This copper's a football fan - yes they do exist

As NSW police look to crackdown on active support at Western Sydney Wanderers games, FourFourTwo takes a look at another approach.

It’s not a position familiar to A-League fans but Northamptonshire’s PC Nick Price is a Dedicated Football Officer.

The 46-year-old father of two, and a long suffering Leeds United fan, has been involved in football policing for the past 15 years.

“I’ve had some cracking moments seeing the clubs do well,” Price tells FourFourTwo

“Rushden & Diamonds when they got promoted a few years ago now, that was nice.

“More recently Northampton got to the play-off final in 2013, down at Wembley and that was probably a highlight for me.

“Unfortunately we lost 3-0 (to Bradford City) but to actually go to Wembley with all the fans – over 20,000 Northampton fans went down – and it was nice to experience that.”

A flare go for A-League fans 

At the time of the interview Leeds had lost on penalties in the League Cup but Northampton had won four games in a row.

“Fingers crossed – they’ve made some good signings,” Price says of the local club.

“For my sins I’m a Leeds United supporter. I don’t support any of our local clubs but it’s always nice to see them do well and I want them to do well because it’s nice for the community.

“If Northampton Town as a football club does well then people will come to the ground, people will come to complex where it’s situated...that has a good knock on effect.”

Leeds now sit 14th in the Championship and Northampton are 8th in League Two.

The latest issue of Australian FourFourTwo looks at the sometimes powder keg relationship between A-League fans, clubs and police - but it doesn't have to be that way.

"Whatever we do for neighbourhood policing well that should be no different on a match day," Price says.

"We try to include everybody that’s coming to Northampton Town stadium as part of our community for that three to four hour period, and make sure they’re welcomed and they have a good time.

“If they want a drink they can have a drink, and when they leave they leave safely and everybody has a safe event. That’s the ethos we’re trying to promote.”

Price adds: “The idea of having a link with the football club has been going on for a long long time. As communities change our policing changes – we’ve got to adapt ourselves and try and engage more with the fans.

“It used to be police officers were just there for the trouble-makers, just there to prevent trouble. But now, the way the UK football policing unit is trying to promote football spotters and dedicated football officers is to try and look at clubs as our own community."

Football policing accounts for about 50% of Price's duties. Eight officers work with League Two side Northampton Town. As well, an officer is assigned to each of the five non-league club to build a rapport with the local football communities.

Six of The Cobblers home matches will be formally policed this season.That involves gathering intelligence before the games on the number of travelling fans and liaising with organisations such as British Transport Police and coach companies. 

Price and his men also work with police spotters in other regions on away games.

Having football spotters travelling from the visiting team’s police force means they retain a link with the fans. It helps, Price says, to see the local copper from regular home games.

“It’s different from normal street cops but our role is the same – to meet and greet genuine fans, liaise with fans, if there’s any issues try and smooth those over, work with the club and try and make the match day experience enjoyable for everyone."

A couple of years back, Price took the lead from colleagues in the west midlands and jumped on Twitter.

“Because it’s a police account you get some funny tweets about what you’re doing and shouldn’t you be out catching burglars,” he laughs.

But the way he sees it, if Northampton Town FC does well and people enjoy the experience, then they’ll keep coming to the ground, and that’s good for the pubs and restaurants in the precinct and the wider community.


Fair Go for the Common Fan – check out the story of fans, clubs and police in the ULTIMATE A-League season preview... On sale NOW in newsagents or delivered to your door (before anyone else if you are a subscriber), and online AT CUT PRICE from iTunes, plus Google Play and Zinio too!