The cost of policing football
1. The provision of policing at a football match,
or any other commercial event such as a music concert is a "special
Special Police Services are governed by section 25 of the Police
The chief officer of police of a police force
may provide, at the request of any person, special police services
at any premises or in any locality in the police area for which
the force is maintained, subject to the payment to the police
authority of charges on such scales as may be determined by that
2. In effect special police services are extra police
officers provided for the purposes of security at commercial events.
The event organiser must pay for this service at a price determined
by the chief constable; if the cost is not met then the organiser
can be denied a safety certificate and cannot hold the event.
In 2008, ACPO made a submission to the Home Office for its Green
Paper on the future of policing. In this submission it called
for the introduction of "full-cost" policing. Full-cost
policing would extend the definition of special police services
beyond the "footprint" of the event and include so-called
"consequential policing", that is policing which is
provided beyond the event itself at train stations or town centres
to deal with crowds arriving at and leaving a commercial event.
Our inquiry investigated special police services by focusing on
the cost of policing football matches, how this is calculated
and how this cost is to be met.
3. On Tuesday 16 June we took oral evidence from
Assistant Chief Constable Simon Thomas and Mr Derek Smith, Association
of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) Leads on Football and Finance
respectively; Bill Bush, Director, Public Policy and Communication
with the Premier League, and Andy Williamson, Chief Operating
Officer at the Football League; and Dave Whelan and Brenda Spencer,
Chairman and Chief Executive of Wigan Athletic Football Club,
and Graham Turner, Chairman of Hereford United Football Club.
We have also received written evidence from a number of interested
parties which is published with this Report. We thank everyone
who gave evidence to us.
The Current Arrangements
4. Football clubs are currently only legally obliged
to pay for the policing on their "footprint", usually
inside the stadium and surrounding car parks; the provision of
"consequential policing" outside a football match, for
example at a railway station or in the city centre, is currently
the responsibility of the police and is provided at their discretion
and at a cost to them. Clubs do not have to pay for this "extra"
service. This has led to a disparity between what the police estimate
the total cost of policing a football match to be, and what the
clubs currently pay. In the season 2007-08 it is estimated that
the policing of 13 Premier League football clubs cost the police
£3.2 million in consequential policing.
This difference must be met by the taxpayer. This disparity is
the result of current case law and Home Office guidance over the
charging for the policing of football matches; the result is that
"some forces recovered less than half, some as much as two
thirds of the costs of policing football".
5. The debate over "full-cost" policing
rests on the issue of "additionality", extra services
that the police provide because of the football match. The police
Policing full commercial eventsand that
includes footballis based on the premise that we buy in
additional resource, in other words police on overtime, so that
we maintain our core resources to police communities.
Any police presence is "on top of the standard
of normal policing"
at that time. The service they provide is over and above what
the community would normally be paying for. The football match
is the source of this extra expense, regardless of whether the
police presence is on the club's "footprint" or not.
6. The clubs argue that the distinction is not as
clear cut as that. They neither require nor request police presence
away from their "footprint" and should not be liable
for the cost of providing police elsewhere:
Our clubs feel that they pay the full cost of
deployment of the police which they require for policing in the
ground and in the land immediately close to it which is wholly
under the club's control for the purposes of organising the match
when fans are moving to and fro between town centres, transport
intersections, hubs and the ground, they are there as citizens
rather than as spectators.
The Premier League also made it clear that "all
our clubs believe that they meet the charges for the special police
services which they request as legislation requires"
and that "football will contribute about £1 billion
to the exchequer each year".
The clubs therefore pay for what the law mandates and pay taxes
to finance any police "additionality". The running of
their event does not depend on the presence of police in city
centres and railway stations; therefore they should not be liable
for paying for these.
7. Current case law and Home Office guidance supports
this view and clubs are currently only charged the "full
cost" of those officers deployed on their footprint.
However, recent high-profile disputes between football clubs and
the police over the charges levied by the police have highlighted:
A lack of clarity in recent years
difficulties that we have had in terms of football have been around
the fringes of what is clear, transparent and consistent about
what relates to the total policing deployment and the chargeable
element which comes from that.
