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Policing at football: Q&A

Published 10/08/2016

Mounted police make their way past the Emirates Stadium
Mounted police make their way past the Emirates Stadium

Manchester City and Manchester United paid almost £2million on policing costs between them in the 2015-16 season, while the five London Premier League clubs under the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Police paid under £200,000 combined.

Press Association Sport spoke to Assistant Chief Constable Mark Roberts of Cheshire Police, the National Lead for football policing, to get some context on how policing at football is charged.

What can police forces charge for?

"Forces are guided by case law, in particular the case between Leeds United and West Yorkshire Police, which stipulated that forces could only charge on areas owned, leased or controlled by the club. That case law really sets out the extent to which we can charge and that will vary according to the geography of the stadiums. If the stadium is right onto a public highway then that in effect is public land and police wouldn't normally be able to charge for it."

How is the charging calculated?

"You would generally have a discussion about risk grading at the start of the season - a Manchester derby for instance would be high risk (Category C Increased Risk), whereas a game for one of the Manchester clubs against, say, Fulham, might be a Category A, or even police-free or spotters only. You can vary it bit by bit as the season goes on, as the risk category can go up or down.

"I encourage forces to have a signed agreement with their clubs before the start of the season because what you don't want are disputes arising part way through and then you can have arguments about whether people are going to police a particular game or not and it gets very difficult for all concerned."

When are the charges paid?

"Normally, the policing fees are paid game by game."

Have there been any disagreements over this recently?

"There's been a case between Suffolk Police and Ipswich Town, where there was a road outside the stadium which was closed off by the club on a match day for people to queue, sell programmes and where concessions were placed. The view of the High Court was that in effect that the road should be treated in the same way as the area inside the stadium was, and ruled that the police were allowed to charge for that area as well."

Shouldn't wealthy Premier League clubs be contributing to policing in some public areas on match days anyway?

"We are still in effect subsidising football because you have got to put additional policing on. Police forces are smaller and every police officer that you put on a football match isn't available to look for burglars, deal with other sorts of offenders, etc. So there is a broader cost to the public in that we are taking people away from core duties to be able to allow a football match to carry on."

How could that situation change?

"We constantly keep it under review and we would always have a discussion with the Home Office to see if there is an appetite to review it. But the fact of the matter is we do have to provide resources to make sure people can get to and from the grounds in safety and minimise the disruption to local communities. That's a fact of life. I think people take a view whether it's fair or not.

"I think there is a potential for clubs to make a greater contribution but for that to change it would require a change to legislation and I don't sense any great appetite to change those arrangements."

Are the increased number of televised games a problem?

"We have had a really good dialogue with the Premier League of late. There were some wranglings over a Merseyside derby which was a late kick-off for TV, but we've had some sensible discussions over the last couple of years and highlighted those games which we really would like to avoid being a late kick-off to avoid the risk of all-day drinking and diverting resources away from normal Saturday evening policing duties."

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