Cost of policing football in South Yorkshire could pay for 27 full-time officers

Police in South Yorkshire have backed an MP’s call for football clubs to shoulder more of the cost of policing matches.

Wednesday, 12th June 2019, 9:33 am
Updated Wednesday, 12th June 2019, 10:30 am
Police officers on duty at the Steel City derby in 2017

Keeping the peace at games cost South Yorkshire Police £1.35 million during 2017/18, the last season for which figures are available, with the clubs picking up only a fraction of the tab.

The force says the money it spends policing football could pay for 27 full-time police officers, and it insists police cannot afford to keep ‘subsidising’ clubs.

Police officers on duty at the Steel City derby in 2017

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Gill Furniss, MP for Sheffield Hillsborough and Brightside, has called for a one per cent levy on football TV rights to be introduced to help cash-strapped police forces.

Speaking at a parliamentary debate which she led last week, she pointed out that officers were being taken away from the neighbourhoods they serve to support match-day policing.

She said football disorder was rising, with much of the trouble taking place away from the grounds, and cuts to police numbers meant it was becoming increasingly harder for forces to keep the peace.

Gill Furniss MP

“I am seeking fair play and a level playing field for police and football clubs. The clubs absolutely can do more,” she told fellow MPs.

“We do not want to go back to the bad old days of 30 or 40 years ago, which some of us will remember, when football was not the family game we have now successfully made it.”

Responding to her comments, policing minister Nick Hurd vowed to sit down with the sports minister Mims Davies to discuss what could be done to ‘make the partnership between police and football work more effectively, and to reduce the cost on policing’.

The Sheffield derbies are reportedly the most expensive matches in the country to police, with the two clashes in 2017/18 costing South Yorkshire Police a combined £348,000.

In South Yorkshire, Sheffield Wednesday’s home games were the most expensive to police during 2017/18, costing £456,000; followed by Sheffield United’s, which cost £395,000.

Matches across England and Wales cost more than £48m a year to police, according to the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), of which police are only able to claim back around £5.5m from clubs.

Nationally, the number of fixtures at which police incidents were reported rose by more than a third from 727 in 2012/13 to 1,109 in 2016/17. Hate crime at matches more than doubled, from 75 reports in 2016/17 to 151 the following season.

Mark Roberts, South Yorkshire Police’s deputy chief constable and the football policing lead on the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said: “We have been raising for some time now the imbalance of charging arrangements for policing football matches, and we are grateful to MP Gill Furniss for bringing this to the attention of Westminster.

“In the 2017/18 season, policing football cost South Yorkshire Police the equivalent of 27 full-time police officers, which would have made to a significant difference to our communities. It is not an issue with the clubs, which are playing by the current rules, but policing cannot continue to subsidise them in this way.

“The outcome of the debate will hopefully see a move in the right direction to correct the current imbalance of what can be recouped from a multi-billion pound football industry.”