An open letter to Humberside Police

Iron fan Max Bell pens an open letter to Humberside Police after violence marred United’s 0-0 draw with Grimsby.

Dear Humberside Police and all whom it may concern,

This is an open letter expressing considerable regret, sadness and anger at not only the utterly shambolic Humberside Police operation before, during and after the Scunthorpe United versus Grimsby Town football match on Saturday 9th November – but at the simply reprehensible manner in which the force has responded to its unique ability to combined both outrageously over aggressive treatment of ordinary citizens, and the failure to keep them safe from armed thugs.

This has included statements released by both your Deputy Chief Constable and Superintendent, which can only be described as having extremely liberal relationships with the truth. Not only is it completely unacceptable to have senior Police Officers uninterested in facts – but it irreparably damages the force’s ability to learn significant operational lessons from the many mistakes made.

This is not an individual’s rant – but a desperate plea to be heard from countless Scunthorpe United fans robbed of their humanity and safety all too easily on this day, with no help from yourselves. This letter has received nearly a hundred expressions of support in the past day on social media alone.

To quote Superintendent Dave Hall: “It was very pleasing to see that … all people left the ground safely”. Quite frankly, if up to 500 Scunthorpe fans being ambushed on a seafront path by a gang of well over 100 Grimsby ‘fans’ – some armed with balaclavas and knives – is leaving the ground safely, then those unforgivably low standards might just tell us why you’re failing to catch burglars, rapists, murderers, paedophiles and drug dealers.

Following the match, numerous hundreds of Scunthorpe United fans who had travelled by public transport – including countless vulnerable citizens, pensioners, women, children and families – were forcibly directed back towards Cleethorpes town centre via a dusty old path that ran directly along Cleethorpes sea front.

This, unforgivably, was done completely unescorted and without so much as a single Police Officer – out of the 200 on deployment for this match – alongside this path for safety. This as of itself was disgracefully negligent and it can be no shock that Humberside Police’s chicken came home to roost, significantly endangering the safety of innocent fans and bystanders.

The above incident was laughably described by Mr Hall as a “confrontation”. Frankly, when innocent fans on their way to the train station are charged at by armed assailants could fairly be described as so, is beggars belief. It was an ambush – plain and simple.

Between Blundell Park and Cleethorpes Town Centre are numerous rows of terraced houses facing side-on to the sea front and the extremely large gang were able to intercept the Scunthorpe fans and attempt to cause serious harm. All retaliation was done in self-defence, as numerous eye-witness accounts or police helicopter footage would be able to corroborate. But frankly, had there even been a single PCSO on the scene – you would already know, and wouldn’t be spreading mis-information.

Police presence finally arrived on the scene after a considerable time, duly proceeding to treat Cleethorpes town centre as a warzone for the next hour – but only after considerable fighting had taken place. All of the above was described in depth  by an eye-witness live on Humberside Radio and there are hundreds of eye-witnesses: yet you have failed to even attempt contact any of them. Do you really care?

Considering there were countless defenceless individuals and families behind the Scunthorpe United fans responding in retaliatory self-defence, it is a miracle that there were not numerous serious casualties. Despite this, there were numerous individuals with significant injuries – ranging from severe bruising, to taking kicks to the head, to being struck with countless bricks, bottles and assorted missiles that were thrown from the ambushing thugs. You should perhaps self-reflect as to why they did not trust your ability to respond adequately to injuries…

The above is just one episode in a sorry tale for yourselves. The lucky bystanders who were behind the chaos were in turn directed back to the main road, where they had previously attempted to go – but had prevented from doing so by the Police. They then proceeded to be greeted with further gangs of thugs on street corners armed with bottles, AGAIN, with not a police officer in sight.

Given how heavily all Scunthorpe fans whom had travelled by public transport were escorted to the game – how on earth was it deemed acceptable to completely abandon everyone afterwards? This is operational negligence that would see doctors, teachers, nurses, solicitors struck off – and it is quite frankly disgusting. Every single moment of distress, injury, and chaos after the game could have been easily prevented if yourselves were at a level within a million miles of acceptable.

Given all of the above – how on earth Assistant Chief Constable Stuart Donald could describe the operation as having been “tested and demonstrated calm professionalism” is beggars belief….

The events after the match were not the only ones that were reprehensible. During the game, innocent away supporters who had merely followed stewards advice in ignoring allocated seating – were thrown out by yourselves. Fans who were unfortunate enough to have travelled by train were treated like absolute vermin by your Officers en-masse, and it is disgusting.

Those supporters who had travelled on the 10:03 service from Scunthorpe were forcibly kicked off the service early at Grimsby Town, despite Blundell Park being numerous miles nearer to Cleethorpes station. A hundred supporters were then trapped on a replacement bus for an hour at force, as fans were kept static and treated with contempt. Officers at the scene and who were on the buses will be able to testify to the organisational ability of a pack of rats would have been an improvement.

Fans were kept on a rammed, boiling bus for a considerable stretch of time without access to sanitation, toilet facilities, or even water. This is an absolute disgrace – and has not even be deemed worthy of mention of yourselves. The fans, who included students, teachers, full-time workers and women amongst others: were treated worse than animals and prisoners. That kind of treatment would be deemed unacceptable of animals or prisoners in your custody. Yet with football fans this kind of criminal en-masse behaviour is deemed acceptable. I wonder why?… The force’s amazing lack of even pretending to care is literally shocking.

Officers from other forces were brought in to assist with the effort – and numerous eye-witness saw testimony to a Northern Irish police officer with West Yorkshire Police Force rugby tackle a fan from behind and already on the ground, for merely expressing delight at having finally been allowed to leave the above situation. The over-aggressive treatment was beggar’s belief. If you treat people like scum, is it any wonder an in-built cultural distrust of the police brews?

How all of the above can be considered a successful Police operation is beyond reason. Over-aggressive behaviour which alienated hundreds, yet still failed to keep us safe. It is time you admitted as such.

Only with transparency and honesty can lessons be learnt and repetition and escalation be avoided.

Yours Sincerely. would like to point out that the views expressed here are those of Iron fan Max Bell. and it’s editor are unable to comment further as we did not witness the violence in question on Cleethorpes sea front.

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Written by Matt Blanchard

Part of the team since 2007, before becoming editor in 2013. Undertaken the role of match summariser during Scunthorpe United live match commentaries for BBC Radio Humberside. Seasonal contributor to football titles FourFourTwo and When Saturday Comes and a finalist at the Football Blogging Awards in 2014.

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