It is this lack of clarity over who is responsible
for the provision of police services at a football match and similar
events is that the source of the recent disputes between football
clubs and police forces.
8. It is right that an increase in police costs
which is attributable to the policing of a football match should
be met by the clubs rather than the taxpayer. Clubs should continue
to pay the total cost of policing on their "footprint".
Equally, where it can be shownusing evidence which is available
to the clubsthat the police are also incurring costs because
of "consequential policing", this should also be met
by the club. However, clubs should not have to meet the cost of
"consequential" policing that is not a direct result
of their activity. Any new arrangements must allow this distinction
to be made and not merely be a blanket proposal.
9. It is impossible to provide "average"
figures for the amount football clubs spend on policing annually
as every club is different and requires different methods of policing.
However, in absolute terms the figures are substantial. Wigan
Athletic told us that in 2007-08 they paid "about £240,000"
for policing; while Hereford United paid £80,000.
In total football clubs paid "between "£12 and
£15 million" to the police in the season 2007-08, in
addition to the £1 billion they paid the exchequer in taxes.
Derek Smith also told us that the "cost of policing in terms
of the total revenue income of football was
about 0.6 to
figure does not include the costs of stewarding at each gamewhich
over the course of a season runs into many thousands of poundsor
the amount clubs have spent in recent years on CCTV and all-seater
stadia, which all increase safety inside the grounds.
10. This annual outlay has made football a safe environment
and "relatively trouble-free".
Home Office figures state that 72% of matches see a maximum of
one arrest and there is an average of only 1.2 arrests per game.
Typical deployments of officers are significant; even at the smallest,
lowest risk (Category "A") game, 35 officers will be
deployed and 20 charged for.
Graham Turner told us that "we [Hereford] had two arrests
and there is no trouble after their games.
While the police are motivated by the need to secure public safety,
the question arises whether the police's response is proportionate
to the risk at Hereford United and other, mostly lower league,
11. While we are of the opinion that clubs should
pay the full cost of the policing which can be directly attributed
to their match we also urge the police to recognise the amount
of effort the clubs have expended to increase safety at the grounds
and the change in atmosphere at football matches. We doubt the
necessity of deploying up to 150 police officers on top of the
hundreds of stewards
at an event which has on average 1.2 arrests. Unless there is
specific intelligence of possible trouble which can be shared
with the clubs, the police should consider reducing the deployment
of officers and they should share intelligence with the clubs
to better identify the policing needs and reduce them wherever
How the Police calculate costs
12. While we are certain that clubs should contribute
more towards the cost of policing their matches, we are concerned
about the methods used by the police in calculating these costs.
We were told that these methods are not as transparent or consistent
as they could be. Wigan Athletic in the Greater Manchester Police
area, Hereford United in the West Mercia Police area and Sheffield
Wednesday in the South Yorkshire Police area have all said to
us that changes in the amount charged for police at football matches
have come about apparently at the whim of a chief constable.
Mr Turner suggested that the sudden demand for payment required
by the police could be caused by a change in personnel at West
Mercia Police rather than a change in policing requirements.
13. The evidence we received from football clubs
suggests that the costs of policing football matches are calculated
not on a fairly standardised basis but according to personal interpretationwhich
may change from year to yearof the police officer in charge.
For example, Sheffield Wednesday commented that they were "first
charged four hours per officer, then five hours, then six hours
per officer per game",
and Graham Turner told us that where previously they paid nothing,
Hereford United were suddenly presented with a bill for policing.
The number of spectators attending and the potential for trouble
at the club's matches had not changed enormously, yet the police
perception of the demands they faced had. We suggest that these
variations can be attributed to the grey areas which currently
exist in the case law and Home Office guidance which allow too
much room for interpretation by individual chief constables.
14. We also heard that it is not clear how much negotiation
the chief constable undertakes before deciding the cost to the
clubs of policing their event. ACC Thomas assured us that "it
[provision of policing] is agreed with the club and it has to
be transparent because the club has to have some faith in the
Dave Whelan said that:
We are not allowed to say what category matches
are, how many policemen he sends. That is nothing to do with the
football club, it is entirely a police decision and we cannot
even question that.
