YEP Says, September 12: Football clubs must pay more towards cost of policing

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IF THE police are to have sufficient officers to maintain public safety at professional football matches in the future, there needs to be a level playing field when it comes to the funding of these arrangements. In the wake of a landmark legal ruling involving Leeds United, the present position could not be more one-sided – clubs are only involved for the costs incurred at grounds while the police have to foot the bill for spectator safety away from venues, and where rival fans are more likely to clash.

The consequence is that Leeds United has seen its policing bill reduce by £400,000, even though the number of high-profile games and spectators at its Elland Road ground has remained the same, while some of the Premier League’s biggest spenders – such as Manchester United and Arsenal – have seen a halving of their payments. This imbalance is even more stark when the finances of the police – some forces can no longer afford to deploy officers routinely to house burglaries – when football’s elite clubs are so awash with money that they no longer think twice about paying £50m, and £200,000 a week wages, for players without even a World Cup winner’s medal to their name.

This game of brinkmanship – the football clubs know that police will withdraw cover only as a last resort – cannot continue like this. There are two solutions. A proportion of the record sums being paid to football for TV rights should be given to the police, or the bill is paid by the imposition of a levy on every transfer based on the value of the deal. The advantage of the latter is that the grater onus will fall on the bigger spending clubs. Either way, it’s hard to justify the police being penalised like this when the thin blue line has never been more stretched.

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