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Stoke City fans file police complaint after use of pepper spray on crowd

Deepdale in Preston, England, before Preston North End's Championship game against Stoke City.
Some Stoke City fans travelling to Deepdale on Saturday were pepper-sprayed by police.

A woman has filed a police complaint after her 12-year-old son was among the Stoke City fans pepper-sprayed by officers at half-time of an away game against Preston North End on Saturday.

Lancashire police utilised crowd-control measures, including pepper spray, at an incident involving a number of Stoke supporters who were attempting to exit Deepdale after the first half.

Robert Spain and his son Alfie were among those on the concourse during the incident, and Alfie's mother, Claire Wise, told the Stoke Sentinel she made a formal complaint.

"Robert and Alfie go home and away with Stoke," Wise said. "Alfie is a really keen supporter. Many supporters know him and he has made some great friends at the football. They went on the concourse at half-time and Alfie went to the toilet. The next thing his eyes were stinging.

"He ran back to his dad. He could not see. His eyes were red and streaming. He was being sick. ... I have emailed Lancashire Police because I am absolutely fuming. To put innocent fans in that situation was not fair."

Spain told the newspaper that he and his son left the stadium and waited on the coach after the incident, which he called "a disgrace," and missed the second half of the 2-2 draw.

"What the police should have done was grab whoever was being a bit aggressive and detained them," Spain said. "They sprayed us for no reason. It was disgusting how they did it. They should have realised there were kids and old people. They could have got their batons out if they felt threatened. Alfie doesn't want to go to away matches anymore."

A video uploaded to Twitter appears to show nearly two dozen police officers facing off with a crowd of supporters who were chanting and making gestures in the concourse before spraying them.

Lancashire police said in a statement that officers "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."

Police constable Paul Elliott, who is in charge of the club's football operations, apologised to Stoke fans on Twitter after the game and promised a full investigation of the incident would take place during a debriefing on Tuesday.

More than 3,000 Stoke fans travelled for the game, with Peter Crouch equalising for the visitors in the 61st minute.

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