The 1-1 draw inspired the ire of fans and authorities alike: in dramatic footage that has surfaced on social media, two fans are seen scrapping outside Barnsley bus station after the game. Then, a police officer runs into frame and slams his baton into one of their heads.
Someone who claims to have been there said on Facebook that the policeman “must have run 50 yards and had time to think about the situation. He could have quite easily hit him below the head, that was calculated [sic], he knew exactly what he was doing. I insisted to another copper that i [sic] wanted to report an assault and got told to go away”.
Meanwhile, the Temporary Chief Superintendent for Barnsley and ‘Match Commander’ Sarah Poolman said that “our officers responded to disorder outside the transport interchange. A full, open investigation, including extended video footage, will take place to ascertain the circumstances surrounding the incident, including the actions which led to a 16-year-old boy sustaining a head injury from an officer's baton, and an officer being assaulted, sustaining injuries to his stomach and head. The 16-year-old boy was taken to hospital by ambulance. The police officer also attended hospital. Both of their injuries are not life-threatening”.
The term 'football hooliganism' is often used interchangeably with 'football violence', as if it's only the fans who initiate aggression
The incident makes for an interesting point about the discourse surrounding football violence. The term ‘football hooliganism’ is usually used interchangeably, creating the idea that it’s the fans who initiate and are responsible for aggression. Everyone’s familiar with the Chelsea Headhunters, the fabled ‘English disease’ abroad, and – closer to home – the 2013 horse-punching episode in Newcastle (the next Newcastle-Sunderland derby, Sunderland fans lined up collecting for horse charities). It should, of course, come as little surprise that papers are keen to report on something that provides shock value. There is a perception that the press is in service of a higher purpose - namely the public's education, information and intellectual enrichment - and while it is able of fulfilling this purpose, it is still comprised of private corporations. Like almost all private corporations, media outlets are looking to maximise profits or revenue, which means they release content designed to get clicks or to shift papers. More surprising, then, is why they don't report on another similar issue. Something that receives far less coverage is violence started or exacerbated by the police. The Hillsborough Disaster remains such a sensitive issue in part because of the police involvement in the ninety six deaths. They were seen to be caused in part by a large influx of fans into the stadium caused by the police decision to open a large exit gate, for example. Worse was the cover-up that came later to shield the police from blame.
This is the latest incident that points to the police as an aggravating or destabilising force in dealing with rowdy fans. The relationship between fans and authorities can be testy at the best of times: it seems a poor operational move to make things worse unnecessarily.