And in written evidence to us, Scunthorpe United
told us that:
It is often very difficult, if not impossible
to actually see and therefore question the intelligence used by
police in determining the categorisation of a match and hence
This is troubling, especially since the chief constable
can withhold the provision of any and all special police services
to an event, and effectively deny the organisers a safety certificate.
This effectively gives him the power of veto over a football match
going ahead. That the costs and charges of the service are decided
without consultation is therefore extremely troubling and, "far
too much reliance [is] placed upon the relationship between those
controlling a football club and the specific Police Officers with
whom they liaise".
15. We are equally concerned that there seems
to be no standardised, approved method to decide upon the policing
and chargeable element of a football match. It is unacceptable
that the charges levied on clubs can change seemingly at the whim
of an individual and even what we thought would be standard arrangements
such as the length of time officers spend on duty can differ from
club to club.
16. We note the definitive national guidance being
drawn up by ACPO and hope that this brings a degree of uniformity
into the provision of policing and forms the basis for negotiations
between the clubs and the police over the clubs' liability for
payment. That the cost can apparently be decided by one person
without consultation and negotiation with the interested parties
is unacceptable. We recommend that the proposed ACPO Guidelines
be made public and form the basis for negotiation with the clubs
over the chargeable element of police services and allow variables
such as the length of time officers spend on duty to be standardised
across the clubs. We further recommend that the police allow clubs
a much greater say in the provision of policing. This must become
a more collaborative process, involving an independent outside
body if needs be.
Clubs in administration
17. A further issue is the behaviour of football
clubs which enter administration. The Football League operates
a "football creditor" rule which says that before a
club can exit administration it must pay off its football creditors
in full. Non-football creditors such as the police are classed
as unsecured creditors and therefore typically receive a much
lower proportion of their unpaid debt.
In recent years Leeds United, Bradford City and Leicester City
have all exited from administration while paying the police and
other non-football creditors a fraction of what they were owed.
18. We accept that there may be good reasons why
the current insolvency rules for football clubs are in place,
but we cannot accept that a club entering administration must
pay off transfer fees, perhaps running into millions of pounds,
before settling a debt with the police force and community at
large. The Football Association should take steps to prevent
this from happening. In the context of football the sums which
police forces are being advised to write off may be small, but
to the community at large the damage is much greater and this
harms the relationship between the clubs and the public.
19. While we do not recommend that the Football
Association, Premier League and Football League amend the "football
creditor rule", as it is right that clubs cannot renege on
their debts to competitors by declaring administration, we would
like them to take steps to prevent police forces being left out
of pocket in the event of a club entering administration. For
example, it may be possible for all clubs entering the Football
League to pay a yearly bond as a condition of entry. This money
should be used to help meet the costs incurred by the police and
other non-football services when a club enters administration.
A mismanaged club should not leave the community as a whole short-changed.
20. At its heart the disparity between what clubs
are legally obliged to pay in policing costs and what the police
estimate these costs to be stems from grey areas in the current
legislation and Home Office guidance. It is not clear to what
extent football clubs and other holders of commercial events are
liable for policing away from their "footprint". This
has led to a disparity between what the police the consider the
full cost of policing the football match to be and what the clubs
feel themselves liable to pay.
21. Elsewhere in this Report we have suggested
practical arrangements that should be introduced to make the policing
of football matches more equitable in terms of cost both to the
clubs and the public. In particular we have recommended that the
clubs pay the full cost of policing which can be attributed to
them and the police review their arrangements for policing matches
and the process by which these arrangements are decided. We hope
these or similar arrangements will solve the problems of payment
for all "special police services", not just football.
However, it may be that the lack of clarity and consistency in
the system at present prevents a mutually beneficial decision
being found. If this is the case we also recommend that the Home
Office consider providing legal clarification on the extent to
which commercial events are responsible for policing beyond their
footprint, if necessary through legislation.
1 Other examples of Special Police Services include
the policing of music concerts, assistance for film-makers and
the policing of film premieres, and country shows. Back
"Football 'should pay for police'" BBC News Online,
12 August 2008. Back
Q49 Figures provided by Deloitte. Back
Ev 17 Back
Ev 17 Back
Q35, Q37 Back
Ev 16 Back
Q 101 Back
Ev 15 Back
Ev 16 Back