In upholding a ruling which will require police forces across the country to pick up the enormous costs of match day policing around football grounds, the Court of Appeal has emphasised that it is for the police, not private citizens or organisations, to enforce law and order.
The case involved football club, Leeds United, which objected to having to contribute to policing costs incurred within an ‘extended footprint’ around its Elland Road stadium. The club, which has some of the country’s worst behaved fans, insisted that hundreds of officers deployed around the ground on match days were doing no more than their public duty.
Dismissing an appeal by the Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police (WYP), the Master of the Rolls, Lord Dyson, ruled that the club should only be required to pay for policing on land it owns or controls and not surrounding areas of public land where fans congregate. Although he acknowledged that Leeds fans have a ‘poor record’ for football-related violence, he noted that the majority of the club’s supporters are law-abiding.
The judge concluded: “They do not lose their status as members of the public when they come to a match. They are entitled to police protection when they come to a match. The police have a duty to maintain law and order and to protect them and their property when they approach and leave the stadium.
“The policing of the extended footprint on match days is provided in order to maintain law and order and protect life and property in a public place. None of the arguments advanced on behalf of WYP persuades me that the law and order services provided by them in the extended footprint are different in principle from the law and order services that they provide in any other public place.”