Police threat to withdraw from match-days at Arsenal would cause ‘chaos’
08:00 31 July 2014
A Met plan to pull out of policing Arsenal matches could cause “utter chaos” on the borough’s streets, it has been warned.
The club pay for officers inside the Emirates Stadium but the force says it can no longer fund the stewarding of 50,000 fans travelling to and from Finsbury Park, Highbury and Islington and Arsenal stations.
Islington Council’s chief executive, Lesley Seary, even went to Scotland Yard with her Haringey counterpart to try to avert the crisis, but the town hall refused to reveal the outcome of the talks.
The force wants clubs in the capital to cough up the cost of all match-day work done by officers, who, they say, would be better placed in the community.
Terry Stacy, chairman of Highbury Safer Neighbourhoods Team, suggested that the club should cover the cost if the police pull out.
He said: “This is extremely concerning. Police play an important role in stewarding and getting 50,000 people from our stations to the stadium through the streets of Highbury. If would be utter chaos if they stopped.
“It’s a long-running debate about who should pay and I am not having a go at the club because they do great work in the community, but these clubs make a lot of money and I think they should contribute to policing outside the stadium.”
Arsenal’s yearly turnover is more than £200million and it pays over £3.5million, more than any other club in England, in business rates for the stadium.
The first Premier League game at the Gunners’ ground this season takes place on August 16 against Crystal Palace.
Commander Peter Terry, from the Met’s specialist crime and operations unit, said: “For over a year now the MPS has been trying to get London football clubs to sign the Special Police Services Agreement which was drawn up to ensure football clubs bear the cost and any liability incurred for officers provided to police their football matches. Some clubs have already signed up to the agreement, however a large number have not yet signed and the new football season is fast approaching.
“Historically, officers from across London have been taken out of their boroughs to support policing at football matches, often many miles away from their local communities. Those officers would be better placed within their own wards and neighbourhoods to support local policing needs.”
A spokesman for the council said: “Match-day policing is a matter for the Met Police.”
n Arsenal have lost a High Court battle over a curb on the number of concerts – like the recent Bruce Springsteen and Muse shows – they can hold at the Emirates Stadium.
The Premier League giant had applied to double the number of gigs from three to six.
Islington Council rejected the application and a planning inspector dismissed the club’s appeal in January this year.
Arsenal argued at the High Court that there was a “clear error” in the decision-making process.