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Are Football Matches Over Policed ?
Tuesday, 24th Jul 2018 11:51

The BBC has been looking at how football matches in England are policed, their findings are surprising.

The biggest shock that the report found was that in some high profile matches there was around one police officer present for every 50 fans, a phenomenal number , at St Mary's that would see 640 officers on duty. However it was not Saints who had that distinction but Sunderland V Middlesbrough.

Indeed most of the highest policed games were ones that you would not immediately call to mind, Wimbledon V MK Dons and Barnet V Grimsby & Swindon V Luton.

At St Mary's Saints do not seem to have a lot of disorder and Police presence is usually minimal at all but the most high profile games in the ground at least.

The BBC asked 37 forces across the country under the freedom of information act and came up with some surprising findings.

The analysis found:

The number of officers sent to matches ranged from zero to a peak of 587 when Middlesbrough visited Sunderland - an officer for every 50 spectators

The most-heavily-policed Premier League fixture was Tottenham Hotspur vs West Ham United at Wembley Stadium with 477 officers, one for every 105 spectators

There is a wide variation across police force areas in how much of the costs they recoup

The most expensive policing operation in England was Sheffield Wednesday against Sheffield United at Hillsborough, which cost £203,000. The home club was billed for £41,000.

In Scotland, the most expensive policing operation was Rangers vs. Celtic at Ibrox at £64,000

Amanda Jacks, a caseworker at The Football Supporters' Federation, said high numbers of officers did not match the "few individuals within crowds of thousands" who posed a risk.

"A high concentration of police definitely has an impact on fans. Everybody has to take responsibility for their own actions but how supporters are policed and stewarded plays into the dynamic on match days," she said.

"Policing tactics will play into that dynamic"

'Football has changed'
Walton Wilkins was a member of a football hooligan group linked to Birmingham City, for around 20 years, before ceasing his involvement in 2002.

Now a car parts business owner, Mr Wilkins said there was less violence at games now than in the 1980s and the game had changed.

"With the amount of CCTV they can use and drones too, the threat is not as great," he said.

"The potential for banning orders lasting years and tough prison sentences mean hooliganism is just not worth it."

Government figures show a rise in arrests for pitch invasions last year, but a fall in overall arrests and a drop in the number of football banning orders being issued.

However, separate figures compiled by police forces for the top five leagues in England, and given to the BBC previously, show incidents of disorder have been on the rise.

Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts, national lead for football policing, said he would "quite frankly love football not to require any policing".

"We are subsidising a multi-million-pound business," he said.

He said his force, South Yorkshire, made such a "significant loss" covering football - the equivalent of funding the salaries of 27 officers for one year.

Football hooligan firms had dwindled from their peak in the 1980s, he said, but they had been replaced by fans indulging in "drink-fuelled disorderly behaviour".

"There's no driver within the whole service to have more people at football matches," he said. Decisions about each match are intelligence driven and case specific, he added.

The Metropolitan Police Service said it recovered about 5% of policing costs from football clubs because it only received money back for policing inside the stadium.

"We assess risk on a match by match basis, taking into account all the available intelligence, and deploying officers as appropriate," a spokesman said.

"Since the recent terrorist attacks we have also reviewed policing plans for all events across London, with the safety and security of the public our paramount concern," he added.

So what do you think of this report ? What experiences have you had at Saints games ? Do you think that football games are over policed or the manning levels are just about right.

Give your opinions below

Photo: Action Images

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SaintStu7 added 13:26 - Jul 24
If the most expensive game in England was where the club was billed 41k this seems a small amount, not even a players weekly wage.

A1079 added 13:56 - Jul 24
I suppose as a member of the taxpaying electorate and not just a football fan, when the Police etc complain about lack of resources and rising crime figures (as they did last week), there never seems to be a lack of resources for this type of thing or setting up speed traps, putting aside that the clubs pay for it. Which leads you to think, the resources which seems to be available when it is an income opportunity, where are they when it is "everday" policing?

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