Sport

Manchester clubs may foot the bill for extra matchday policing, following research into football-related disorder

By Ben Burrows

Football clubs could face an increase in matchday policing costs after new research revealed that matches often cause crime and disorder far beyond stadiums and surrounding streets.

The research, commissioned by The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), is yet to be officially published but concludes that a large proportion of the trouble encountered on matchdays is sparked by football.

Assistant chief constable Andy Holt leads footballing policy for ACPO.

He said: “My personal view is that the clubs should bear a greater burden of the costs for the overall policing of football.”

At present, football clubs are responsible for the policing on matchdays, both in and around stadiums, and any increase in costs for them to bear could cause major disputes between parties.

“This research is about enabling us to have an informed discussion with football clubs to determine the most fair and equitable way of policing football.

“We have a very productive working relationship with the football clubs and I want that to continue.

“But it is still the case that on occasion we have violence and disorder in town centres and transport interchanges that are associated with rival football fans, that causes a problem to local communities and is a drain on police resources.

“I think it’s right and proper that we understand the extent of that problem which is why we commissioned this research, and we use the results of the research to inform our discussions with the clubs.”

He added: “We were always challenged when we said that football contributed to an increase in crime and disorder on match days, and hard-headed businessmen in the Premier League and the Football League quite rightly said, ‘What evidence do you have of that?’

“Most senior football commanders would say, ‘I know there to be an increase in crime and disorder’, but they didn’t have the empirical evidence to prove it.”

The research was conducted by a team from University College London, led by Professional Nick Tilley.

Holt said: “I’m quite comfortable that that research will stand scrutiny as entirely correct and it shows that on a match day there is an increase in crime and disorder associated with football in a wider area than just the footprint.

“There are some clubs that cause very few problems to police forces up and down country. Other clubs, that is not the case.

“You have to have a negotiation with individual clubs that will come up with an appropriate response.

“I can’t sit here and say you’re going to have the same costing and charging regime across the piece.

“The ACPO policy remains extant. We have an agreement that stemmed from a judgement which involved Greater Manchester Police and Wigan Football Club. We stand by that, but in future discussions we will be making reference to the research that we’ve commissioned.”

In December 2008, Wigan Athletic went to court with Greater Manchester Police over a £300,000 policing bill.

The club won the case with the appeal judges ruling that they were overcharged for special police services that they never requested.

Speaking at the time Wigan chairman Dave Whelan was very critical of Greater Manchester Police.

“We didn’t agree with the number of police, and we didn’t agree with the prices being charged.”

Mr Whelan said he believed that Wigan were being ‘singled out’ because of his personal wealth and that other clubs in the Greater Manchester area – including Manchester United and Manchester City – were charged at lower rates than his side.

“We agree with SPS that are fair and are fairly levied,” said Mr Whelan. “We agreed with that then and we agree with that now, but these charges were disproportionate. There were too many policemen at too great a cost.”

 “We had no trouble at the ground, we had no problem with supporters.”

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