In the 2016/17 football season, Metropolitan Police spent a whooping £7.1 million on policing football in London, yet only managed to recoup a mere 5% of said amount. Many London taxpayers may feel aggrieved, and rightly so. The Premier League alone generated £2.4 billion in tax in the 2014/15 season, enough to pay for London’s football policing cost nearly 340 times over.
A clear loophole in the process of repayment, is that clubs can only be pushed to pay for policing on land they specifically own; therefore policing nearby stations, away supporters and even pubs comes directly from the Metropolitan Police budget.
Labour’s Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden Andrew Dismore, commented on the situation in a statement made in July 2017.
“I have been campaigning on this issue for a number of years now, and any hope I had of the clubs doing the right thing, and coughing up a tiny proportion of their millions to relieve London taxpayers of this financial burden, is long gone.”
Football related crime has been something that in the past, resurrected fears similar to those surrounding knife crime in Britain today. In the 1980’s, a sequence of incidents across the country concluding in the Hillsborough Disaster, led to uncoordinated attempts by Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government to police the game. Nearly half a century on, and top-flight football is perhaps the most heavily policed of any sporting event in the country, let alone the capital.
Whilst taxpayer concerns are coherent, logic may have a much simpler solution.
Chelsea racked up a total of 60 arrests over the 2016-17 season, a figure which has fluctuated up and down over years previous. This equates to almost £12,500 per arrest.
“Policing in London is much improved in recent years. The Met are excellent at engaging with supporters and are more than happy to hold meetings with fan reps before the bigger games. However, away from the ground, many supporters often raise complaints of over-policing, which can lead to them being policed in what they feel is a disproportionate way.”
Campaign’s such as ‘Watching Football is not a Crime’, have battled tirelessly to ensure that whilst police measures are necessary at football, they are not over-present. Costs to many London police services have been cut in recent years and if football follows suit, many fans believe that the general behaviour around football matches will not change.
Premier League clubs up and down the country are much more than their name may suggest. Many are community hubs, they have a role to play off of the pitch as well as on it, and if a small fortune for the taxpayer brings larger rewards elsewhere, is it a price worth paying?