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Police chief: safe standing leads to more cocaine

Police chief: safe standing leads to more cocaine
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'History-making' is an all too often overused term when it comes to the Premier League. But yesterday was indeed something of a red letter day in English football. For Liverpool's away game at Chelsea marked the first time fans could watch from standing areas for nearly 30 years, since the Taylor Report in the aftermath of the Hillsborough tragedy.

For football-lovers now have the option to sit or stand in certain grounds, with a seat as well as a barrier running between rows. Each attendee in the section is given a designated space. But despite months of planning, years of lobbying and widespread demand from fans and football bosses alike, not all are happy at the return of safe standing. Up popped Cheshire Police Chief Constable Mark Roberts on BBC Breakfast yesterday to sound the alarm:

Some of the concerns we've got are particularly if crowds are stood up it's easier to throw missiles, engage in hate chanting, racism, sneak alcohol in. Take cocaine, which is a growing issue and a problem. And also, with many of the modern stadiums, the bowls, you can actually migrate all the way around the stadium. So the concern is that they get over-loaded. You then get crushing issues. And actually it becomes an exclusionary crowd because families may not want to go in there, different groups might want to go in there. 

'If people stand up they'll take cocaine!' is certainly an, er, original take for the new year. Famously, British dealers refuse to sell to people who sit down to watch football. Mr S isn't exactly au fait with the ins and outs of coke culture but is led to believe that users tend to take it in the toilets – regardless of the ground's seating arrangements. 

Certainly, the introduction of rail seating at Wolverhampton Wanderers' stadium in 2019 didn't result in a flood of terrace Escobars snorting the stuff off each other's shoulders. As for racism and alcohol, the checks on the doors are to remain the same – while it hardly seems likely that a flex of the knees is all that currently stops football lovers from degenerating into mindless bigots.

Roberts' comments predictably led to a social media pile-on, with indignant fans earnestly protesting their innocence and pointing to how the game has changed since the 1980s. While some suggested that the police chief viewed Danny Dyer's Football Factory as a documentary, others pointed to his previous record at Greater Manchester Police. 

Back in 2012 Roberts was the face of GMP's decision to confiscate 1,600 copies of Manchester United fanzine Red Issue being sold outside Old Trafford. The reason? A spoof Ku Klux Klan mask with the legends 'LFC' and 'Suárez is innocent' on it – a reference to the Liverpool striker banned for racially abusing Man Utd defender Patrice Evra. 

The message, was, as the magazine's solicitor put it 'plainly anti-racist, and satirical and incapable of falling within the definition of "racial hatred" under section 17 of the Public Order Act 1986' – the grounds on which GMP apparently seized the magazines in the first place. 

Unsurprisingly, the farcical episode led to no charges being pressed by the Crown Prosecution Service, with an unrepentant Roberts claiming it 'was certainly capable of causing offence.' Nine years on and the bobby has been booted upwards to now being Chief Constable for the whole of Cheshire.

Let's hope that Roberts gets some better lines the next time he's wheeled out on national TV.

Written bySteerpike

Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to steerpike@spectator.co.uk or message @MrSteerpike

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