Event organisers now liable for costs of policing the fan “footprint”

March 29, 2017

Policing major events after the case of Ipswich Town F.C. v Suffolk Police

Major event organisers who pay for Special Police Services (“SPS”) for additional policing at their events may now face additional charges, as the area over which such services can be given may be expanded in certain circumstances. Following this recent case, police constabularies may now charge for SPS that are provided in areas where event organisers are deemed to have “de facto” control over, even if such areas are not actually owned, leased or controlled by them.

SPS

Since 1996, local police have been able to charge major event organisers for SPS that are requested and go “above and beyond” the general duty to keep the public safe (the costs of which are otherwise met by rates and taxes). Such services can be requested by event organisers in advance, but may be subject to additional charges where they are ‘special’ to the person requesting (rather than rendered for the benefit of the public generally). However, the divide between the two has never been particularly distinct, and this case provides much needed guidance.

The case in point

Whilst Ipswich Town F.C. (“Club”) ultimately lost the case, the judgment did not go as far as allowing the police to recover all costs claimed. Here, the police assumed that they were able to charge for policing two roads adjoining the Portman Road stadium (“Ground”). The Club believed that, on examining its accounts, the police had over-charged for SPS provided in areas that they were not entitled to do so. They contested these charges over a number of years in a claim to recover all overpaid sums. Judgment however, went against the Club. This was primarily because the overwhelming majority of people (estimated at 99%) in the two adjoining roads, at the relevant times, were there for the purposes of visiting the Ground. The Club was therefore deemed to have ‘de facto’ control over the area and therefore had primary responsibility for ensuring the safety of all persons in that area. Costs for any SPS they received in that area were therefore recoverable by the police.

Calculating the “footprint”?

This case shows that event organisers need a greater awareness of what areas they are deemed to control on event days. Ultimately, it is in these areas where additional event-related charges can arise. The event organiser clearly has control over its premises (including any other areas it owns or leases) and it is not disputed that event organisers have primary responsibility for ensuring safety and maintaining public order within its stadium/venue. With the Club, this included the Ground. However, it also included two public roads that ran adjacent to the Ground (this distinction is highlighted in the image below).

These roads contained multiple turnstiles which fans could use to enter and exit the Ground. On match days, the roads were controlled heavily by the Club (who used stewards to erect crowd control barriers, conduct person searches and implement traffic control. The police also had a presence in this area and supported stewards in the footprint and within the Ground. Furthermore, as the stewards performed almost identical services in these two areas, there was held to be no difference between the support provided by SPS within the Ground, and that provided by the police in the footprint.

For event organisers seeking clarification as to what areas may be deemed to fall within their control on event days, this article can provide the following checklist of questions which need to be considered when negotiating the scope of the SPS request with the relevant local police constabulary.

  1. Control – does the organiser exercise substantial control over the footprint on event days, with the consent of the local authority and the police.
  2. Location – is the relevant area adjacent to land which is owned by (or leased to) the organiser?
  3. Consequential work – is the work performed in the relevant area necessary and a natural consequence of, and intended to support, the work done inside the event venue?
  4. Public highway – the area is agreed by the police and event organiser not to be treated as a “public highway” for the purpose of traffic control and public order?
  5. Boundary – can the boundary of the footprint be easily defined?
  6. Recipient – who is the ultimate recipient and beneficiary of the services in the relevant area?
  7. Commercial rights – does the event organiser have the sole or principal right to exploit the relevant area for its commercial benefit?

If the event organiser can answer yes to all or most of the above listed questions, in relation to a particular area near to their venue, it is likely that any SPS (or other requested services) provided in that area will be subject to additional charges. Such charges should be accurately scoped and agreed in writing in advance when negotiating the terms of the SPS request ahead of the relevant event.

Is road closure the critical indicator?

Unlike many football clubs in England, particular to this case was a traffic control order put in place by Suffolk CC to govern access to the Ground and permit road closure measures (i.e. no vehicle access without police or Club steward permission, and erection of temporary barriers) to be implemented on match days in the period 90 mins pre-kick off to 30 mins after the final whistle (“Order”). Significantly, it was the Club that had applied for the Order, not the police. The motive was the two roads provided focal points for supporters entering and exiting the Ground. The Order was implement by employees of the Club placing the relevant obstacles in the roads within the time periods specified in the Order. The Club was permitted to do this because the police did not consider low-level traffic management functions to be within their remit, and Suffolk CC would only do so if the Club agreed to meet their direct labour costs. As a result, the Club was able to benefit from this additional closed space (which was overwhelmingly used by its fans during the period to which the Order applied) by deploying kiosks, sales staff and licensing permission to third party catering vendors to sell their products to fans in that area.

Whilst there is nothing in this judgment that necessarily confirms that any of those listed above is more important than the other, it is clear that the Club’s right to close the relevant roads was a major factor which deemed the area covered by the road closure to effectively become an extension of the Ground during the periods specified in the Order. Indeed, the Club used its control room to monitor and direct stewarding operations both inside the Ground and the relevant area outside the Ground on match days. This is a significant aspect to this case that may differ for other event organisers.

If you are interested in the contents of this article, or if you have concerns over charges you have (or may) received for similar services, please feel free to get in touch with your usual contact at Kerman & Co. who will be happy to discuss the matter with you in more detail, or direct you to someone who is able to assist.  

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.

Key Contacts