I have had the pleasure to chat with an 83-year-old Norwich boy, life long City fan and City policeman to find out how matches were controlled 60 years ago.
The ‘bobby’ who will remain anonymous was enlisted in November 1957 have served two years with the RAF Police whilst serving National Service. At this time the police in Norfolk were split into three organisations, Norfolk, Great Yarmouth and City, the latter specifically responsible for the fine City. The forces amalgamated to become one in 1968.
His first shift inside the hallowed football ground was in the 1958/9 season. The job consisted of being told to work an overtime day shift which included attendance at the game.
In those days there was no trouble, manpower consisted of a sergeant posted in the player’s tunnel, the plum job, one copper at each corner of the ground who sat on chairs, two in the Barclay and one posted in each of the three other stands. In those days nothing happening so the police watched the game.
Life didn’t change for some time until hooliganism kicked off. Police numbers started to increase in and out of the ground and a police room was established where the hotel is today. When arrests were first made, the thug was searched and booked in and told to sit in the corner until transport was provided to the escort the culprit to the Bethel Street nick.
Eventually, the present-day Barclay Stand was built which encompassed a new police room which included space for a Sargeant, PC and three ‘holding’ cells.
In the sixties, opposition fans mingled with each other and it was possible to move around the ground. Some fans would watch one half in the River End and other behind the goal in the Barclay hoping to catch the best views of the Canaries finding the back of the net.
When segregation first started, the police used the ‘thin blue line’ a human wall of coppers attempting to keep the peace. Eventually, fencing was erected to create pens and then later a full-length cage to prevent projectiles being used by rival fans.
At one time umbrellas were not accepted in the stands, they were collected, stored in the police room and collected after the game. Before the cage in a game against Coventry City, one policeman was ‘lucky’ to be hit by a dart from a rival fan, thankfully it landed in his helmet.
All very different to today’s policing. Closed-circuit cameras, electronic entry, personal data collection, briefings and shared intelligence.