Fears over growing cost of policing Leeds United

Heavy police presence at Elland Road.

Heavy police presence at Elland Road.

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The amount that Leeds United contributes towards the policing of its games has halved in just one year, sparking a national trend of clubs reducing payments to police.

Now police bosses are warning about the future of forces being able to afford to provide services on matchdays as they wrestle with substaintial cuts to their budgets.

Leeds United still has one of the highest policing bills in the country.

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While United’s bill has fallen significantly since the club successfully challenged West Yorkshire Police in the courts in 2012, the Championship club’s payment of £477,476 was behind only the two Manchester clubs and Liverpool in 2014/15.

Freedom of information requests to police forces have revealed the total paid by clubs fell from £14.5m in 2012/13 to £11.5m last season.

The pattern has been repeated at the majority of clubs, prompting asst chief constable Mark Roberts, the National Police Chiefs Council lead for football policing, to warn current arrangements “don’t adequately reflect the amount of resources we have to use to police matches and it’s getting harder to meet the costs.”

Payments have been falling in the wake of a landmark court case between Leeds and West Yorkshire Police in 2012 when a judge ruled clubs could only be charged for policing in stadiums or on land owned or controlled by clubs in their immediate vicinity. Policing away from grounds, where trouble is often more likely, has to be met from existing budgets.

Leeds recovered in excess of £1.2m from West Yorkshire Police for bills levied for policing away from the Elland Road ground between 2009 and 2012.

In June it emerged Ipswich Town have followed Leeds’ example and begun legal action against Suffolk Police over the same issue.

Although an increase in stewarding and improved fan behaviour have played a part in cutting bills, Mr Roberts acknowledged the court ruling had a significant impact.

“The Leeds case made the position very clear in terms of what we can charge for and that certainly doesn’t cover all the officers deployed on typical matches,” he said. “We are not getting paid for what we have to deploy at many football matches. It really drew a line in the sand and until the law changes, that’s what we can charge for.”

Mr Roberts pointed out the drop in payments coincided with ever more money coming into the game, with the last TV rights deal for Premier League football worth £5.1billion.

Nationally, Manchester City recorded the highest bill last season - £792,479 – an amount only marginally down from £799,333 in 2012/13.

Liverpool paid £487,191, down from £612,609, while Merseyside Police also received £420,523 from Everton last season compared to £522,567 in 2012/13.

He said: “The resources available have reduced and to be frank we have now got fewer officers. As forces shrink, the more we have to commit significant resources to football without being paid for it, the more it becomes an issue.”

West Yorkshire Police declined to comment.