Police forces across England and Wales seeking to secure more funding from football are putting smaller clubs under serious financial pressure, according to the North Wales Police & Crime Commissioner.
Commissioner Arfon Jones, a former-police inspector and a season ticket holder at Wrexham, believes football is being targeted by senior police officers as forces struggle to cope with funding shortfalls and growing pressures on their services.
At a closed All-Party Parliamentary Group meeting held under Chatham House rules last week, some of the country’s most senior police officers urged MPs for legislation to recoup more money from football clubs.
However, Jones argues that police forces need to adopt a more progressive approach to policing to help reduce costs.
“All football does is reflect what goes on in society,” he said. “And there’s an alternative view that if the police spent more time training club stewards and fans then violence would be reduced and it is still at far lower levels than it was in the dark days of the 70s and 80s.”
Football-related arrests remain at historically low levels, having fallen again last season according to Home Office statistics. Compared to other large-scale events, football’s arrest-rate is relatively low at less than four arrests per 100,000 spectators.
Jones added: “When I looked at Wrexham versus Chester matches policing was being over-resourced and if they toned down the police presence there would actually be less confrontation.”
According to Jones, the police have failed in the Higher Courts to get the football industry to pay more for policing football and are now seeking to change legislation to enable a different charging structure.
“Football is being stigmatised by what is a problem in society as a whole and because of that clubs like Wrexham and Chester will face increased charges which are neither necessary nor fair and which could cause them severe financial hardship.
“If police charge more, then more than a few clubs from the Championship down are in danger of going bust.”
At the APPG, officers told MPs that football leads to a spike in domestic violence – claims that have little credibility and were debunked by Glasgow Caledonian University research published last summer.
The officers also told MPs about their concerns around reform to the all-seater legislation and any potential relaxation in football’s restrictive alcohol laws.
“We’ve got current legislation that’s based on falsehoods and football is still paying the price,” Jones said.
Thanks to PA Images for the image used in this article.