WEST Yorkshire’s police commissioner is lobbying the Government for an “urgent change” in the law to allow forces to charge for keeping the peace in a wider area around football grounds.
Home Office officials say they are examining the issue of who should pay for policing at football matches after the long-running court battle between West Yorkshire Police and Leeds United ended in March.
The defeat for the force, who are no longer allowed to charge for “special police services” outside land owned or controlled by the club, means it will have to pay an extra £300,000 to £500,000 a year for policing at Elland Road.
Mark Burns-Williamson, the county’s police and crime commissioner, has now written to Home Secretary Theresa May to claim that “it is time for a change in the law”.
He says the 1996 Police Act should be amended so that forces can charge for policing a certain distance outside a sports ground or music venue on the day of major events, regardless of who owns the land.
He wrote: “What we are strongly arguing is that where policing is provided in the direct vicinity of the stadium (or other event venue) and it is exclusively or mainly for the benefit of the organiser or their customers then we should be able to charge for that policing.”
In March, the Court of Appeal rejected West Yorkshire Police’s bid to overturn an earlier ruling that the club was not responsible for the cost of policing streets and car parks near the ground.
The Home Office is now looking at the issue of charging for football policing, though discussions are not yet thought to include the possibility of new legislation.
A spokesman said: “We are currently considering the implications of the recent Court of Appeal decision.”
The legal precedent set in March’s ruling could impact on discussions between clubs and their local police forces when the fixture list for the upcoming season is published in June.
Some clubs may continue to pay for policing services outside the land they own or control as a lack of police officers in the area around the ground may lead to games being deemed a greater risk, resulting in commercially damaging restrictions on kick-off times and alcohol sales.