Four arrested during Leeds United promotion celebrations outside Elland Road
One police officer suffered a minor injury while missiles were thrown at officers
By Lyall Thomas
Last Updated: 23/07/20 5:02pm
West Yorkshire Police confirmed four arrests were made during Leeds supporters' celebrations outside Elland Road on Wednesday night.
Thousands of fans congregated outside the ground for the final night of the Championship season as Leeds played Charlton, despite warnings not to do so due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Leeds defended their decision to put on open-top bus celebrations for their players outside Elland Road despite the gathering of a large crowd, saying the decision was made following consultation with council and safety groups.
Superintendent Jackie Marsh, of Leeds District Police, said: "The safety of fans and the wider public has always been our primary concern and that is why we advised the safest way for people to celebrate in these times was in their own homes.
"However, it was anticipated that some fans would gather outside the ground last night to celebrate and a police operation was put in place to make sure that this was managed safely and effectively.
"This operation saw a total of four people arrested for public order offences. One officer received a minor injury which did not require hospital treatment.
"While most of those who gathered did so with good intentions, there were some missiles thrown which resulted in officers having to wear protective equipment.
"Assaults on police officers will not be tolerated and enquiries will be made to identify those responsible so appropriate action can be taken."
Celebrations were had in Leeds city centre and outside the ground at the weekend, in which at least one police officer was hurt, and a Leeds city councillor subsequently warned against a repeat on Wednesday night.
Leeds say the decision to allow the players to celebrate in front of the fans was designed to give those supporters a reason to end their celebrations and disperse.
A statement read: "Following consultation with the SAG and council, Leeds United arranged for a bus to be parked outside the East Stand reception as a contingency to assist dispersal should a crowd congregate at Elland Road, despite a month-long campaign from the club and supporter groups to encourage supporters to stay at home.
"The safety group believed was that a brief appearance from the players with the Championship trophy would help to signal an end to proceedings, encouraging fans to head home safely. In challenging circumstances fan safety has always been our priority."
Leeds City Council released a statement on Thursday admitting contingency plans had been agreed to have an open-top bus at Elland Road on Wednesday evening.
The statement said: "We were very clear along with the club, West Yorkshire Police and partners that people should not gather at Elland Road or indeed at any other venue in Leeds to celebrate promotion to the Premier League or the presentation of the Championship trophy.
"Following a meeting of the Leeds United Safety Advisory Group earlier this week, contingency plans were considered and prepared for the likely event that large numbers of fans did not adhere to the Covid-19 safety messaging and gathered outside Elland Road last night, and how to ensure they dispersed in the safest and quickest way possible.
"This included closing Lowfields Road to traffic and also an agreed approach to have the open-top bus at the ground but hidden from view and not promoted, only to be used if significant numbers of fans gathered as a method of bringing the gathering to an end effectively.
"As several thousand fans were outside the ground, the decision was taken to deploy the bus plan which proved effective as most of the fans left the area within 40 minutes of the team celebrations concluding.
"All parties involved recognise the difficulties around this decision, which was made only as a method of ensuring the fans dispersed if significant numbers gathered, and would wish to thank all those fans who adhered to the requests to stay safe and stay away."
Leeds sealed the Addicks' relegation to League One with a 4-0 win, after clinching promotion back to the Premier League in the penultimate round of fixtures.