I was usually one of the last to be picked for a playground football team but have been attending matches since I was about 12 years old. In those days unaccompanied groups of children were a fairly common sight. I do recollect the occasional bottle flying overhead but generally young football supporters were not subject to any serious problems. I am now a regular attendee at a Premier League ground and the atmosphere is generally benign with the occasional swearing if the home team is performing poorly. A common feature at all venues is the presence of stewards employed by the home team. Long ago police officers paid for by the clubs were employed for crowd control; now they are on duty only outside the stadium. I have no knowledge of the instructions and training given to stewards. Obviously they give assistance to anybody who appears unwell or incapable and direct strangers to their allotted seats but whether or not those nearest the pitch are instructed to assist in situations as occurred last week at Hillsborough is a moot point. I watched the T.V. pictures of the assault on the Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper when the alleged perpetrator strolled past at least two of them on his escape into the upper reaches of the stand.
It might be argued that football clubs can afford to pay for security but do the terms of service of the club offer the paying public the same standard of protection as professional police officers? This was an early example of what is now termed privatisation. Only today the coalition is shouting the benefits of similar thinking at Peterborough where rehabilitation of prisoners is supposedly achieved in payment by results. In the sphere of all matters law and order the profit motive is not necessarily a magic key to open a door to successful outcomes.