Politicians issue plea for United front on police fees

A police presence at Elland Road
A police presence at Elland Road
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LEEDS United and West Yorkshire Police have been urged to work together to limit the fallout from the club’s High Court victory on match day crowd control costs.

As reported in yesterday’s Yorkshire Post, the police fear new charging arrangements for their work at United’s Elland Road ground could take a £1m chunk out of their budget each football season.

Police chiefs say Tuesday’s court ruling may also force them to pull dozens of officers off the beat for deployment at Elland Road on match days.

Now local politicians have issued a call for the two parties to find a common sense way forward that does not damage policing in the county.

Stuart Andrew, Conservative MP for Pudsey, said the possible ramifications of the ruling were “very worrying”. He added: “I hope a compromise can be reached between Leeds United and the police as it is clear that football matches cannot take place safely without their help.”

Coun Angela Gabriel, a Labour member of Leeds City Council whose Beeston and Holbeck ward includes Elland Road, said: “Leeds and the police need to get round a table as soon as they can.

“Residents in this area already suffer from disruption caused by fans. To think policing levels in the county could suffer as well is just not right.”

United took West Yorkshire Police to court claiming they had been wrongly charged for match day work by officers on car parks and streets around Elland Road for the past three seasons.

Leeds argued that the force should not have billed them for maintaining order or preventing obstructions on land that is neither club-owned nor controlled.

United’s case was backed by Mr Justice Eady at the High Court in London on Tuesday.

It is understood the police will now have to reimburse Leeds to the tune of about £1m. In addition, the West Yorkshire force will almost certainly have to charge United less for the policing of future games.

The force says the resulting financial shortfall would lead to some work at Elland Road matches being done by officers who would otherwise be on neighbourhood policing and patrol duties across the rest of West Yorkshire.

It is already having to contend with savage budget cuts of about £100m over four years.

Meanwhile, court documents seen by the Yorkshire Post have revealed that, during the early stages of the dispute, Leeds faced the prospect of playing a game without any fans present.

The documents say a meeting was held between United, the police and Leeds City Council four days before the start of the 2009-10 season.

At that point, the club had still to make a request for police services for the campaign’s first home game, against Exeter City.

During the meeting, the council warned the club that if no police were present at Elland Road for the fixture, then the ground would not meet the terms of its safety certificate.

The court documents added: “The result would have been that the first match could only proceed with no spectators present in the stadium.”

In the event, however, United did ask for policing at the game, on the proviso they could later go to court over charges imposed for work outside the ground.