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Police lose appeal over financing coppers near the stadium

By Tony Attwood

Today is the anniversary of the largest ever crowd at Arsenal, and of course we celebrate that fact on the Arsenal History Society, through the day by day anniversary pages.

In such days there were some police on duty, because we had had problems at football matches since the earliest days.  (Arsenal’s ground was closed in 1895, for example, following an incident involving the referee).

But there is no mention in today’s piece about who paid the police – in fact there is no mention about the police at all.

Today however the police, and who pays them, is a key topic.  The general rule is that we, the tax payers, pay the police for doing their duty in public places and, (if the issue so demands) private houses, businesses and the like.

But the West Yorkshire police have been trying to change that.  They want clubs in general, and Leeds United in particular, to pay for the policing on the streets around Elland Road, before and after games, given that it is the event at the ground which calls on the need for policing.

“No!” and quite probably “Woh there” cries the club.  The events that require policing are not within Leeds’ ground but take place around the ground, and therefore the police should pay.

To claim that Leeds should pay would change the whole basis of the payment of policing, and could put an enormous strain on the finances of many clubs simply for doing what they are doing.  “But,” say the police, “you are the people who cause us to be there.” “Oh no,” says the clubs, “you are the people who decide how many police you want.  If you could then charge us you could put every copper who wanted overtime onto the streets, and charge us for it.”

Of course I am not really suggesting that the police would indeed put extra policemen on the streets before a game just to allow coppers to get some overtime payment, but it would be a case of the police deciding how many officers they want at a game and then submitting the bill.

Anyway, this battle has been raging on, and has already been to court once, where the court found that West Yorkshire Police were in the wrong, and could not charge the club.

It is an issue of interest to Arsenal because Arsenal could have ended up paying for the police that barricade St Thomas’ on the way to Finsbury Park, and the coppers in and around the underground stations in general.

I’ve written before both about the Leeds case and about the lunatic fringe of young policemen who run around screaming at people having a quiet pre-match drink (although as I have also always said, the older wiser guys who police the area are generally helpful, reasonable and very much aware of their purpose.)

But the original court case threw up issues, such as the possibility of the police applying to  reduce the number of spectators that can go in the ground not because of safety within, but because of safety outside the ground, given that they can’t afford to put many police in the streets.

After the first case the WY Police said, “We welcome the fact that the judge recognised the invidious position the force faces and the possibility of the force being unable to support the club’s existing match arrangements in the present economic climate.”  In other words the police might oppose a licence for the match to be held on the grounds that they can’t afford to police it.  Also the local authority could refuse permission for a game to be held if they felt that the police were unable to put in enough constables to control the event.

The judge in the first case also said there was no single drain on West Yorkshire Police’s resources greater than that of policing games at Leeds.  Maybe those who muck about a bit too much could find themselves getting their club shut down.

And so now we have had the appeal and again West Yorkshire Police has lost again, which presumably is yet another drain on their finances not just for the court costs, but also because WY Police owe Leeds United about £1m that has been charged illegally to the club.

The Master of the Rolls Lord Dyson, sitting with Lord Justice Moore-Bick and Lord Justice McCombe, made it clear that the policing was to “maintain law and order and protect life and property in a public place,” and that means the police can’t charge the club.

So the case is over, for I can’t see the club going to the Supreme Court, given that their lordships said that basically the police didn’t even have a case to argue.

And that now means the police forces around the country might well fight back by starting to restrict the numbers of people who can go into a ground, not on the basis of ground safety, but in terms of the cost to the police of policing the streets after the match by paying overtime to the officers who attend the streets on match day.

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9 comments to Police lose appeal over financing coppers near the stadium

  • ARSENAL 13

    Well I am not aware of the situation in England or any place outside India. I am among those who say, We pay the tax its your job to protect us. There other things but it is not important here.

    The clubs (also the spectators) are paying taxes, it is the governments responsibility to ensure safe proceedings.

  • Stuart

    Agree with Arsenal 13.

    Fans have already funded the police through taxes – income tax, council tax and duty on beer consumed that day.

    You could also argue that football clubs make the police jobs easier by rounding large groups of people up into one place so they can be monitored more easily than if they were all off doing different things.

  • AL

    I also dont understand why the police need to be paid to police football matches, the police’s job is to protect members of the public while they go about their business, and that should include protecting people watching a football match. If they dont want to provide their officers at stadiums to monitor people and something went wrong, say a riot, it would be their responsibility anyway at the end of the day to catch the pepetrators and bring them to book. So its in their interests to ensure that that never happened in the first place. Or if it did happen then they are at hand to bring everything under control.

  • Steve

    I always thought the clubs paid a % towards the cost of policing football.

  • insideright

    I wonder if this now means that the police will pay an even greater interest in the size of new grounds or extensions to existing ones. Especially those in tight geographical situations, areas with histories of violence or those poorly served by public transport (making crowds more difficult to disperse).
    Our friends up the road may be a little concerned.

  • GoingGoingGooner

    The police sound like insurance brokers…don’t want to cover anything remotely difficult but willing to accept money to do nothing.

  • Adam

    I’m glad this issue was addressed, another issue for me regarding the police or rather another branch is the BTP (British transport police) who police our railways, now all our railways have been privatised so we are effectively paying to police a privatised industry.

    Also the BTP are now allowed to carry firearms, has anyone traveling to matches on our railways seen armed officers?

    On top of that 20 prisoner holding centers were recently built specifically for the BTP to hold offenders. Why are we paying for this?

  • Rufusstan

    Complete joke.

    I’m not sure whether I dislike it more because it feels like the police trying to dodge their responsibilities, or it plays to 30 year out of date stereotypes about football fans.

    Do WY Police not have the same issues with Leeds Rhinos? United do have bigger crowds on average, but they overlap. Apparently 20,000 rugby league fans are not an issue, but as few as 11,000 football fans are.

    The other thing of course is how far do you go with this?

    Charge the FA for policing internationals? How about for music events at Wembley? Or again, would it just be the evil football fans that need controlling.

  • Domhuail

    It seems there has to be a middle ground where the following could be negotiated:

    1)The Club hires extra stewards to patrol the outside of the stadium and help control crowds that might be too boisterous or confrontational. These stewards and stewardesses could be trained by the police in crowd management and fan control.

    2)The supporters’ association(s) provide some volunteer monitors who would be easily identifiable and who could watch out for trouble brewing and defuse it quickly. They could contact the on-duty officers by cellphone.

    3)The police handle their usual external duties and provide a minimum presence to discourage unacceptable or unlawful behaviour, thus reducing their costs, at least marginally.

    4)The Club could offer off-duty police or retired officers free entry to the ground in exchange for being on-call should the need arise. They could easily be identified by them wearing some specific apparel ( police baseball cap, jacket or whatever). If they sat in among the supporters of both sides, they would discourage unacceptable fan behaviour. They could also carry their cellphones and use them to connect to an on-duty officer if needed.

    5)The Club could allow early entry to certain supporters (visiting fans,season ticket holders, families, handicapped supporters, school groups, etc.)Maybe this is already being done?

    All of these things are being done by my favourite hockey team and they work very well…unless we win the Cup…then there is always a night of rioting and rampaging adolescents!