew members. What can be done about this? Some pointers were given last week at The Security Institutes Annual Conference by Cyrus Mody (manager of ICC Commercial Crime Services at the International Maritime Bureau). Look out for a review on SMT Online in due course.

“Pirates operate in an unconventional space,” suggested Baroness Neville-Jones. “We need to get to the villages where they reside so that we can catch the pirates before they put to sea. We should not abdicate our responsibility here as a member of the global community. The role of the Royal Navy is to protect and secure. It’s not just about the nuclear deterrent. The Royal Navy should be seen as one of the responsible policemen of the high seas.”

Perhaps the bankers can sleep soundly after all…

Despite the fact that their lavish lifestyles and profligate dealing on the trading floors has brought the country to its economic knees, it’s good to know that the Boys in Blue haven’t taken umbrage.

June’s crime figures for the City of London were very positive indeed, with fewer burglaries, less car crime and less violent crime recorded. Residential burglaries were down from 11 in 2008 nto 4 this year. There were 71 reported incidents of violent crime. The June 2008 figure was 106.

Meanwhile, a 30% reduction on last year’s number of thefts from customers in licensed premises occurred following a successful operation to target organised gangs of criminals.

In effect, the City of London has witnessed 387 less offences than this time last year – an overall reduction of nearly 20%.

An official blurb states: “If you work or live in the City, it’s important you tell the City of London Police your concerns so that they can work in partnership to resolve these issues.”

OK. My concern is this. Why is it that politicians and bankers who have either swindled or squandered funds (and caused the economic mess that’s costing innocent people their jobs and/or homes) are not being put before the Courts?

Are they any different to us ‘normal’ people? No. Aside from the fact that they don’t have any morals, that is.

Until next time…


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SMT Online Editor’s View: A Nightmare on Green Street

On Tuesday 25 August, West Ham United played host to fierce rivals Millwall. Unfortunately, the night will be remembered more for the anarchy off the pitch than the Hammers’ 3-1 victory. Brian Sims looks at the security implications.

I’ve been a West Ham United supporter pretty much since the day I was born. Borrowing from an old cliché, I reckon that if you were to cut me I would indeed bleed claret and blue.

What’s more, I’ll never countenance anyone saying a bad word about Trevor Brooking. The man’s a God to me. So is Paolo di Canio who, in my opinion, is the best player ever to wear the badge with the crossed Hammers of the team that was founded in 1895 as The Thames Ironworks.

With me having only just gained my place in the Eastbrook Juniors’ school team in Hemel Hempstead at the tender age of eight, the 1975 FA Cup Final came around just a couple of months’ later.

As we stood in front of the displays in the window of Radio Rentals (anyone remember them?), my father asked me: “Who are you going to be supporting today then, son? Let me know and your mother and I will buy you a souvenir…”

The choice was either the black and white of Bobby Moore’s Fulham, or the claret and blue worn by the Hammers. Moore will always be a legend, not just to West Ham and Fulham fans but football fanatics the world over. I didn’t know that at the time, though.

To cut a long story short I picked the claret and blue scarf and matching team poster (purely because they were more colourful, as I recall), and wore said scarf while watching the game on The Magic Rectangle with my obligatory bag of popcorn and can of fizzy pop immediately to hand.

3.00 pm came and went. Former Rochdale unknown Alan Taylor bagged two goals for the boys from the East End. No reply from Fulham. By 4.50 pm, the bearded wonder Billy Bonds had lifted the FA Cup aloft to a sea of claret and blue inside Wembley Stadium. I was hooked, and decided there and then that West Ham would be my team for life.

From Chesterfield to Bucharest

Here we are, 34 years on. For 20 of those years after university I was a Season Ticket holder at Upton Park, travelling up hill and down dale in support of the lads. I’ve been just about everywhere, including Romania and Croatia on that rare occasion when we made it into the Uefa Cup via the Intertoto Cup under Harry Redknapp’s ‘wheeler dealer’ stewardship.

Then there was the more recent trip to the Sicilian enclave of Palermo, again for the Uefa Cup. All sounds very glamorous, but if you’re a real West Ham fan what matters is turning out at Newcastle on a Monday night for a league game, or at Chesterfield on a Sunday for an FA Cup tie.

