Featherstone Rovers officials have expressed their disappointment after the club was handed a four-figure fine, following an investigation into a ‘crowd disorder’ incident which occurred during Featherstone’s 2017 Kingstone Press Championship visit of Hull Kingston Rovers.
Prior to the game the club received intelligence from Humberside Police, suggesting, “potentially”, a handful of unnamed Hull City supporters – who may have been serving football banning orders at the time – planned to attend the game.
The club expressed its concerns but without clear identification or specific details of those intending to attend ever being confirmed, policing the situation would prove difficult.
Task Personnel Solutions, the Rovers’ former ground safety team, contacted the Rugby Football League in a bid to obtain information about the possibility of postponing the game.
And a decision was taken to significantly increase the number of stewards present within the LD Nutrition Stadium for the 3.00pm fixture.
Regrettably, during the game’s second half, a Hull Kingston Rovers supporter entered the field of play. After returning the supporter in question to the Post Office Road End of the stadium, one of the stewards was assaulted by a group of visiting fans.
Order was restored but the culprits refused to be removed from the stadium, which resulted in the police being called in to assist. Those involved were subsequently ejected.
As a result, Featherstone Rovers were charged by the Rugby Football League with a breach of B1:6 – which comes under the heading Safety And/or Misconduct at Grounds.
The rule states clubs must use ‘Best Endeavours’ to take all precautions necessary to prevent disorder. A hefty fine was handed to the club, which the Rovers appealed.
The club argued that information provided by Humberside Police was insufficient to directly act upon.
The travel company transporting the supporters in question was contacted and they assisted by providing contact details for their drivers.
The club was never informed of Task Personnel Solutions’ contact with Rugby Football League in regards to postponing the match.
The appeal was upheld, however, and the club received a further bill to cover added costs.
Hull KR were handed a suspended four-figure fine. In 2016, the East Yorkshire club accepted a fine of £25,000, of which £20,000 was suspended, for events surrounding the Million Pound Game against Salford Red Devils at KCOM Craven Park – their home ground.
Rovers general manager Davide Longo said: “We have written to the Rugby Football League to express our dissatisfaction at the decision handed down to us, despite our appeal.
“We find the rules regarding ‘best endeavours’ particularly interesting, given the country’s terrorism threat level being ’severe’. One week prior to the game in question, against Hull KR, the UK’s terrorism threat level was set at ‘critical’.
“We never received any contact or advice on this matter, especially in terms of what ‘best endeavours’ are being or should be implemented, from the governing body.
“We believe that situation was far more serious than the potential attendance of potentially banned Hull City supporters, who could potentially cause us problems.
“We believe the Rugby Football League’s treatment of this situation is largely reactionary. As previously eluded to, there was no suggestion by the governing body to implement a police presence during a time when the country’s terrorism threat level was set at ‘critical’ – let alone ‘severe’.
“The club implements a strict ground-safety plan, which has been approved by local authorities and the four stands situated here at the LD Nutrition Stadium have been formally regulated.
“In addition, the club – prior to the start of last season – met with officials from West Yorkshire Police and agreed to a clear statement of intent as to working practices at the LD Nutrition Stadium.
“Local authorities attended one of home fixtures prior to this one, against Bradford Bulls, to carry out their ‘during performance inspection’. It was passed with absolutely zero issues of concern in terms of ground or crowd safety.
“Our decision to not bring in a police presence was in no way based on finances. It was based on a complete lack of specific information from Humberside Police, of which we believed needed to be, at the very least, names and photographs of those in question.
“The information, if you can even call it that, was received less than five days before the game and we never received a response from Humberside Police following our immediate reply and subsequent telephone calls.
“There were no names or photos, meaning identifying those concerned was virtually impossible. Had we had this, we would have refused access to the stadium.
“Our intentions, given some form of identification, were to halt the four coaches travelling to the stadium away from the main gate and inform the alleged trouble causers that they would not be granted entry.
“The idea of postponing the fixture was ridiculous and there were even suggestions thrown our way that we should send everyone aboard the four coaches back down the M62, which would, in our view, have caused complete chaos.
“The outcome of the investigation stated our response was ‘wholly inadequate’, which we do not agree with.
“Given our resources, we believed we did everything within our power to prevent any form of disturbance. We endeavoured, in the best-possible way, with the little information provided, to ensure the fixture passed by without incident.
“One week prior to this game, our supporters were joined by Hull KR fans in the same end at Bloomfield Road for the Summer Bash. There was no trouble there, so we believed there was no reason to overreact and put in place measures such as segregation or policing.
“Those employed by the Rugby Football League to carry out the investigation concluded ‘the group responsible for the crowd disorder were in effect Hull KR supporters’, though they received yet another suspended fine.
“I would like to take this opportunity to praise Featherstone Rovers supporters. The conclusion of this investigation confirmed our fans had no involvement in any of the incidents which sadly took place that day.”
Yesterday the club announced the appointment of Overwatch Protective Solutions as the Rovers’ new stadium security providers, ending its agreement with Task Personnel Solutions.
Check out Monday’s League Express for more coverage of Featherstone Rovers