A SOUTH Yorkshire Police chief has said football clubs should foot the bill for controlling unruly fans – after it was revealed arrests at Sheffield Wednesday’s ground were the highest in the region last season.
Temporary Deputy Chief Constable Andy Holt said clubs should pay for officers policing a ‘minority’ of misbehaving fans, taking them away from their usual crime-fighting duties.
Owls fans shared the top spot for arrests in 2011-12 with Championship rivals Leeds United.
Both clubs saw 62 supporters arrested on game days. Sheffield United fans came third, with 48 arrests.
DCC Holt, the Association of Chief Police Officers’ lead for football policing, said clubs pay for officers stationed in a designated area around stadiums.
The taxpayer then pays for police outside of the ‘agreed footprint’.
DCC Holt said: “Undoubtedly the way we would prefer it is if football matches were the same as rugby and cricket matches, which are largely police-free.
“We’re moving in that direction, with better stewarding, better CCTV and all-seater stadia.
“However, unfortunately at the moment there is still a minority who engage in violence and disorder.
“They ruin it for ordinary, decent spectators, who are the overwhelming majority.
“My argument would be football should pay for the policing of that minority who take officers away from preventing burglaries, car crime and all sorts of other things.”
DCC Holt said Leeds United Football Club recently took West Yorkshire Police to court, claiming the force was unlawfully charging them for its policing operation.
He said: “The judgement was very complex and some tricky arguments are going to be rehearsed once again.”
Football policing is now ‘more effective’ and fewer officers are needed today, he said, adding: “Although we see the number of arrests, what we should be looking at is the number of matches that are trouble-free.”
Should football clubs be forced to pay for policing outside the grounds?