Female football fans have complained they were asked to lift their shirts and reveal their bras to security stewards at a match in Hertfordshire on Saturday.
Mariners Trust, a Grimsby Town fan group, made the allegations in an open letter to Stevenage FC after the game at the Lamex Stadium this weekend.
Describing the treatment of Grimsby supporters by the stewards as “among the worst our fans have experienced in decades of travelling across the world to watch football,” the letter claimed the incidents amounted to a “gross invasion of privacy.”
It said female fans were asked to lift their shirts in front of other supporters including men and male stewards and were even asked by female stewards if they could feel their bras if they confirmed they were underwired.
The letter said: “The supporters were made to feel uncomfortable and when they replied they would ‘rather not’, they were ‘reluctantly’ left into the ground. This act would effectively constitute a sexual assault and these types of searches are unlawful.”
It added that full body searches were also allegedly carried out on children as young as five, with at least one minor becoming visibly upset.
On social media one female fan described the event as “an absolute debacle”, adding: “Having been a Grimsby supporter for 40 years I have never been treated so bad. A disgrace.”
In response to the letter, another wrote: “Thank you for raising this serious issue. As a female supporter of Mansfield Town, I am becoming very concerned by the searches being conducted on female fans at some League Two grounds. It is getting ridiculous. I am all for security checks but the invasive nature of these checks needs investigating. What happened to your supporters on Saturday is outrageous. I hope there is an immediate inquiry into this distressing situation.”
One fan called for a boycott to the next season unless changes were urgently made.
A spokesman for Stevenage FC told Huff Post the club was aware of the letter and was investigating the matter. He would not comment on whether the alleged searches were standard procedure or if there had been an increased security risk at that particular match.
Copies of the letter have also been sent to the police and Stevenage Borough Council.
A spokesman for Hertfordshire Constabulary told HuffPost UK: “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.
“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.”