Stoke fans' Preston 'pepper spray' claim to be investigated by police

By Matt DavisBBC Sport
A screengrab of footage appearing to show police using a spray on fans at Deepdale on Saturday
Footage on social media appears to show police using a spray on fans

Police are to investigate claims a number of Stoke City fans were sprayed with pepper spray during half-time at Preston North End on Saturday.

A video on social media appears to show police officers facing a group of supporters in the concourse at Deepdale before spraying them.

Lancashire Police said some Stoke fans tried to "forcibly exit the stadium" and "many" were "aggressive".

It said officers used "proportionate force to protect themselves".

PC Paul Elliot, Preston's football officer, apologised to "innocent fans caught up in this incident" in a post on social media.external-link

Stoke told BBC Sport said they are "aware" of the footage.

The Championship match finished 2-2. Preston were 2-1 up at half-time before a Peter Crouch goal in the second half earned a point for the visitors.

"There was an incident of disorder inside the stadium involving a number of Stoke supporters, who were attempting to forcibly exit the stadium," said Lancashire Police in a statement.

"Officers deployed were faced with many aggressive fans and used proportionate force to protect themselves and ensure the disorderly fans did not spill out into the surrounding area.

"As a result of this action, the situation was quickly brought under control and all fans returned to the stadium, where they watched the match without further disruption."

Police said a formal investigation will now take place.

One Stoke fan on Twitter claimed the police response was "diabolical", and added that children were caught up in the incident.

Elliot said there will be a post-match debrief on Tuesday and has asked Potters supporters to send their observations and video footage. A representative from the Football Supporters' Federation has also been invited to a meeting.

"We are aware of the footage which appears to show some of our fans being pepper sprayed and will be asking Lancashire Police for their comments," Stoke said.

Angela Smith, chair of Stoke City's supporters council, said: "Stoke does not condone any violence from supporters or any undue aggravation caused by anybody concerned with the football club."

Meanwhile, British Transport Police posted on social media to say an "exchange of punches" between Stoke and Preston fans at Preston train station is also being investigated.