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South Yorkshire Police chiefs hit with £1.3 million bill for policing football matches in one season

Police officers on duty at one of the two Steel City derbies last season
Police officers on duty at one of the two Steel City derbies last season

Police chiefs spent £1.3 million policing football matches in South Yorkshire last season - including £350,000 on the two Sheffield derbies.

South Yorkshire Police said the cost is unsustainable and unless the government changes funding rules and allows forces to recoup more from clubs, away fans may have to be banned from games.

DCC Mark Roberts

DCC Mark Roberts

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Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts said alcohol may also be banned from stadiums and early morning kick off times may have to introduced to reduce the risk of disorder at games, which would reduce the need for as many police officers.

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Police officers on duty in Sheffield last season

Police officers on duty in Sheffield last season

DCC Roberts, who is the national lead for football policing, said he has raised the issue with the Home Office, with the amount spent on policing games last season the equivalent of employing an extra 27 full time bobbies for a year.

The cost of policing the Steel City derby between Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday at Bramall Lane in January cost £181,869 after United paid the force for the cost of officers used inside the stadium.

The reverse fixture at Hillsborough earlier in the season cost the force £165,897.

Under the rules governing what can and can't be claimed back by South Yorkshire Police, none of of the officers used on the roads outside stadiums or at notorious flash points for rival fans can be recouped.

Neither can the cost of officers used in the aftermath of incidents, including violent clashes between fans outside stadiums.

Forces on average recoup an average of one third of the costs associated with policing football matches.

DCC Roberts said other venues where there is regular disorder, including pubs and clubs, are closed down unless improvements are made.

"When nightclubs are a continual draw on our resources we impose conditions and if there is no improvement we will shut them. We ask them to put their house in order. We can't have officers outside them all night," he said.

The police chief said football clubs are multi-million pound businesses and can afford to pay more for policing.

"Championship clubs nationally last season spent more on transfer fees - £328 million - than the entire budget for the whole year for South Yorkshire Police. We had £80 million less to police the entire county for a year, dealing with issues such as terrorism, serious and organised crime and child sexual exploitation," he added.

"We are subsidising multi-million pound businesses."

He is calling for a 'fairer' funding system.

"There needs to be a re-think about the funding of policing," he added.

"If we did not need to spend this money policing football we would be able to employ an extra 27 officers to work on violence and knife crime, issues with gangs in Sheffield, the Rotherham child sexual exploitation team or neighbourhood teams in Barnsley and Doncaster, which would make a real significant difference."

He said clubs may need to do more to bring down costs.

"I am not attacking football. Clubs are paying what they are legally obliged to under the current regulations but they are so unfairly weighted. It cost the Met £10 million to police matches last year and British Transport Police £5 million. This is money used which could be used on our core functions," said DCC Roberts.

"If we can't find a better way of funding policing, clubs are going to have to do more to reduce the risk. This could be significantly more stewards, early morning games, no alcohol and no away supporters. We can't afford to using more and more police officers.

"We can't afford to subsidise clubs to the detriment of our local communities and that is what is happening."

The £1,351,925 spent on policing football matches last season was the equivalent of 44,855 policing hours.

It was up by £470,466 - 114 per cent - compared to the previous season.

South Yorkshire Police spent £456,198 on Sheffield Wednesday games and £394,741 at United games.

Another £284,289 went on policing Barnsley games compared to £114,513 on Rotherham games and £59,336 on Doncaster fixtures.

The force also spent £42,848 on costs including the use of undercover police 'spotters' at games, where officers look for known troublemakers and monitor activity on the ground.

A Home Office spokesman said: "The Government has set out a comprehensive settlement to strengthen local, national and counter-terrorism policing. In 2018/19, South Yorkshire will receive £5 million more than in 2017/18, including Council Tax precept.

"During his speech to the Police Federation, the Home Secretary committed to prioritising police funding in next year’s Spending Review.

"Police and Crime Commissioners’ ability to recover costs for football games is determined by recent court decisions on Special Police Services, which have been clear that SPS can only be charged on private land."