The kind of matches that only the genuine, die-hard fans would contemplate. The kind of matches the Johnny-Come-Lately types so prevalent these days live for so that they can tune-in to Sky Sports and pretend they’re really into football when they hit the office of a Monday morning.

I’ve been to all of those games and hundreds upon hundreds more besides. Bought the Real Fan T-shirt ten times over, as they say, and nearly every time with my best friends and fellow Hammers Andrew Cheeseman (more of whom anon), Daniel Morris and Paul Potton right alongside me.

One year – it was the 1994-1995 season, I think – I went to EVERY game. Pre-season, home and away, friendlies. You name it, I was there. I’m very proud of that, and I will be until the day I die.

Nothing stays the same forever

Time marches on, though, and circumstances evolve. I last visited Upton Park in August 2007 for the first two home league games of the season – one against Wigan, the other versus Manchester City (the club that is currently spending obscene sums of money in an equally obscene attempt to buy success, just like Chelsea and Blackburn Rovers before them).

In January of that year, you see, I met my wife-to-be Annora. Football had to take a back seat! I moved my life to start a new one with my beloved in a different country and, given the distances involved plus ongoing work commitments, I did something I never thought I’d EVER do.

That’s right. I gave up my Season Ticket in the Bobby Moore Stand Lower Tier. Row DD Seat 72, for all you fact fans. A prime position right behind the goal with Andy, Dan and Paul all in close proximity. It was hard to justify £500 for two or three games a season, after all.

I’ll always be a Hammer – even though I’m now a Season Ticket holder at Glasgow Rangers (I’ll tell you the story of how that came to pass some other time!) – and I have dutifully continued to follow from afar.

Funnily enough, I was thinking of going back to Upton Park for The Carling Cup second round tie against Millwall on Tuesday 25 August but, given what transpired that night, I’m thankful I decided instead to work on forthcoming features and webinars for SMT Online 

Something of a scene-setter

Even if you’re not a football fan, I’m sure by now you will have witnessed the horrific images or heard the stories about a plot of land in the heart of East London that, for a few sharp hours, resembled a battleground.

As a gentle reminder, and a scene-setter, there were violent scuffles in Green Street and on the Barking Road. A 44-year-old, Millwall-supporting family man was stabbed in Priory Road behind the East Stand.

Pitch invasions took place. Three of them. People were carried out of Upton Park with blood streaming from gaping head wounds. The police attempted to maintain law and order in front of The Queens pub near Upton Park London Underground station while being pelted with bricks, bottles (whole and broken) and any other detritus that happened to be in the vicinity.

Forget The Carling Cup. This was The Cup Final of Hooliganism.

To be honest, as soon as I saw the draw I knew this was going to happen. All the self-styled ‘Top Boys’ (as they used to call themselves) would surely crawl out from under their stones for one last crack at the old enemy?

They’d been waiting for this for years. Five years, in fact. March 2004 was the last time these two clubs met. West Ham were beaten 4-1 at The New Den in The Championship. Seats had been ripped out and used as missiles. There were arrests galore. Eight police horses on the pitch to subdue the morons. I was there, but thankfully nowhere near the trouble, and subsequently wrote to Lewisham Borough Police commander Archibald Torrance to commend his officers on their superb efforts.

Knuckle scrapers come out to play

No doubt fuelled by recent films like The Football Factory and Green Street – which paint a nice Hollywood-style sheen on football violence to the point of making it seem a glamorous ‘occupation’ – the old lags dragged their knuckles along the streets of Newham once again and, in the process, brought massive disgrace to both clubs.

Not only that, they may have opened the floodgates for every other psycho who thinks it’s cool to wear a Burberry baseball cap, Stone Island sweater and the latest Nike Air trainers while beating someone to a pulp to join in, stand up and be counted.

For Janet Street-Porter’s ‘yoof of today’, here was a chance to experience the mass battles they have read so much about in tomes by the likes of ex-‘Top Boys’ Dougie and Eddie Brimson (who once ‘ran’ with Watford’s firm) that are mock-heroic and, I’m told, grossly exaggerated.

Nonetheless, today’s teenagers and early 20-somethings will devour the pages written by the Brimson brothers – and others – and begin to dream of emulating these authors while experiencing the adrenalin rush they’ve been assured emanates from creating such unchecked mayhem.

