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It’s a funny (and expensive) old game.

May 4, 2010

Every week, thousands of people part with their hard-earned cash to watch their heroes battle it out on a football field.

At the same time, millions more people are completely oblivious to the machinations of the Premier League, the Championship and all the other leagues.

There are thousands of people who live near football grounds and wish they didn’t.

"Which way to the train station, officer?"

A large number of people in each of these groups have something in common with members of the other factions.

They are tax-payers.  They pay their income tax and their council tax.

Members of the first group contribute directly or indirectly to the vast sums of money being spent on overpaid, overinflated, undersexed brain donors who purport to be professional footballers. Some members of this group use the cover of a football match to indulge in planned or spontaneous violence.

"Are you sure you don't want to buy a United season ticket?"

Members of the second group don’t much care for football or footballers. But many of them find that their taxes are being used to pay for the policing of football matches up and down the country.

Members of the third group also contribute to the cost of policing. This has a direct impact on their feeling of safety and security on match day.

According to figures released by police to the Daily Mirror, Premiership clubs were charged around £10million for policing their fixtures last season. This sum only covers the cost of officers actually posted to the ground and takes no account of additional resources, such as British Transport Police officers who never go near the ground, but keep the rail network safe.

ACPO want to increase the contribution that clubs make, from £10m to £40m per season. It isn’t reported how the clubs have responded to this, but the article already mentions increased ticket costs, thereby passing on the cost to the supporter at the ground.

I’ve done a bit of working out on the back of a Jelly Babies box (I don’t smoke, so I can’t use a fag packet)

All these figures are based on the 2008/09 season, in case you’re sad enough to want to check them out.

The average total weekly attendance at all Premiership games was 711,877 people. For a 38 game season, this means 27,051,326 people passed through the turnstiles. If the total cost of policing all these people was £10million and the money was raised through ticket sales,  then each fan contributed a total of  37 new English pence to the cost of policing. That’s 37 pence PER YEAR!

ACPO want the bill to quadruple – that means if attendance figures stay roughly the same and fans are expected to foot the bill, it works out at around £1.52 per person per season.

In 2008/09, the cost of a season ticket ranged from £250 to £1850 per season. If people are daft enough to pay that amount to sit in the cold, eating lukewarm pies and listening to foul and abusive language (the sound can carry up from the pitch, especially when there ain’t many in the ground!) then I’m sure they won’t mind paying a little bit extra to make sure there are enough bobbies in yellow coats to keep them all in order?

But should the supporters be the only ones who pay? The vast majority of football followers are decent, law abiding citizens. Misguided perhaps (rumour has it that during the Iceland ash plane blockade scandal crisis episode, attendances at Old Trafford plummeted because the Man Utd. fans couldn’t fly in from Spain) but do they need to have a shed load of bobbies on overtime to chaperone them?

But we all know of the small minority who use football as an excuse and vehicle for their gang warfare. We know where they drink, we know where they gather and we know what they intend to do. We use every method at our disposal to stop them having a fight, dragging innocent people into their brawls. We try to lock them up, but this is Britain, they have rights, they get out again.

This minority are affiliated to particular clubs. The clubs may not want them, but they are stuck with them. You might argue that if it wasn’t for the clubs, there would be no gathering of rival supporters and therefore no need for all the police. A very simplistic interpretation, but worth considering. Therefore, if it’s the clubs that are causing the gatherings to take place, why don’t they pay for the policing and not pass the cost on to the fans?

"Please don't make me go back in and watch any more!"

Finally, what about all those people who live near the ground? They probably benefit most from the extra police presence in the area. It’s those people who are having their property defended by the best trained security patrols in the country. The majority of football grounds have been in their current location for decades, so these people must have chosen to live near the ground and should therefore face the consequences. Why should someone living at the back of The Hawthorns pay the same precept as the family living in Hawthorn Cottage, Ruralsville?

There’s a lot of money in football, either through ticket receipts, television rights, sponsorship or prize money. It used to be a working class game, but it is now a multi-million pound business. With society going to hell in a handcart, then there will continue to be a demand and necessity for these matches to be policed. While these matches are going on, the rest of the country still needs to be policed, so bobbies will still have to be paid overtime to do the football matches.

We pay income tax and council tax as well you know.

So over to you lot out there – who should be paying for all this?

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