Crystal Palace fans have lodged an official complaint against Sussex Police about how a match between Albion and their Croydon-based arch-rivals was policed.
A group of violent Palace fans stormed the Amex Stadium, setting off flares and fireworks and crashing through barriers, when the teams played on 28 November last year.
However, the Crystal Palace Supporters Trust (CPST) says many other non-violent fans were subjected to “extremely coercive policing”, including kettling, being hit by police with batons and being forced onto trains taking them away from home after the match.
Tensions were already building on the morning of the match when a mural of Seagulls captain Bruno Saltor was defaced with red paint and CPFC graffiti appeared around the city overnight.
A picture of masked Palace fans posing in Queens Road was also posted by the notorious Holmesdale Fanatics group shortly after 4pm, urging supporters to “get down here for a couple before we beat the scum”.
In a lengthy official complaint, the trust says that fans who had arrived early were escorted to Buddies bar on the seafront, and later taken back under heavy police escort to the station, which took 90 minutes.
It says by the time the containment reached the station, the contained group contained up to 350 people, and some fans were effectively forced onto trains to Falmer despite not having tickets.
Once at the stadium, they were denied entry, kept outside for 45 minutes and then taken back to the station and put on the first available train whatever its destination.
The trust also complained that Superintendent Simon Nelson, Sussex Police’s match commander that night, had repeated unverified allegations that fans had been found with knuckle dusters and knives which later had to be retracted.
The complaint, prepared by Irvine Thanvi Natas Solicitors, says: “Fans were greatly inconvenienced by the blanket approach taken by Sussex Police.
“It should be noted here that the officers on the ground, and by implication the senior officers in charge, were aware that this group contained people of varying ages, many of whom had match tickets, and were therefore not likely to be the people who had contributed to the disorder at the Amex Stadium.
“The circuitous route taken from the seafront to the train station over a period of an hour to an hour and half strongly suggests insufficient planning on the part of the match commander.
“It was known in advance that the pubs closest to the station would be closed to away fans, and that the only two central pubs open to home fans would be on West Street. Therefore, given the intelligence picture, a rolling containment was always likely in order to escort CPFC fans past or in the vicinity of the ‘home’ pubs.
“What was required was a pre-arranged route, with adequate briefing to officers manning the containment, and clear communication to those within the containment. This would have achieved a more efficient movement to the station.
“Instead, the slow moving rolling containment became a target for BHAFC fans who were intent on causing trouble and led to verbal and physical abuse. A perception arose that nothing was being done to stop BHAFC fans from committing offences against CPFC fans, which steadily increased the tension.
“The slow moving and meandering nature of the rolling containment led to a number of congestion points. The jostling that naturally occurs when a moving crowd comes to a sudden halt or a significant slowing down was dealt with by way of batons and abuse.
“It is accepted that the actions of a few in the group after the closure of the turnstiles at the Amex Stadium created an issue for BHAFC and the police to resolve, but the inconvenience to the escorted group should have been kept to a minimum and clearly communicated.
“The effect of the events of that night has been to significantly damage the trust and confidence of CPFC fans in Sussex Police.
“The CPST requests that the failures as outlined above are investigated thoroughly and that those officers responsible for these foreseeable failures are appropriately disciplined.”
A Sussex Police spokesman said: “We can confirm that on 10 April we received a complaint from the Crystal Palace Football Supporters Trust about the policing operation for the Brighton and Hove Albion v Crystal Palace match on 28 November 2017.
“Our Professional Standards Department are assessing the complaint in order to determine how it will be investigated.
“We have already apologised to both clubs and the supporters about some information published that was not correct.”