What the old lags most certainly have done is re-open the debate on football hooliganism, and the quality and quantity of policing and security measures that (still) necessarily surround it.

What do the statistics tell us?

The statistics compilers may well point to the fact that football-related violence is now at its lowest level for many years. During the 2007-2008 season, football attendances in England and Wales reached 37 million, while ‘only’ 3,842 arrests were made in connection with games. Currently, there are 3,154 people banned from attending matches. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

However, if any of us were under the impression that CCTV, all-seater stadiums, disgustingly high ticket prices and Roy Keane’s Prawn Sandwich Brigade had seen off ‘The Bad Boys’ then we are all very much mistaken. They’re alive and well and, what’s more, they always have been.

In reality, I believe the problem has never been addressed in any kind of satisfactory depth.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that, these days, the ‘offs’ (ie fights) are all orchestrated via the BlackBerry, mobile phone or laptop. They don’t happen near the grounds any longer – West Ham versus Millwall being the exception to the recent rule – because the thugs know they’ll be caught on camera. They’ll meet up somewhere else instead, either before or after the game.

What, exactly, is being done about this? In an era when the Government knows everything about you (including your waist size and whether you like to eat one or two boiled eggs for breakfast), you’d think PM Brown and his buddy Alan Johnson would be hot on the trail of these people.

Quite obviously not, it seems.

The game would be “policed accordingly”

It came as no surprise to me – or indeed any other West Ham fan, I suspect – when the Metropolitan Police Service categorised this latest encounter with Millwall as a ‘high risk’ sporting event that would, said New Scotland Yard, be “policed accordingly” – but was it?

Law-abiding fans like my friends Andy and Dan were trapped inside the ground and outside after the game concluded, worried at all turns if they were going to have a switchblade shoved in their direction by some sub-primate hailing from South East London.

Yesterday, Andy told me that he and Dan didn’t see a single police officer prior to the game (which began at 7.45 pm), and yet the trouble started at around 5.30 pm. He also didn’t see a single police officer inside the stadium. What does that tell you?

Questions have to be asked. Were the Metropolitan Police pre-occupied with planning for the Climate Camp protests and the Notting Hill Carnival? Did they seriously underestimate the risk of violence at an evening fixture between two clubs with a venomous rivalry on and off the field that stretches back into The Dark Ages?

The Met assigned 500 officers to the game. Clearly not enough for an attendance of 25,000 inside the ground and plenty of others solely there to create a disturbance. Another 125 ‘public order’ officers had to be drafted in when the unseemly scrapping began outside the stadium and the commanders realised the Boys in Blue were in trouble.

In fact, it took an estimated 750 officers from the Met and the British Transport Police (BTP) to (eventually) restore some semblance of order.

Around 200 officers in riot gear, who were supported by at least 20 mounted officers, patrolled outside Upton Park London Underground station long after the game’s conclusion.

Cut your coat to suit your cloth

Chief superintendent Steve Wisbey, who oversaw the policing operation, suggested that: “Some people had come to the game intent on causing a confrontation”. Tell us something else we didn’t know.

As soon as the draw was made, if Wisbey and Co were cogniscent of the fact that was going to be the case (and you must assume that they were), why did the Met and BTP chiefs allow the match to be played on a week night with the potential for all-day drinking and fight arrangements beforehand?

It’s even more galling when you consider that all recent West Ham versus Millwall encounters have been enacted on a Sunday lunchtime with a view to avoiding just such a scenario.

Did the TV moguls do the dictating yet again? It wouldn’t shock me, to be honest. After all, they couldn’t care less about the fans or what the police service wants.

The arrival of The Premiership and Sky Sports broadcasting heralded a three-day footballing weekend which has added “a real challenge” (not my words, but those of chief constable Andy Trotter) to the heavy strain already placed upon the British Transport Police’s 3,000 frontline officers.

It strikes me that the BTP and indeed all UK police services need to summon some guts for a fight of their own and tell Sky Sports, ESPN or whomever when they want such matches to be played. At present, the tail appears to be wagging the dog and that’s an extremely unhealthy situation.

