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Cost of policing: is making clubs pay more the answer?

This is a story from the FSF archive – the FSF and Supporters Direct merged to become the FSA in 2019 – so this page may contain hyperlinks that do not work and/or have missing files. Our archived pages are not maintained and will not be updated.

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The debate surrounding the cost of policing football was raging again this week as the BBC revealed how much forces across the country spend.

Thirty-one forces covering 77 Premier League and English Football League clubs out of 92 across all four divisions, responded to the BBC’s Freedom of Information (FOI) requests.

The data obtained covers 1,187 of 1,896 matches which took place in the Premier League and English Football League in the 2017-18 season and 271 of 414 fixtures in the Scottish Premiership and Scottish Championship combined.

Last month deputy chief constable of South Yorkshire Police, Mark Roberts, called for clubs to be charged more for policing their fixtures. In an interview with the Sheffield Star, Roberts said: “There needs to be a re-think about the funding of policing.

“If we can’t find a better way of funding policing, clubs are going to have to do more to reduce the risk. This could be significantly more stewards, early morning games, no alcohol and no away supporters.

“We can’t afford to be using more and more police officers.

“We can’t afford to subsidise clubs to the detriment of our local communities and that is what is happening.”

Policing league matches across England and Wales cost police £6.6m last season, with £4.8m being recouped from the clubs. Roberts’s comments come in an era when football-related arrests continue to fall and have now reached historically low levels.

We know that football supporters are extremely well behaved and the latest Home Office statistics show that once more: there were 1,638 football-related arrests in 2016-17, a 14% decrease of 257 on the previous season. This is equivalent to just four arrests per 100,000 match-going supporters.

FSF caseworker Amanda Jacks said high numbers of officers did not match the “few individuals within crowds of thousands” who posed a risk.

“A high concentration of police definitely has an impact on fans,” she said. “Everybody has to take responsibility for their own actions but how supporters are policed and stewarded plays into the dynamic on matchdays.

“Policing tactics will play into that dynamic.

“If there is a police escort or line around away fans, they are immediately creating a focal point that will heighten tensions between two sets of fans – the away fans inside will be jeered at and they will jeer those outside.

“The public perception may easily be ‘look at all those violent yobs and all the police needed’.”

We’ve also continued to engage police forces across the country to help improve the perception, representation and treatment of match-going fans.

West Midlands Police (WMP) deserve much credit for their “On Side” initiative, an intervention scheme for younger fans. In the last three almost 70 supporters have been through it when not too long ago, it’s very likely they’d have ended up in the Criminal Justice System.

Such forward thinking initiatives will ultimately save police and the public purse significant sums of money.

Cost of Policing – the BBC figures

Premier League:

  • On average, a Premier League game costs £11,000 to police. Premier League clubs contribute an average of £8,500 – 77% of the costs
  • The number of police officers range from a minimum of 14 attending Stoke City vs Watford to a maximum of 477 for Tottenham Hotspur vs West Ham United at Wembley Stadium, with a mean average of around 63 officers per game across the division
  • The most-heavily-policed fixtures – with fewest fans per officer – were Tottenham Hotspur vs West Ham United home and away with the equivalent of one police officer for every 105 spectators
  • Six of the ten most heavily-policed fixtures were AFC Bournemouth home matches
  • The most expensive policing operation for a league match was for West Ham United vs Tottenham Hotspur at the London Stadium costing £149,000.


  • Birmingham City hosted three of the 10 most heavily-policed games
  • The most heavily-policed match overall was Sunderland vs Middlesbrough at The Stadium of Light with an officer for every 50 spectators (587 officers in total), followed by 53 officers per spectator at Birmingham City vs Aston Villa at St Andrews (457 officers in total)
  • The most expensive policing operation solely based on cost to the force/public purse was Sheffield Wednesday vs Sheffield United at Hillsborough costing £203,000 (Wednesday were invoiced for £41,000), although police would not reveal the number of officers who attended.

League One:

  • The most intensely-policed fixture was AFC Wimbledon vs MK Dons at Kingsmeadow with one officer for every 41 fans
  • Six of the 10 games with the most officers per fan were Northampton Town fixtures at Sixfields Stadium
  • The policing operation for AFC Wimbledon vs MK Dons was the most expensive for the public purse at £32,003.

League Two:

  • Barnet vs Grimsby Town was the most intensely-policed game with an officer for every 47 fans and that was also the most expensive fixture to the public purse
  • The biggest drain on the public purse was Swindon Town vs Luton Town costing £68,000 including £30,000 mutual aid (Swindon were invoiced for £12,315).

Thanks to PA Images for the image used in this blog.

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