SENIOR MINISTERS will this week consider calls from a Sheffield MP for football clubs to pay more money towards the cost of policing matches, The Yorkshire Post can exclusively reveal.
Nick Hurd – Home Secretary Sajid Javid’s de facto deputy – says he will meet Mims Davies, the Sports Minister, to discuss how “to get a better balance” to the funding issue.
His pledge comes fter Gill Furniss, the Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough MP, led a Parliamentary debate into the financial pressures facing police forces.
She revealed South Yorkshire Police faced costs in excess of £200,000 for covering this April’s high-profile Steel City derby between Sheffield United – newly-promoted to the Premier League – and Sheffield United.
And with national police chiefs saying the annual bill is now £48m – and that cash-strapped forces could only recoup £5.5m from clubs for policing inside grounds – Ms Furniss says the situation is unsustainable after the loss of 21,000 police officers and 7,000 community support officers since 2010.
Her call follows a landmark Court of Appeal ruling in 2017 between Suffolk Police and Ipswich Town which ruled that the force could not recover the costs that are incurred escorting fans to and from grounds – and ensuring that there is no trouble in the wider area.
“The three combined problems of severe police cuts, a rise in match day disorder and legal rulings that are unfavourable to the police mean that both the safety of fans and the sustainability of policing are under threat,” she said.
“It is hardly for me to talk in detail about just how much money is in football, but a few figures will illustrate the resources available, and therefore the ability of clubs to pay a higher percentage of policing costs. In 2017-18, the 20 Premier League clubs alone had combined revenues of over £4.8bn — almost double the entire budget of the Metropolitan Police.
“One particularly stark fact, which comes from analysis undertaken by the National Police Chiefs’ Council, is that the £211m paid to football agents last year is more than the annual budgets of 27 of the 43 territorial police forces in England and Wales. We should be in no doubt that there is far more money available to top football clubs than to local police forces.”
Ms Furniss suggested a levy on football TV rights. “The Premier League’s total TV rights are now expected to exceed £3bn a year. To illustrate, a one per cent levy could recover enough money to cover a substantial portion of football policing costs,” she added.
Though Mr Hurd did not totally dismiss the proposal, he confirmed that he will be meeting colleagues to discuss the issue – and that the Home Office is lobbying for the forthcoming Comprehensive Spending Review to allocate extra money to the police.
“I will sit down with the Minister with responsibility for sport to discuss further what we can do to get a better balance in this relationship, to make the partnership between police and football work more effectively, and to reduce the cost on policing,” he said.
“We should keep things in perspective; going to a football match is a lot safer than it was many years ago, and it is a much more enjoyable environment. The police do extremely important work in that area, and will continue to do so. We must get the structure right. I am not persuaded that we are in the right place at the moment.”