Again, anecdotal evidence suggests that there was no attempt to segregate fans as they emerged from Upton Park London Underground station on to Green Street. Fair enough, it’s difficult to tell one team’s supporter from that of the opposing side if both are bereft of ‘colours’ (as we football fans like to call replica shirts or other club motifs), but surely there must have been some intelligence from inside both West Ham and Millwall’s ranks?

Were the BTP not tracking ‘traffic’ of the Millwall mobs making their way across the tube network from London Bridge? Do they not have people with their ear to the ground, infiltrating both the Millwall and West Ham gangs or at the very least finding out on the grapevine what’s going on?

Lame justification for gratuitous violence

Millwall supporters are alleged to have said that the decision to restrict the club’s ticket allocation to just 2,300 angered many of them and increased the risk of people travelling to Upton Park without tickets (presumably with other activities on their mind once there). That’s a lame justification for being involved in gratuitous violence, is it not?

“Inadequate” and “appalling” are two of the words fans have used to describe the policing on the night. For my money, there must be some kind of investigation conducted to determine what went on, and the findings must then be made public for all to see.

Did West Ham United – as the host club, and my club – play its fullest part in planning security measures for this game?

On the attendance side, they were only allowing people with a purchasing history at the club to buy match tickets. Presumably I would have qualified then, but pricing the match at only £10 for some areas (like the Bobby Moore Stand) would surely have encouraged some lesser lights to ‘fancy it’? The one-game-a-season wonders who don’t really care if they’re subsequently banned for public order offences.

What about the stewarding? OK. It’s fair enough to surmise that, as happened at this particular game, if one steward is confronted by two, five, ten or more yobs hurtling towards him or her intent on encroaching upon the field of play then there’s not much they can do about it.

However, from what I saw on the Sky Sports footage of the crowd, at those ends of the main stand and the East Stand that abut the away fans’ area the stewards were totally ineffectual. They may as well not have been there.

Of course, political clout and money enjoyed by the powers-that-be within The Football Association (FA) and The Premier League have managed to exempt plenty of event stewards working at football grounds from having to be licensed by the Security Industry Authority and undertake compulsory conflict resolution training. Like many retail organisations, the FA and The Premier League think their security standards are way above anything the SIA’s recognised training partners could ever teach them.

Take another look at the footage from Upton Park and tell me if they’re right. ‘Fans’ were allowed to invade the pitch not once but two or three times over, yet they were not herded out of the ground as they should have been.

Remember, it’s a criminal offence to encroach on the field of play at any football stadium (as we innocent supporters are continually informed by the PA system both before the game and again at the interval).

Same old words, same old faces

Of course, as soon as it all ‘kicked off’ down Green Street way, we waited – but not with bated breath – for all the tired platitudes and condemnations to spew forth from the usual suspects in Wednesday’s newspapers. As ever, Home Secretary Johnson and others didn’t disappoint.

“The dark days of violence on the terraces in the 1970s and 1980s are now behind us thanks to targeted policing, proper crowd control, football banning orders and a change in attitude among fans,” said Johnson in his usual waxing lyrical mode. “We will not be returning to the days when a hooligan minority shamed the name of football.”

Really? Let’s reserve judgment on that one for the time being.

Hot on Johnson’s neatly tailored heels, sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe branded the violence which marred the game as “a disgrace to football”. He has thrown his “full support” behind the FA’s call for life bans for anyone found to have been involved in the incidents before, during and after the Upton Park ‘Fight Night Special’.

“We have made great progress in the past 20 years in tackling football hooliganism in this country,” urged Sutcliffe, “and we will not tolerate any return to the dark days of the 1970s and 1980s when it plagued the game.”

Tellingly, in the wake of the match Sutcliffe also said: “We will never be complacent in the fight against football violence.” Well, from where I was sitting and watching in South Lanarkshire there seemed to be a fair amount of complacency surrounding Upton Park on 25 August, Mr Sutcliffe.

Meanwhile, Football League chief operating officer Andy Williamson said: “We utterly deplore the violence that took place at the match between West Ham United and Millwall. Such behaviour has no place in the game, and we will work with all the relevant authorities to ensure that those behind it are held to account. Football has made huge progress in the last 30 years when it comes to the management of matches. The whole game must continue to demonstrate that such behaviour will not be tolerated.”

