Female football fans are furious after stewards ordered them to lift up their tops and show off their bras as they queued to get into a match.
Grimsby Town supporters said they suffered a ‘gross invasion of privacy’ when they visited Stevenage’s Lamex stadium over the weekend.
The embarrassed women claimed female stewards asked if they could ‘feel’ their underwear, during airport-style security checks prior to the Sky Bet League Two match on Saturday.
Supporters also said stewards searched children as young as five years old and at least one youngster was visibly upset.
Female Grimsby Town supporters said they suffered a ‘gross invasion of privacy’ when they visited Stevenage’s Lamex stadium over the weekend
Jon Wood, Chairman of Grimsby’s Mariners Trust supporters group, has slammed the alleged treatment in an open letter to Stevenage FC.
He wrote: ‘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.
‘This act would effectively constitute a sexual assault and these types of searches are unlawful.
Grimsby’s Mariners Trust supporters group has urged Stevenage to investigate the claims made by female Grimsby fans (pictured, The Lamex Stadium)
The incidents were alleged to have taken place prior to Stevenage’s league clash with Grimsby on Saturday (pictured)
‘If deemed necessary, although we cannot see how feeling an underwire in a bra could be deemed so, unless acting on previous intelligence, then any fans in question should have been taken to a private area of the ground to be searched by a female steward – rather than being searched in full view of male stewards, fans and Police.
‘We are not aware at this stage that any previous intelligence contributed to these types of searches being implemented against female supporters.’
Paul Savage, Vice President of the Mariners’ Trust, was at the match and described the alleged behaviour of the stewards as ‘absolutely extraordinary’.
If you had not seen it with your eyes you would struggle to believe it happened
Paul Savage, Vice President of the Mariners’ Trust
He said: ‘If you had not seen it with your eyes you would struggle to believe it happened.
‘Grimsby town has a large contingent of female supporters, probably more so than other clubs.
‘It was described to me by a police officer the same kind of search you would receive in a custody suite on a Friday night.
‘As a football fan, there seems to be no reason why anyone would need to check ma woman’s bra at any event, let alone a football match.
‘They asked a 70-year-old woman to lift up her top.
‘It was female steward who was asking the questions but it was being done in full view of male stewards and other supporters queuing to go in.
‘All the female supporters were shocked. It was not until after the game we found out there were a lot more people involved.
‘I spoke to a man whose five-year-old son was in tears who was subjected to a body search. The world has gone mad.
A fan Grimsby Town fan is searched by a steward as he walks towards the turnstiles at The Lamex Stadium
‘It is a football match. Being fully patted down at five is absolutely unacceptable.
‘There is an attitude all fans are criminals even before they get into the match.’
Amanda Jacks, Football Supporters’ Federation case worker, explained an investigation into the incident would be launched.
She said: ‘I have not heard of it before.
‘Rest assured, we are going to get to the bottom of why this has happened and ensure it never happens again. Every single club will conduct searches. But this is completely and utterly disproportionate.’
It was also claimed that after kick-off, a female steward was posted inside the male toilets near the ‘away end’ turnstiles and refused to leave, despite male stewards and police officers being stationed nearby.
Items seized during searches included a tiny bottle of hand sanitiser, contact lens solution, cough sweets and medication.
Tweeter Scott Harneiss shared this picture with the caption: ‘@StevenageFC can you explain why a female steward is in the male toilets at half time’
Mr Wood added: ‘We believe there were a number of serious failings by the stewards inside the Lamex Stadium which we urge you to investigate to ensure that supporters from other clubs are not treated with the same contempt.
‘It is our view that the treatment of Grimsby supporters by your stewards was amongst the worst our fans have experienced in decades of travelling across the world to watch football.’
A spokesperson for Hertfordshire Constabulary confirmed that officers were at the match, but were not involved in the searches.
He said: ‘At this stage, no allegations have been made to Hertfordshire Constabulary in relation to the actions of stewards at the football match.
‘If any allegations are made to police these will be fully investigated.
‘Police were in attendance at the match due to intelligence regarding a previous game between Chesterfield and Grimsby Town, where there was public disorder and members of the public were injured.’
Stevenage FC press officer Dan Branowsky told the Stevenage Comet: ‘We are aware of the letter and are investigating the matter today before making any further comment.’