Glasgow & West Scotland

Cost of policing Old Firm fixtures was almost £2.4m

old firm match generic
Image caption The costs of policing the Old Firm fixture are viewed by some as problematic

It is one of the world's most famous football fixtures but as any celebrity will tell you - fame comes at a price.

The BBC can reveal that last season, the price for policing Glasgow's Old Firm derby games was almost £2.4m.

Figures obtained under Freedom of Information show the public purse paid the majority of this with Rangers and Celtic paying less than one sixth.

Six of the derbies played in 2010/11 landed the police with a bill for £1,968,840. The clubs paid £301,263.80.

In addition the CIS Insurance Cup Final at Hampden cost Strathclyde Police £412,216. The Scottish Football League, which is responsible for the cup, was charged £35,905.20.

For matches played at Celtic Park and Ibrox Stadium, the home side is required by law to pay costs in the stadium and its immediate vicinity.

But according to Strathclyde Police, the overall cost on match days goes way beyond there.

Assistant Chief Constable Campbell Corrigan said if trouble surrounding the fixture continued at its current level the funding arrangements would need to be reviewed.

He posed the question: "We will, as a police service, have to ask the question: does the community want us to spend this amount of money on that single event?"

The contrast between Old Firm derbies and other games involving the Glasgow clubs is stark.

Celtic's last home match against third-placed Hearts cost the police £16,521.

Even Rangers Champion's League home game against Manchester United was just £25,765.

For the Old Firm games, the money goes on match commanders, events room staff and football intelligence teams but the biggest single expense - nearly half of the total - is for extra police officers, not just in Glasgow but in towns and villages from Ayrshire to Argyll.

And these figures, for routine policing on match days, are only a fraction of the true price of the frenzy surrounding the fixture.

They do not take into account inquiries into hate-filled internet sites where debate about football spills over into threats of violence.

They do not include the cost of investigating letter bombs sent to the Celtic manager Neil Lennon, his lawyer Paul McBride QC and a Celtic-supporting politician Trish Godman.

Nor do they tally the salaries of detectives, doctors, nurses, lawyers and judges, not to mention the fall in productivity when companies' employees end up in hospital, court or prison.

Les Gray, chairman of the Scottish Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, cited recent research suggesting that the total monetary cost to society of one serious assault - in terms of policing, courts, NHS, education and social services - was £250,000.

Violent crime

He said "If you have an Old Firm Game and there's 30, 40, 50 serious assaults you don't need to be Carol Vorderman to count that up.

"That's a lot of money coming out of the public purse and as we know from recent headlines the public purse cannot afford that.

"Something has to give. It means that other members of the community are doing without parts of their police service."

The BBC has also obtained figures for violent crime when the Old Firm meet. The data backs up the suspicion that a kind of madness descends on Glasgow on derby day.

Image caption Neil Lennon, Trish Godman and Paul McBride QC were sent letter bombs

From 2007-2011 on a Saturday, when Rangers and Celtic were not playing each other, crimes of violence across the Strathclyde Police force area averaged 140.

When the Old Firm met on a Saturday that number rocketed to 382 - more than two-and-a-half times as high.

On a Sunday when an Old Firm derby was played, the average figure for violent crimes jumped from 67.1 to 179.9. Even for weekday fixtures it rose from 64 to 106.

The Scottish government insists it is tackling the problem.

An attempt to rush through tough new anti-sectarian legislation in time for the start of the football season on Saturday was, however, thwarted because of concerns that the law would not be properly drafted or debated.

Celtic manager Neil Lennon said everyone connected with the club was aware of the new approach being taken following last season's problems.

Not an issue

He added: "We know where we stand and the players certainly know where they stand in terms of refereeing and policing.

"Some police have actually said they are going to step in. If there is a spitting incident or a headbutting incident or punching incident they may even step in and arrest players.

"Everyone has been left in no uncertain terms that in terms of behaviour, where the line is drawn."

When Rangers manager Ally McCoist was asked about the issue, a club press officer interrupted to say that it was not an issue for the manager to address.

When asked what Rangers would do to make this season a better one, given the violence surrounding Old Firm fixtures last year, McCoist said: "I didn't really see any violence at any Old Firm fixtures."

Asked if he was confident that there would not be the same spotlight on referees and off-field issues, he added: "Well it never was an issue with us to be fair."

Reputations are made on Old Firm days. Heroes are born. But off the pitch the fixture often leaves a trail of misery.

Many people are now determined to stamp it out. But many before them have tried and failed.

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