Revealed: The true cost of policing West Ham matches
PUBLISHED: 07:00 25 July 2018 | UPDATED: 08:15 25 July 2018
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West Ham's London Stadium clash against Tottenham was the most expensive game to police in the first half of last season, figures have revealed.
It cost £149,283 for the Met Police to provide 453 staff for the derby on September 23 - more than eight times the average it costs the force to cover a football match.
That game, which cost around £329 per officer, was the second most heavily policed in the Premier League between August and January - beaten only by the reverse fixture at Wembley Stadium.
While some Premier League games saw just 14 officers policing the grounds, the West Ham away game on January 4 saw 477 officers outside the north west London ground - that’s 105 fans per officer.
“London derbies are more intense in terms of fan rivalries,” said Sean Whetstone, from West Ham supporters group West Ham Till I Die.
“West Ham has a long history with Spurs. They have experienced trouble in the past, so it’s no surprise it’s the most heavily policed.
“The police also have to cover a larger area with these kinds of stadiums.”
Tottenham spent the 2017/18 season at Wembley while their White Hart Lane home was being rebuilt. The capacity of their temporary home is around 90,000, while the London Stadium holds 66,000 fans. With such large areas to cover, and so many fans to police, Sean said the figures come as no surprise.
“This happens when clubs change stadiums,” he said.
“The police explained to us that for both the London Stadium and Wembley, the area you need to cover is massive, so it’s no conspiracy theory that you need more officers.”
Amanda Jacks from the Football Supporters Federation agreed.
“There were more officers at West Ham v Tottenham because it’s deemed a high-risk match,” she said.
“The London Stadium stands in a lot of ground with several stations, meaning fans are coming from various locations, unlike the Boleyn which was much more compact.”
According to data recently released by the BBC, it costs the Met Police around £18,000 to cover a game.
But when it comes to London derbies, the numbers show it’s not uncommon for policing costs to be high. West Ham v Chelsea, Tottenham v Chelsea, and Crystal Palace v Tottenham all recorded above average costs.
And these aren’t necessarily covered by the club. According to the BBC’s figures, which looked at 50 clubs across England and Wales, covering matches cost the police £6.6m last season, while just £4.8m was recouped from clubs.
The Metropolitan Police said this is down to the ability to recoup money from clubs, which is limited nowadays because officers no longer police inside stadiums - that’s generally done by the stewards.
A Met Police spokesman said: “The MPS has withdrawn from carrying out stewarding functions inside stadiums.
“The Met can only charge for police deployed on land owned, occupied or controlled by the club.
“For some stadiums in London, the ability to charge is limited as the stadium abuts on to the public highway.”
A spokesman from London Legacy Development Corporation, which operates the London Stadium, said: “LLDC would only pay for police deployed inside the ground.
“For West Ham’s games, the level of policing required is decided by a categorising system, where games are rated A, B or C, depending on the likelihood of disorder, previous incidents between clubs, and how much of the away ticket allocation has been used. For games rated C – those most likely to see possible issues – police would be deployed inside the ground.
“West Ham v Tottenham was a category C game, so we had police inside. We therefore would have contributed towards that £149,000.”
This was confirmed by a spokesman from West Ham, who said that games were individually assessed to determine how risky they may be – and how many officers would be needed as a result.
But for the fans, these costs may be worth it. Sean admitted that having a police presence was welcomed by supporters.
“I think a lot of people feel safe when the police are there,” he said.
“Policing has come a long way in recent years, they have more respect.
“But it’s all about getting the balance right. As long as they’re not stood there in riot gear, most fans feel reassured by their presence.”