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Match-day policing under the spotlight

Match-day policing is to come under the spotlight as part of a new research project being run by the EFL and Keele University.

The ENABLE initiative is a new research-led crowd management project that could help transform the way in which future matches are policed and stewarded.

Led by crowd psychology and policing expert Professor Clifford Stott, the EFL’s new project will be run in conjunction with football clubs, police forces across the country and the Football Supporters’ Association.

Professor Stott said: “For the first time in the UK we now have an opportunity to examine the complex issues surrounding crowd management in football in a more objective way.

“We hope by working together our collaborative work will lead to very positive outcomes and help enhance security, improve supporter safety and empower fans’ positive experiences at football grounds across the country.”

The cost of football policing has been a hot topic in recent seasons as police budgets come under increasing pressure. This year, senior police officers have been lobbying politicians for more powers to charge football clubs for policing.

Currently forces are restricted by court judgements and only allowed to charge for policing on the ‘footprint’ of the stadium and not beyond that, such as city centre policing on match-days.

Campaigners have said extra powers to charge clubs more is “deeply concerning” and could put many club’s financial futures at risk – particularly given that football contributes £3.3 billion in tax revenue and £7.6 billion to the wider economy already.

The EFL’s head of policy John Nagle said: “The aim of the project is to promote collaboration between football clubs and police forces in order to encourage an ongoing, progressive dialogue about the best and most efficient ways to police football matches and to help them develop cutting edge crowd management techniques.

“In doing so, improving the match-day experience for supporters and helping to reduce the financial burden on Club and policing budgets, which are often stretched to the limit.”

Statistics released by the Home Office last month show that football-related arrests continue to decline and remain at record-low levels with just 3.3 arrests per 100,000 spectators – comparing favourably to other large-scale public events.

FSA chief executive Kevin Miles said: “The FSA is delighted to be an active participant in ENABLE together with the EFL. We feed into observations of match-day policing operations and have a place on the steering committee.

“The initiative isn’t without its challenges but we have already seen positive changes in how supporters are policed and it’s already clear that supporters respond far better to a community-driven, engaged style of policing as opposed to always being treated as a potential public-order problem.”

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