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Soccer Grounds (Policing)

Volume 78: debated on Thursday 2 May 1985

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7.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what discussions he has had with the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis about policing methods inside London Football League club grounds.

I have had no recent discussion personally with the Commissioner on this subject, but my Department keeps in close contact with the Metropolitan police about football violence, and ways of tackling it.

Will the Home Secretary consider the proposal that I made in an Adjournment debate on 19 April about setting up football community policing teams, because clearly somewhat more specialised attention is required by the Metropolitan police to the problems of crowd violence inside London league clubs?

Secondly, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman take the opportunity to discuss with the Commissioner the possibility of transferring the cost of policing from football clubs to the public purse? Chelsea, for example, has paid about £127,000 this year in policing charges. That money could have been more usefully spent on ground improvements for the benefit of the supporters, and, I hope, reducing football hooliganism.

It is best that football grounds are policed by local officers with reinforcements, if necessary, rather than by specialist squads.

Regarding the hon. Gentleman's second point, if a football club organises a match and requires policing inside the ground, as opposed to outside, because of the risk of trouble, it is reasonable that it should pay for the cost of that policing.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that in the north of England video surveillance and recordings of visiting supporters have led to custodial sentences for those who have committed misdemeanours at football matches? Does he agree that people, such as Ken Bates of the Chelsea football club, should be supported, not discouraged by stupid planning regulations, in their desire to control hooliganism?

We all share the desire to control football hooliganism. My hon. Friend makes a good point about video pictures. The Home Office is experimenting with a van which can take good quality still and video pictures outside and inside grounds. That van is intended to assist in crowd control and to gather evidence for use in court proceedings. The use of such a facility is an important contribution to the problem.

Is it not a fact that since the Prime Minister's headline hunting caused her to stick her meddling fingers into this issue, there has been nothing but ill feeling and confusion? Now that she has suddenly taken an interest in football hooliganism and football, will she abandon her boycott of the Cup Final, attend it again, and take the opportunity to watch Manchester United win the cup?

There are not many matters about which I would take lessons from the right hon. Gentleman, but the pursuit of headline hunting may be one. His remarks about my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister are singularly inapposite. I am sure that my right hon. Friend will note with interest the right hon. Gentleman's invitation to her to attend the Cup Final.