Police to carry out random drug swab at Bristol City football match


Police will undertake a ‘proactive’ operation to detect illegal drugs when Bristol City FC take on Birmingham City on Saturday March 5. Officers will swab surfaces at Ashton Gate stadium and local pubs for substances like cocaine.

Swab tests will take place randomly before and after the match both throughout the stadium and also in nearby pubs. Police also warned that anyone bringing pyrotechnical devices, such as flares, risked being refused entry to the game or even being prosecuted.

The force says the operation is being carried out “amid a reported increase in disorder at football matches nationwide”.

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Ahead of Bristol City’s 3pm kick-off against Birmingham, officers will stamp the Ashton Gate stadium, as well as local pubs as part of ‘routine license checks’. The Avon and Somerset Police area commander for Bristol said there had been a ‘well-known deterioration in football fan behaviour’.

He referred to the destruction of Ashton Gate toilets by Cardiff City fans in January this year. Two people have also been charged with disorderly conduct at football matches in Bristol – one for punishing a police horse and the other for knocking another man to the ground.

Superintendent Mark Runacres, Area Commander for Bristol and Avon and Head of Drug Strategy for Somerset Police, said: ‘The deterioration in football fan behavior nationwide is well publicized and although thankfully the we don’t often have to step in during the games we monitor, we want to do everything we can to make sure they are safe and family-friendly occasions.

Bristol City lost 3-0 at Birmingham City in November 2021

“It was only in January that we saw significant damage to the toilets in the Ateyo stand at Ashton Gate during the match against Cardiff City, while two men were also recently convicted of violence following matches at Ashton Gate – one was fined for hitting a policeman on horseback while the other was jailed for kicking another man to the ground.

“Those who use drugs such as cocaine are known to have a greater propensity for violence and the aim of the operation is to identify the extent of this drug use. The evidence we collect will then be used to inform police operations at future football matches.

“While we do not proactively seek to test supporters themselves, if officers are concerned about the behavior of any individual it will be something they will consider.”

The force also recalled that pyrotechnics are not allowed in the stadium due to the risk of injury, warning that fans risk being kicked out of the stadium or even arrested and charged for bringing one to the game. Devices were used in seven matches, resulting in the ejection of seven fans from one match and the arrest of two.

Superintendent Runacres added: “Last month, before the game against Middlesbrough, a 14-year-old boy tried to bring a smoke grenade into the stadium.

“I agree that on some occasions people were unaware that they were committing a criminal offence, but ignorance is no excuse. These devices are dangerous – a man suffered second-degree burns after a supporter set off a device in the row behind him late last year.

“Anyone who brings a pyrotechnic device into a football risks having it removed, being refused entry or being expelled, or even being arrested and prosecuted.”

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