IF THE police are to have sufficient officers to maintain public safety at professional football matches in the future, there needs to be a level playing field when it comes to the funding of these arrangements.
In the wake of a landmark legal ruling involving Leeds United, the present position could not be more one-sided – clubs are only involved for the costs incurred at grounds while the police have to foot the bill for spectator safety away from venues, and where rival fans are more likely to clash.
The consequence is that Leeds United has seen its policing bill reduce by £400,000, even though the number of high-profile games and spectators at its Elland Road ground has remained the same, while some of the Premier League’s biggest spenders – such as Manchester United and Arsenal – have seen a halving of their payments.
This imbalance is even more stark when the finances of the police – some forces can no longer afford to deploy officers to burglaries – are compared to those elite clubs so awash with money that they don’t think twice about paying £50m, and £200,000 a week wages, for players without even a World Cup winner’s medal to their name.
This game of brinkmanship – the football clubs know that police will withdraw cover only as a last resort – cannot continue like this. There are two solutions. A proportion of the record sums being paid to football for TV rights should be given to the police, or the bill is paid by the imposition of a levy on every transfer based on the value of the deal. The advantage of the latter is that the greater onus will fall on the bigger-spending clubs. Either way, it’s hard to justify the police being penalised like this when the thin blue line has never been more stretched.
St Leger’s legacy: Grounds for concern over Doncaster fixture clash
THIS has already been a momentous week for Doncaster and the town’s economy; record crowds at the Ladbrokes St Leger Festival and 30,000 spectators expected on Town Moor today for the world’s oldest Classic when Storm The Stars, trained by Skipton-born William Haggas, carries Yorkshire hopes.
Yet, despite the sponsors and racecourse working tirelessly to revive the prestige of an iconic race first run in 1776, it would be regrettable if their endeavours were undone by a fixture clash with Ireland’s Champions Weekend – the latter’s emergence means many of the sport’s leading lights, like Frankie Dettori, miss today’s St Leger. Racing will be the only loser unless common sense prevails.