Stevenage FC, a League Two English soccer club, is under fire after outraged female fans of an opposing team claimed they were “asked to lift their tops up to show their bras” to female security guards upon entry to Lamex Stadium last Saturday.
Stevenage General Manager Bob Makin said the club was treating the “large number of complaints with the utmost seriousness” and had launched an internal investigation.
Jon Wood, Chairman of Grimsby's Mariners Trust, the group which represents more than 3,000 Grimsby Town fans, wrote in an open letter to Stevenage FC: “Several female supporters were asked to lift their tops up to show their bras to female stewards upon entry to The Lamex Stadium. This decision -- in the queue in front of other supporters, including men and male stewards -- is a gross invasion of privacy.
“Female supporters have also since contacted us to state they were asked by female stewards if they could feel their bras if they confirmed that they were underwired. The supporters were made to feel uncomfortable and when they replied they would 'rather not' they were 'reluctantly' let in to the ground.
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“This act would effectively constitute a sexual assault and these types of searches are unlawful.”
Stevenage FC issued a statement on Wednesday saying the security guards ramped up their checks because they had received intelligence that fans could smuggle banned items into the stadium in their underwear.
They admitted Saturday's security measures were not “typical”, but they were expecting “high risk groups” at the match.
A Stevenage FC safety officer told reporters: “The stewarding plan for Saturday’s match was not typical of those usually delivered at Stevenage Football Club. All stewarding plans are bespoke for each match and are based on a combination of past experience, supporter behavior and police intelligence.
“The risk assessment going into Saturday’s game indicated high risk groups attending and the potential for anti-social and un-cooperative behavior.”
The statement from the club added that fans did not report these incidents on the day of the game, and if they had, “the issues would have been dealt with immediately.”
The club is reviewing CCTV footage and interviewing security officers who worked the game.