The Premier League is contemplating offering up to £10 million to the police to secure the scheduling of ‘risk’ matches during prime-time late television slots, according to Mail Sport.
The league made the proposal because police forces are usually hesitant to provide security for high-stakes games played later in the day.
The Premier League has not commented on this development, but insider sources suggest that such a payment would not guarantee fixed kick-off times.
The funds could be part of a broader strategy aimed at ‘supporting the police in ensuring the safety of match-goers and communities’.
However, the potential deal has already raised objections. One source called the money a ‘sweetener’ and described the situation as another instance of the Premier League and its clubs attempting to buy their way out of contentious situations.
The allocation and distribution of these funds are yet to be determined. They are also yet to agree on whether it will be a one-time arrangement.
One option on the table is a centralised payment structure, with the money distributed to police forces affected by the risk matches.
A recent incident illustrating the friction between the league and police took place when the Manchester City versus Liverpool fixture scheduled for November 25 was originally planned for a Saturday 5.30 pm slot but was brought forward to 12.30 pm due to police concerns regarding crowd behaviour.
Safety authorities have traditionally maintained that late kick-off times increase the likelihood of unruly fan behaviour by allowing more time for drinking. Recent incidents of disorder have done little to change this perspective.
However, altering match timings can impact television viewership, especially in the United States, where interest in the Premier League is growing.
For instance, timing matches at 12.30 pm GMT translates to 7.30 am on the east coast, making it difficult for fans to watch.
Most potential viewers would still be asleep on the west coast, where major markets such as Los Angeles and San Francisco are located.
The proposed payment has been met with scepticism. One source said: “Broadcasters pay incredible sums on the understanding that it’s ‘any game, any time,’ but that is clearly not the case.
“Any kick-off time has to be approved by safety officials, and it’s never guaranteed.”
Ethical concerns have been raised, but it is unlikely that the government would oppose the move, given the strained state of the police force and the need for additional investment.
Premier League clubs contributed £3.6 billion in tax to the Treasury during the 2019/20 season.
Despite these ongoing discussions, there remains frustration among police forces over the financial burden placed on them for services outside the stadium’s perimeter, which they attribute to matchday activities.
These discussions take place against the backdrop of rising incidents of disorder at matches in England and Wales, where there has been a 60% increase compared to the season before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Arrests have surged by 59%, and pitch invasions have risen by an alarming 127% compared to the 2018/19 season.
In response, the Premier League has implemented a minimum one-year ban for home or away fans found guilty of entering the pitch or using pyrotechnics.
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