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Women football fans forced to show bras while being searched at match

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Moya Crockett
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Women were made to show their bras to security staff while queueing to enter a football match over the weekend according to fans, in a move that has attracted fierce criticism.

The Guardian reports that at least 10 female Grimsby Town supporters had their bras “checked” by stewards at Stevenage football club, ahead of a match between the two League Two teams on Saturday.

The “mortified” women were asked to lift up their tops for security reasons outside Stevenage FC’s Lamex Stadium, according to Grimsby Town supporters’ group Mariners Trust.

One of the women was reportedly 70 years old. While the request for the fans to show their bras was made by female stewards, it was done in full view of male supporters and stewards.

Mariners Trust has written a letter to Stevenage FC about the incidents, stating that the Grimsby Town fans had been “shocked and stunned” and felt that they had been subjected to a “gross invasion of privacy”.



The group said that female stewards were asked to feel supporters’ bras if the women confirmed that they were underwired. “This act would effectively constitute a sexual assault and these types of searches are unlawful,” said the Mariners Trust in its letter.

Children as young as five were also allegedly searched in a way that made them feel “upset” and intimidated.

Stevenage FC’s safety officer, Steve Reed, said that security measures at the match on Saturday were unusually stringent because they believed that there was a high risk of antisocial behaviour, and suspected that banned items might be sneaked into the stadium by women and children.

“Stewards used for this role in the away section of the stadium were provided by a reputable agency and are qualified to act as such,” he said.

“Searches conducted are recorded on CCTV and on this occasion, were in the presence of deployed police officers.

“No incidents were recorded on the day of any inappropriate behaviour towards female supporters or young spectators. Had such incidents been either reported or flagged up, the issues would have been dealt with immediately.”



When contacted by stylist.co.uk, a spokesperson for Hertfordshire police said that no reports had yet been made to police about the stewards’ behaviour.

“Police officers were in attendance at the match but were not involved in any of the searches that were carried out by stewards.

“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.”

Are security staff allowed to ask you to show your bra while being searched at an event?

We all understand that sometimes events require increased security – but we also know how important it is to feel safe and respected by event staff.

We got in touch with an international security company that provides stewarding staff for major events, and asked them how searches should be conducted. While nobody on their team was prepared to speak on the record, a spokeswoman gave us an overview of how you should expect to be treated while being searched at events such as a football match.

“At football grounds, staff will predominantly be searching for weapons and alcohol,” she explained. “You don’t actually need to remove items of clothing to carry out effective searches to find these items.”

Stewarding staff should use their hands or “wands” (portable metal detectors of the kind used at airports) to search you, the spokeswoman continued. “Hands can feel enough through [fabric], and wands go through clothing, so removing anything wouldn’t be necessary,” she said.

It would be extremely unusual for a strip search to be necessary at an event such as a football match, but if it was, it should not be carried out by stewards, she said. “[Strip searches] should be done by the police in a police environment.”

So if you are asked by security staff to show your bra, something isn’t right – and you always have the right to refuse to comply.

Images: iStock / Rex Features

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Moya Crockett

Moya is Contributing Women’s Editor at stylist.co.uk and Deputy Editor of Stylist Loves, Stylist's daily email newsletter.