Low-flying drone at Mansfield Town match sparks police warning

Warnings have been issued by police after a low-flying drone halted play in Mansfield Town’s match at the One Call Stadium on Tuesday night.

By Richard Silverwood
Wednesday, 21st April 2021, 3:18 pm
The drone spotted flying above the floodlights at Mansfield Town's match last night. (PHOTO BY: Craig Brough/AHPIX LTD)
The drone spotted flying above the floodlights at Mansfield Town's match last night. (PHOTO BY: Craig Brough/AHPIX LTD)

The Stags were only 12 minutes into their League Two match against fellow strugglers Scunthorpe United when the remote-controlled drone was spotted hovering over the Bishop Street stand at the ground.

Devon referee Brett Huxtable stopped the game for fear that the robotic aircraft might put the safety of the players at risk if its operator lost control and it crashed.

There was no play for five minutes until police officers rushed outside the stadium, seized the device when it landed and confiscated it. The pilot was spoken to and cautioned.

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Referee Brett Huxtable called a temporary halt to proceedings in the early stages of last night's game between Mansfield Town and Scunthorpe United. (Photo by Lewis Storey/Getty Images)

When the match got underway again, the Stags strolled to a 3-0 victory that guaranteed them safety from relegation out of the Football League.

However, Nottinghamshire Police fired a warning to people looking to record footage at sports events and told them to abide by the rules of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

PC John Albanese, who is the Stags’ dedicated football officer, said: “The drone was seen landing in a garden by an eagle-eyed security steward.

"Its owner stated he didn’t possess a licence or certificate to fly the drone, so officers seized the device.

Another view of the drone above the Bishop Street Stand at the One Call Stadium. (PHOTO BY: Craig Brough/AHPIX LTD)

"The rules set by the CAA apply in the UK. It doesn’t matter if you are a professional pilot or a drone hobbyist, you must have passed the CAA’s online theory test and obtained your Flyer ID.

“Also, as the owner or operator of a drone, you must register with the CAA for an Operator ID, which is renewed every 12 months.

"As a general rule, you must keep a minimum horizontal distance of 50 metres between your drone and other people, and keep at least 150 metres away from residential, recreational, commercial and industrial areas.

"When operated correctly, drones can be a valuable resource to agencies involved in things such as law enforcement and search and rescue.

The drone that was seized by police during the Stags' match.

"But with technology advancing and the cost of the devices falling, they are becoming more popular with hobbyists.

"They can be fun and are great at capturing some fantastic images and footage. But when public safety is compromised, we have to take action.

"Referees have directions from the FA, and protocols are in place for the type of incident that happened at Mansfield Town. Drones could easily fall from the sky and injure a player, official or staff member.”

The sport’s officials are becoming increasingly concerned about the presence of drones, attempting to film the action, at matches.

Back in 2015, a dad was fined £1,800 for flying drones over Premier League stadiums, including Anfield, where police horses were startled by the device.

And last October, the sighting of an unauthorised drone marred a Championship game between Rotherham United and Sheffield Wednesday.

Referee Jarred Gillet took the players off the field for five minutes, while the drone was seized by police and its pilot was identified.

When crowds return to football, the Football Safety Officers Association fears drones could pose a serious risk to the safety of spectators – as well as players.

The organisation even worries about the potential for the devices to be used for terrorist activity.