Lobbying for privately funded police at football “deeply concerning”

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Police and crime commissioners (PCCs) are being asked to lobby politicians for a change in the law to allow police forces to charge clubs more for football policing.

Tim Passmore, PCC for Suffolk, has urged commissioners across the country to work with their chief constables to “bring pressure on Government” for legislative change that would give police forces the power to recover more costs for policing football matches.

Currently restricted by court judgements, police forces are only allowed to charge for policing on the ‘footprint’ of the stadium and not beyond that, such as city centre policing on matchdays.

“Charging arrangements are increasingly weighted against forces and ultimately against the public purse,” Passmore said in his letter to members of the Association of Police & Crime Commissioners. “Which reduces the ability of the police to effectively tackle crime linked to football.

“The UK Football Policing Unit estimates the cost associated with policing matches is around £48million per year, of which only around £5m is recoverable.”

Passmore says there has been an increase in disorder at all levels of football matches but provides no source in his letter. He also claims that 37% of all football matches in 2017-18 were marred “some kind of violence and disorder” but again provided no publicly available source for his data.

Home Office figures show that football arrests are at an historically low level, and many of those arrests relate to actions which would not be a criminal offence in other circumstances, such as drinking alcohol in sight of the pitch.

The letter follows on from a closed All-Parliamentary Party Group (APPG) meeting on Policing and Security where senior officers lobbied MPs and ministers for powers to recoup more funding from football clubs.

One PCC who attended the APPG criticised the officers' one-sided presentation and said their plans would put smaller clubs under severe financial strain.

FSA caseworker Amanda Jacks said: “Football is indeed a multi-billion pound industry and as such generates £3.3 billion in tax revenue and £7.6 billion to the economy - that’s a massive contribution to the public purse.

“Rather than asking for more money, if I was a PCC I’d be asking for a force review of how football is currently policed.

“A heavy police presence isn’t a panacea. There is already a growing body of evidence that football can be successfully policed with less resources.”

Passmore’s letter to his colleagues also says that legislative powers to recoup costs could extend to other events.

“The intention of the PCC is to change the legislation not just to allow for football cost recovery but other events too,” Jacks said. “This is a step towards a privately funded police force and is deeply concerning.”

Thanks to PA Images for the image used in this article.