Police in Watford are urging football fans to enjoy the beautiful game responsibly after the Hornets rang in the new season with a 4-0 victory against Queens Park Rangers on Saturday.
Officers work closely with the team at Vicarage Road ahead of, and during, every match day to ensure the safety and security of both home and away fans, and to respond promptly to any incidents that arise.
Former Watford Chief Inspector Ian Grout now works in the Constabulary’s Operations team, and his current role involves planning and delivering policing resources for large-scale events.
He said: “Unfortunately, eight people ended up with criminal records for their conduct last season. We have a zero-tolerance approach to aggressive behaviour and will do all we can to pursue those who behave in an unacceptable manner on match days.
“We know most fans simply want to cheer on their team and soak up the atmosphere. They often bring their children too and it can be frightening for younger fans when they witness others drinking heavily and getting involved in physical altercations.”
Chief Inspector Grout added: “Sadly there are a minority who take pleasure in causing disorder and disruption, and that intention is not a good mixture with alcohol.
“In one incident in November last year, a 10 year old boy was leaving Vicarage Road when he, his older brother and their dad were spat at. His 18 year old brother was then kicked and punched, leaving him with broken teeth and an eye injury. This was hugely distressing for the younger child to witness.
“Officers promptly arrested a man who was subsequently charged. He has admitted the offences and is due to be sentenced later this month.
“Interestingly, the majority of those we dealt with for match day offences last season had no prior convictions. And now, they will have to declare their criminal record if they have a job interview, enrol at university, buy an insurance policy, or apply for social housing. They have potentially closed doors on their future, and it’s just not worth it.”
Ian Pope, Head of Operations at WFC, said: "Alongside the club's own 'We' campaign striving to make football at Vicarage Road as welcoming as possible, we are completely unfazed in supporting the publication of individual incidents by Hertfordshire Constabulary.
"Football should be an activity to be enjoyed, some time with family and friends away from the pressures of work or education. It is not a place where poor behaviour will be tolerated, and we'll continue to work with our safety and security partners to ensure a comfortable environment for all supporters at our stadium."
Watford FC v Cardiff City – Vicarage Road – 19/04/22
A 38 year old man from St Albans was charged with pitch invasion during the match. He entered a guilty plea at St Albans Magistrates’ Court and was fined £307, plus £85 in court costs and an £123 victim surcharge.
Watford FC v Coventry City – Vicarage Road – 5/11/2022
A 23 year old man from Coventry in the West Midlands was charged with Actual Bodily Harm and Common Assault after he attacked a Watford FC fan and his two sons. He spat at the victim and his two sons, aged 18 and 10, before kicking and punching the 18 year old leaving him with an eye injury and two chipped teeth. He was arrested by Watford Police on the night of the incident and released on conditional bail. He pleaded guilty to both charges at St Albans Magistrates’ Court on Monday 31 July 2023 and is scheduled to be sentenced at Warwick Crown Court on Friday 25 August 2023. He will also be subject to an FBO, the length of which is yet to be determined.
Watford FC v Luton Town FC – Vicarage Road – 23/10/2022
A 30 year old man from Watford was charged with affray after he threw coins at away fans following a Watford FC v Luton Town game at Vicarage Road on Sunday 23 October 2022. He pleaded guilty at St Albans Magistrates’ Court and was ordered to work 120 hours of unpaid community service, as well as paying costs and a victim surcharge. He is also the subject of a Football Banning Order (FBO) for three years, meaning he cannot attend matches or be in the area at the time a football game is on.
A 19 year old man from Hemel Hempstead was charged with affray after he threw an item at away fans in the garden of The Moon Under Water pub on Watford High Street. He pleaded guilty at St Albans Magistrates’ Court and was ordered to carry out 90 hours of unpaid community service, plus pay additional costs and a victim surcharge. He has also been served a three-year FBO.
A 34 year old man from Watford was charged with affray after he goaded away fans, spat at them and threw coins. He pleaded guilty at St Albans Magistrates’ Court and was sentenced to 18 weeks imprisonment, suspended for two years. He was ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid community service, plus pay court costs and a victim surcharge. He is now the subject of a four-year FBO.
A 17 year old male from Abbots Langley was arrested for affray after he threw a drink at people in the garden of the Moon Under The Water pub on Watford High Street. He was identified via an image released in a police media appeal and admitted the offence during interview. He showed significant remorse for his actions and was given a conditional caution by the Young Offenders Team.
Watford FC v Birmingham City FC – Vicarage Road – 14/03/23
A 29 year old man from Tamworth, Staffordshire, has been charged after a bottle was thrown onto the pitch during a match at Vicarage Road. He has been summoned to appear at St Albans Magistrates’ Court on 15 August to answer a charge of throwing a missile on to a football pitch.
If you’re witnessing a crime in progress, always dial 999 and give the operator as much information as possible without putting yourself in danger.