After what seems an eternity of behind the scenes wrangling Wigan Athletic have finally conceded to the latest round of bullying tactics from GMP and will pay the close to 300 grand they ‘owe’ for policing costs at the JJB. Whilst it is comforting to know that any chance that the Chelsea game would be blocked has now passed it doesn’t necessarily bode well for the future. Despite the bravado of the club and Whelan’s statements (vigorously pursuing counter claims, fighting for the little man, standing up for democracy and so on) the club has taken the one course of action that will allow the issue to slip quietly into the night.
Now there’s nothing to say that will happen but it’s not difficult to imagine the fans and the club being caught up in the fervor of the Premiership season and, providing we’re not getting charged 100 grand a game, forgetting that there was ever any dispute over charges. Unless of course we end up back in the First Division and the cost don’t go back down.
It’s certainly an interesting one. GMP have statement that it is easier to police a Premier League game (hence Bolton’s lower costs) as daft as it sounds suggests a willingness to charge us less this season, and although Latics have always insisted that this isn’t about the money we owe (d), would the incentive be there to carry this through without what has been the focus so far?
You have to hope that it is. The seeming lack of (verbal) support from other clubs is more likely than not related to with them not wanting to upset their local police. The right result in any court case/review/enquiry/whatever would surely have chairman across the country raising a glass to Mr Whelan. After all when you think about it, the vast majority of clubs pay week in week out, no matter what the cost is, a sum of money that they can’t afford for a police presence that is rarely if ever needed.
The logical and correct (and of course the least likely) way to deal with this issue is for the Government to instigate a review of policing at and around football matches that would result in a stringent and reasonable structure/cost for crowd control at football matches. It is not reasonable for the situation to continue where a safety certificate insists on a police presence and then the police then have free reign to decide what that presence is and how much it costs.
Whatever the reasoning behind Latics dispute with GMP, the fact that it existed has raised a serious issue for the wider football community. Unfortunately it is one that unless clubs unite behind it and find a public figure with the weight and appetite to do something about it is likely to fade away, leaving police forces to laugh all the way to the bank ruing their decision not to publicly back us.
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