St Johnstone fans backing the club’s European adventure were the victims of “heavy-handed and intimidating” policing, a councillor has claimed.
Himself a lifelong Saints fan, Councillor John Flynn accompanied his grandsons to Thursday’s Europa League qualifier against FC Minsk at McDiarmid Park but said he was left “disgusted” by the way young fans were treated.
Following his comments, the Perth club said a number of supporters had “allowed their exuberance to be channelled in the wrong way” but insisted Mr Flynn was not in “full possession of the facts”.
“Quite honestly I was shocked at the way the police and stewards treated the fans,” said Mr Flynn, who was in the east stand near to the scoreboard.
“A number of people were put out of the game. I do not know what they were doing.
“The police were intimidating them (the fans), staring at them. To me these fans bring a bit of colour to the game, singing.
“They were not fighting. I do not know why the police were being so heavy-handed. I feel these fans were let down.
“I was not an isolated person on this other people were complaining about the injustice. If there was fighting or disruption I could understand it.”
Mr Flynn took the numbers of the police officers involved and is to write to St Johnstone chairman Steve Brown.
A member of a St Johnstone supporters’ club, who preferred to remain anonymous, backed up the councillor’s claims.
“The police were over-zealous. They were out of hand throwing young kids out,” he said.
“The stewards were intimidating as well. It was a bit OTT.”
However, the police defended their operation as appropriate and praised the majority of Saints fans.
A spokesman said: “At the previous European home tie against Rosenborg BK there were instances of minor disorder, 48 seats were damaged and smoke flares were discharged in a section of the ground.
“The methods employed by the police at the game against FC Minsk were intended to ensure public safety, prevent disorder and, where necessary, take appropriate action against those who engage in such activity or breach the ground regulations.
“Five persons were ejected from the ground and, despite a media appeal by St Johnstone Football Club, a smoke flare was discharged at the game.
“That said, I would wish to commend the rest of their supporters for their behaviour and the general atmosphere they created in the ground which made this a memorable occasion.”
St Johnstone also supported the stewarding of the game, with a spokesman saying: “We’re very disappointed that at a time when there is so much positivity about St Johnstone FC and the effect the team’s recent exploits in Europe have had on the city of Perth, that a councillor should feel it necessary to publicly highlight this perceived negative without being in full possession of the facts.
“The club works very closely with, and has a good relationship with, Police Scotland and G4S Stewarding and have no issues with the way last night’s game was handled.
“Out of an attendance of 8,594 there were no arrests and only five ejections from the ground, and two of these were for alcohol-related offences prior to kick-off.
“The councillor’s comments are even more surprising, given the pre-match publicity instigated by the club regarding supporter behaviour and the need to avoid a repeat of the smoke bomb incident and damage to seating at the previous round tie against BK Rosenborg.
“Sadly, despite the best effort of the police and stewards and after the majority of last night’s match had passed without incident, a number of younger supporters again allowed their exuberance to be channelled in the wrong way with a smoke flare thrown on to the trackside and some additional damage to seating.
“Last night’s game, despite the immense disappointment of the end result, was a fantastic occasion for the club and for Perthshire, and the atmosphere created by the support was as good as has ever been witnessed at the stadium.”