Behind the scenes at PNE

Paul Elliott on matchday at Deepdale

Paul Elliott on matchday at Deepdale

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For eight years, Paul Elliott has been ensuring that Preston North End games pass as trouble-free as possible.

PC Elliott is the police football intelligence officer attached to PNE.

He is a familiar face to North End supporters, attending all games home and away, the Twitter account he runs to liaise with fans having more than 2,300 followers.

Planning for the policing of a game starts weeks before, each match given a certain category depending on the expected size of crowd and reputation of the fans.

It was last month for example, that officers turned their focus to PNE’s weekend game with Bristol City.

Elliott told the Evening Post: “I’ve been football intelligence officer for North End since April 2007 and it is a role I very much enjoy. Every club in the league has an FIO or a liaison officer attached to them.

“It is our job to gather and collate information and pass that on to the commanders and planners higher up.

“I’m the piece in between the football club and the bosses at Preston Police Station who made decisions about the resources given to a game and the category it has.

“It involves looking at a number of things – which pubs to set aside for away fans, if buses are needed to run away supporters from the station to the ground.

“We look into the previous history of the clubs playing each other, if there have been any issues between the sets of fans before.

“You would be surprised how far a grudge can go back – you have people telling you about something that happened in 1979.

“We look at what kind of support a club attracts, try and identify those who are ‘risk’ supporters, in that they indulge in anti-social behaviour or disorder at football matches.

“I need to do that for every Preston game, home and away. If it is at Deepdale and we are the host force, we have been in liaison with the away team’s officer.

“When PNE play away, I wear two hats, in effect. I’m there as the intelligence feed but also as a fans’ liaison officer for our supporters.

“If they need some advice or have a problem, they come and find me and I’ll help them the best I can.

“Having been doing the job for this long, most of the fans know my face by now.

“The local police have a very good relationship with North End. We both just want people to have a safe, enjoyable day at the football.”

The highest category game at Deepdale this season in terms of policing was, not surprisingly, the Manchester United FA Cup clash.

Others fall at the other end of the scale where the away support is small.

While there has been some minor disorder at games this season, Elliott says the PNE fans are generally a very well behaved bunch.

“The vast majority of North End fans are law-abiding family types with nothing more than watching the game on their minds,” he said.

“It is less than 1% who we have any trouble with. They are mainly young, giddy kids, away from mum and dad who have a couple of pints of lager and get a bit anti-social.

“There have been occasions when smoke bombs have been let off but in the last few games that seems to have died down.

“If the club are going to get punished for fans using them, then we have to try and stop their use.”

On May 17, Elliott is running the Chester half marathon to raise money for Derian House.

An Everton fan, he did the Liverpool half marathon last year, wearing a Liverpool shirt after losing a bet with ex-PNE striker Iain Hume.

Said Elliott: “I had a bet with Humey – he’s a Reds fans –on the result of the Merseyside derby and Everton lost, so I ran wearing the Liverpool kit!”

Anyone wanting to sponsor his half marathon run can do so at www.justgiving.com/Paul-Elliott12.