Leeds United policing costs dispute: Club wins legal case

Elland Road stadium
Image caption The club had argued policing near the Elland Road ground was the force's responsibility

Leeds United has won its High Court action against West Yorkshire Police over who should pay for policing around the stadium on match days.

The club had argued policing streets and car parks near its Elland Road ground was the force's responsibility.

Mr Justice Eady agreed these were not special police services and said the force must repay the club.

West Yorkshire Police said the judgement would have a "significant impact" on police and the taxpayer.

The club claimed wider policing fell within the scope of normal police obligations to maintain public order. Mr Justice Eady ruled the club should not pay for such policing.

The force must now reimburse the club for payments made over the past three years. The amount has not been revealed.

'Step too far'

Michael Beloff QC, for the club, had told Mr Justice Eady the action was "in the nature of a test case" and the footballing and policing worlds hoped the ruling would provide "powerful guidance" on the issue.

He had said the club was content to pay for services within the stadium and on land owned or controlled by it, but policing on land not owned or controlled by the club did not constitute special police services.

John Beggs QC, for the police, had told the court the footprint around the stadium was a tightly drawn and strategically determined boundary.

The judge concluded that the services fell within the normal constabulary duty to keep the peace.

In a statement, Leeds United's chief executive Shaun Harvey said the payments to police had been made under protest.

He said: "We have never objected to paying for the cost of policing on land owned, leased or controlled by the club.

"However, West Yorkshire Police's stance to seek to charge us for policing the public highway and for areas away from the ground is a step too far.

'Invidious position'

"We have been paying under protest for the last three seasons on this basis and are pleased to have received this clarification in a dispute which was only capable of being resolved in front of a judge."

West Yorkshire Police said the judgement had significant implications for the policing of West Yorkshire's communities and cost to the taxpayer.

A statement said: "The judgement in favour of the club highlights the legal difficulties the force faces in minimising the large amounts of public money being spent on policing Leeds United.

"The impact of the judgement cannot be underestimated."

The force said it graded games from A to C "in accordance with their anticipated level of risk [of trouble]", with category C being the highest-risk game.

The statement added: "By way of illustration, a category C football match for the coming season will cost the force about £80,000 of which we will seek to recover only £62,000 from Leeds United.

"If the High Court's judgement limits that further, the shortfall would have to be met by drawing up to 180 officers away from neighbourhood policing and patrol teams across West Yorkshire on a Saturday afternoon, just to police a football match.

"We welcome the fact that the judge recognised the invidious position the force faces and the possibility of the force being unable to support the club's existing match arrangements in the present economic climate."

In his ruling, the judge said there was no single drain on West Yorkshire Police's diminishing resources greater than that of policing the club's matches, and it was not surprising that it wished to recover as much as it reasonably could.

More on this story