THE debate about policing football matches is like the proverbial “game of two halves” – one side say that public safety is the police’s responsibility while others say the clubs are culpable because the sport continues to be blighted by a small number of hooligans intent on causing trouble.
It is significant, therefore, that the High Court has come down on the side of Leeds United after West Yorkshire Police tried to recoup £1m for policing matches at Elland Road over three seasons, a sum which equates to the recruitment of 17 new constables.
Even though police forces are subject to the same financial pressures as the rest of the public sector, they still receive an annual precept from taxpayers towards their costs – including the policing of major sporting events.
That said, this ruling must not be greeted by complacency on the part of Leeds United and its Yorkshire rivals. Football is the beneficiary of unprecedented TV revenue, and if the poor behaviour of fans requires the police to increase their manpower levels in the future, then the clubs should foot the bill.