Made huge progress? The football authorities and clubs have certainly hiked up ticket prices by some margin. They’ve also decided to charge £60 for shirts that cost £5-£10 to manufacture in Far Eastern ‘sweat shops’ where the workers are treated like dirt. Oh yes, and they’ve built nice corporate boxes to wine and dine the sponsors whose bloated guests have little or no interest in the game. Yes. That’s huge progress.

If you know your history…

Even West Ham’s chief executive Scott Duxbury was in on the act. “This is a family club [Aren’t they all? Ed] and the Boleyn Ground has always been a safe place in which all supporters can enjoy their football,” eulogised Duxbury on the club’s official web site. “We are determined to ensure this remains the case.”

This is a man who needs to do some serious homework. Back in 1977, when my father first took me to Upton Park, I can remember all sorts of nasty types selling fascist and pro-communist rags right outside the stadium.

To this day, touts flog tickets on the black market under the stewards’ noses and those of the police. They do so immediately adjacent to the main gates, and yet nothing is done about it. Those buyers could be anybody.

Duxbury also seems to have forgotten about the Inter City Firm, the name of West Ham’s ‘firm’ whose members pioneered the leaving of ‘calling cards’ on their victims after they’d sliced them up in broad daylight. 

The away fans used to be corralled in the right hand corner of what is now the Bobby Moore Stand (back in the days of terracing, it was named the South Bank), and there were regular scraps between them and home supporters, with stories of West Ham’s ‘fans’ urinating on their counterparts, throwing missiles, etc. You get the picture.

I might be West Ham through and through, but I’m not blind to reality like Mr Duxbury appears to be. Then again, he’s not a West Ham man by heritage, so maybe I’m expecting too much.

Hefty fines and life bans to follow

If we are to believe these platitudes spouted by Duxbury and the like then expect to see hefty fines dished out and life bans apportioned. Maybe even a spell behind bars for those involved in the thick end of the violence. Frankly, that’s the very least they deserve.

However, is all of that going to solve the situation?

On the night only 13 arrests were made, but that number is expected to escalate when the Met’s very own CCTV intelligence team collects and studies footage from inside and outside the Boleyn Ground. Football banning orders will then be sought against those who can be identified.

It’s all well and good preventing these illiterate morons from attending games but, as happened on this occasion, they can still turn up on site – seemingly unhindered – before, during and after the match to add fuel to the already high emotional flames.

No doubt any attempts to shackle them would be met with disgust by Liberty. We must maintain freedom on the streets, though. Let the football hooligans walk side-by-side with tomorrow’s suicide bombers, but don’t get in their way, stop them or question them, please… Marvellous, isn’t it?

I recall a television programme a few years ago that named and shamed hooligans following the England team abroad. One of them was a West Ham fan whom Paul and I recognised. According to the programme, he had been banned from every football ground in the country. Funny how he seemed to make it into the West Ham section at all the away games both before and long after that programme was broadcast…

Could this be a ‘call to arms’?

There are plenty of people from ‘The Hooligan Era’ who have become alienated from football as a result of the game ‘moving upmarket’. They will undoubtedly view the ugly scenes at Upton Park with glee. For them, it’s little short of a ‘call to arms’.

One rather fatuous argument suggests that any resurrection of trouble at matches will drive the corporate freeloaders away from the game and return it to the hands of The Mob. Hence, running fights both inside and around the grounds in the months and years to come would make football somewhat less palatable, eventually leading to Sky withdrawing its vast riches from the sport. It would probably quash our bid for the 2018 World Cup, too.

As I discussed with the taxi driver who ferried me to Glasgow International Airport yesterday morning, that would leave The Premiership in an utter mess. Wages and profits in football would then fall dramatically, so too ticket prices. Many will say that’s a good thing, but none of us want to see hooliganism as the facilitator of such a landscape.

Hooliganism is not coming back. Why? Like I said, it’s not coming back because, in truth, it has never gone away.

CCTV and policing tactics make sure that it remains a (largely) underground threat. However, if the incidents that occurred on Tuesday 25 August in East London have taught us anything it’s that the threat is still very much alive and kicking.

No amount of prawn sandwiches or polite Japanese tourists wearing Chelsea shirts on the King’s Road will disguise that fact.

Until next time.

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