Ipswich Town wins appeal over matchday policing costs

Fans and police outside Portman Road. Ipswich Town has won its appeal over who should pay for polici

Fans and police outside Portman Road. Ipswich Town has won its appeal over who should pay for policing outside its stadium on match days. Picture: NIGEL FRENCH/PA WIRE - Credit: PA

Ipswich Town’s latest victory has been recorded in the courts, after the club won an appeal over payment for policing outside Portman Road on match days.

Last year, the club went to the High Court to challenge fees paid for policing around Portman Road on match days from 2008 to 2013.

Its lawyers argued Suffolk Constabulary was not entitled to charge for “special police services” in Portman Road and Sir Alf Ramsey Way.

The force countered with a claim that the club owed it £96,000 in unpaid invoices for policing a public highway.

Lawyers for the police argued the test of whether the land was “owned, leased or controlled” was correct for determining if special services were carried out, and that the club controlled the highway. But, Ipswich Town said the correct test was whether policing was conducted on public land and, in any case, it did not “control” the public highway.

High Court judge, Mr Justice Green ruled that special services had been provided, and that police were entitled to impose charges.

Ipswich Town took the decision to the Court of Appeal and, on Tuesday, three judges agreed with Michael Beloff QC, for the club, who had argued the original judge misdirected himself on the law.

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Mr Beloff, who said more than £500,000 was at stake in the dispute, added that, if upheld, the decision would be expensive for a large number of football clubs.

Counsel said it was the fourth case about match policing to come before the courts in 30 years.

Lady Justice Gloster, Lord Justice Gross and Lord Briggs sent the case back to the High Court to resolve the issue of the amount due to the club.

Lady Justice Gloster said an outcome dependent on the critical factor of whether the land – where the police discharged what were clearly public order functions – was public land or privately owned land, had the “advantage of simplicity and predictability”.

“It obviates the need for irrelevant enquiries as to, for example, the level of violence amongst club supporters, the precise geographical configurations of the closed areas and the functions carried out respectively by club stewards and the police in such areas, or other variables such as the financial profitability or size of the club concerned,” said the judge, who argued it was for Parliament to change the law if it considered it appropriate to make clubs pay.

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