Female Grimsby Town supporters were forced to show their bras during a security check in order to enter Stevenage’s Lamex Stadium prior to Saturday’s English League Two football match.
According to the Mariners Trust, a supporters’ group, at least 10 women were asked to lift up their tops to in order to see their bra if they wanted to get inside the stadium, the Guardian reports.
A 70-year-old woman was among those left “shocked and stunned” by the incident that the English Football League said it was looking into.
A letter to Stevenage from the Mariners Trust said that the women involved were exposed in front of female stewards, but also in view of other supporters, including men and male stewards.
It went on to say that it was a “gross invasion of privacy,” and that some stewards were asking to feel the fans’ bras to check that they were underwired.
“This act would effectively constitute a sexual assault and these types of searches are unlawful,” the group said in its letter.
Stevenage sent out a release from the safety officer at the club, which said the stewarding plans were not typical and that plans are based on a combination of “past experience, supporter behaviour and police intelligence.”
It continued: “The risk assessment going into Saturday’s game indicated high risk groups attending and the potential for anti-social and un-cooperative behaviour.
“After liaising with Grimsby Town’s safety officer, the police and others, it was indicated that prohibited items were likely to try to be brought into the grounds and could be passed onto those deemed less likely to be searched, such as women and younger supporters.
“This resulted in a joint club and police decision to implement a full, 100% compliant, searching regime as part of the condition of entry.”
Paul Savage, the vice-chair of the Mariners Trust, said according to the Guardian: “What we can’t understand as football supporters is why Stevenage football club have told their stewards to do this. It’s not a policing issue, it’s a football club issue – they’ve told their stewards to check people’s bras and we can only assume they’ve been given some intelligence to do that. You don’t have it at airports, so why would you have it at a football club?
“Football fans get a bad press. There was no trouble, there were no arrests, nobody was chucked out of the ground. There was just a lot of bewildered and bemused and upset people.
“It wasn’t really until the game had finished and we all left when we thought ‘what on earth has just happened?’ and it all started to sink in.”
The supporters group also noted that full body searches were carried out on children as young as five, in which one child was left “visibly upset.”
Stevenage concluded in its release that: “No incidents were recorded on the day of any inappropriate behaviour towards female supporters or young spectators. Had such incidents been either reported or flagged up, the issues would have been dealt with immediately.
“The club takes these allegations seriously and will both study the CCTV footage and speak to the relevant parties to ensure that no infringements of accepted procedures took place.”
Image: John Lord