Police forces across the UK are putting the boot into football clubs like Wrexham and Chester by trying to increase their charges for policing matches, according to a policing boss.
North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones, a former police inspector and a season ticket-holder at Wrexham, believes football is being picked on because of a general increase in violence in society.
According to Mr Jones, the Police Service 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.
He claims that for smaller clubs like Wrexham and Chester these higher policing fees could have severe effects and even threaten their existence.
Mr Jones said: “The police say they need to charge more due to increasing violence but the trend of increasing violence is in society as a whole since Brexit.
“All football does is reflect what goes on in society 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 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.
“When I looked at Wrexham v Chester matches, policing was being over-resourced and if they toned down the police presence there would actually be less confrontation.
“We’ve seen stewards at matches getting more aggressive even to the extent of throwing punches at players.”
Mr Jones attended a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Policing and Security where he challenged facts presented by the Police Chiefs lead on football, Deputy Chief Constable, Mark Roberts.
He said: ”Mark Roberts wants to charge more but what we need to do is to treat football matches as events and not as public order situations and there should be better engagement with fans and better training of stewards rather than just over-resourcing at matches.
“This was a very one-sided way of presenting information with football clubs and fans not represented at the meeting and was an underhanded way of doing things“
“If policing charge more, then more than a few clubs from the Championship down are in danger of going bust.
“All sorts of throw away comments were accepted as gospel such as, safe standing is hard to police and allowing drinking would exacerbate difficulties faced by policing. It was even mentioned that domestic violence increases during big football matches as context, as it does during big rugby matches as well.
“Much of the legislation around controlling fans at football matches is based on what happened at Hillsborough and everything that was originally said about Hillsborough has been found to be a pack of lies.
“So as a result we’ve got current legislation that’s based on falsehoods and football is still paying the price.”
He added that evidence of increased levels of domestic violence during England football matches is being seen as a reason to charge clubs more for policing their games.
Caption: North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones.