DOZENS of young offenders have been educated on football violence in a pioneering scheme led by police and Portsmouth Football Club.
The 32 boys aged between 12 and 16 attended a trio of workshops at Fratton Park with their parents in a police bid to launch a meaningful crackdown on match-day disorder.
As part of the sessions they were shown CCTV images depicting their offending in clashes between Pompey and Oldham fans after a 2-1 Blues defeat on September 30, 2017.
While coins, stones and bottles were all thrown in the chaos, detectives identified the boys and organised the sessions in December last year, instead of seeking prosecutions.
News of the scheme has only been released because the last adult due in court in relation to the disorder was in court yesterday.
The drive, joint-run by Pompey in the Community, was later shortlisted in the Best Football Community Scheme category and won a bronze award.
All 32 offenders agreed to complete community work for the charity and were banned from attending any Pompey games for a year.
Pompey CEO Mark Catlin said: ‘The last thing Portsmouth Football club wants is to have to ban any of our supporters, but where someone’s behaviour causes a risk, threat or offence to others, then as the ultimate sanction we are normally left with very little alternative.
‘However, working closely with Hampshire police and utilising the superb skills of staff at Pompey in the Community – who, as we know, reach out to all in the community – this was a perfect opportunity to try to help and educate these young individuals and to show them how they should behave to avoid a criminal conviction, combined with a lengthy club ban,’ he said.
‘To see some of them come through the scheme and understand their behaviour was unacceptable – and for them to then change their attitude – is a massive benefit to them as individuals and also to the club that we all support.’
As well as sitting through educational talks on football violence from police, the boys were visited by Pompey director Eric Eisner, who drilled the message home.
Hampshire police match commander, superintendent Kelly Whiting, praised the ‘tireless’ efforts of officers for their initial investigations – which paved way for the scheme.
‘For many, if not all of the children and their parents, the workshops were a huge wake-up call which no doubt made them seriously think about the severity of their offending,’ she said.
‘They are very lucky that other spectators were not seriously injured as a result of their actions.If they behave in this manner again, they could find themselves in court or even prison.’
Investigations behind the disorder at Fratton Park have secured sentences for five adults at Portsmouth Crown Court over the past two months, including a ban, fine and suspended jail sentence for Peter Hawkins just yesterday.
Additionally, 17 people have been sentenced – and a number of them imprisoned – for their role in violence following Pompey’s clash with Plymouth last April.
Police forces across the country are now set to adopt the scheme’s approach and the UK Football Policing Unit will fund it, paving the way for Hampshire police to raise its profile at national conferences.