Gloucester City: Possible policing bill could send shadow over season
GLOUCESTER City could be hit by a large policing bill for their Easter Monday clash with AFC Telford United that could 'make or break' their season.
That's the view of Tigers chairman Nigel Hughes, who says City's positive end to the season could be severely hit by the Bank Holiday bill.
However there is still time to review the need for policing at the game which means City may not have to foot a policing bill which is understood to be less than £3,000.
Hughes said that there has been no sign of trouble at any City game this season and that the club had already been making provision to properly steward the game.
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However that cut no drift with the authorities, who informed the City chairman before last week's victory against league leaders Alfreton that extra policing would be needed at a cost that could run into the thousands.
"Being told that the police had to raise the risk category of the game took the gloss off what was a great day," Hughes said.
"They've indicated that they have intelligence that there are some known trouble makers that follow Telford will be coming down.
"And as a consequence of that there needs to be a police presence at the game."
"The bottom line is that this policing bill is going to cost the club more than the receipts we would make.
"If we were to get a crowd of 1,000 – which is unlikely as the Telford fans will be saving money for the play-offs – then most of that money would be wiped off.
"Of course I understand that the police have got a job to do, but something like this is make or break for us as a club."
City are forced to run one of the lowest playing budgets in Blue Square Bet North due to not having a ground to call their own.
Limited commercial opportunities, rent and lower crowds forced by playing away from the city have all had their effect.
But with safety and Conference football secured for a third season, despite being forced to trim the playing budget mid-season, Hughes had been looking forward to the Telford game.
A bumper Bank Holiday crowd was expected and, for once, the club were looking forward to making some much-needed money.
"We've struggled to get to the end of the season, the budget that we've been paying has stretched us, but we've not exceeded our spending limit," Hughes said.
"We've had no trouble at all this season and we were going to double our stewarding, which would have cost us money but nothing like the amount this would have done.
"Given our predicament it's been a superb season for us and this has taken the gloss off what should be a happy last game for us."
Hughes informed police last week that plans had already been made to segregate the Telford fans into the Hazlewoods Stand at Whaddon Road.
City officials had also planned to get in touch with their Telford counterparts to arrange for the Bucks to bring their own stewards to the game.
Hughes is also wondering why the police have to up the risk category of the game and bring in extra officers when there has been an uninvited police presence at every game this season.
"Playing at Whaddon Road means that we fall under the safety advisory group rules that govern games at Football League grounds," Hughes said.
"I could understand the risk if we were looking at a crowd of around 2-3,000, but we're averaging 341 this season.
"We, of course, understand that the police have to do a job and that they are only looking at the safety of the fans at the ground.
"But we've had a policing presence at all of our games this season – uninvited and unneeded – and there has not been a single problem.
"If they can afford to send officers for a normal matchday then why can't they do that this time?"
Gloucestershire Police confirmed that plans were in place for special policing measures at the game, but that they would be reviewed further in the lead-up to the fixture.
Chief Inspector Derek Jones said: "All league fixtures held at Whaddon Road in Cheltenham are examined by Gloucestershire Police to see if there is a policing requirement.
"At the start of the season in July last year a provisional assessment of fixtures for Gloucester City games was agreed with the club chairman and this fixture appeared to require a policing response.
"Special policing services such as this do incur a charge to the club rather than the taxpayer, which is agreed to at the start of the season.
"The decision to provide policing at the match is continually reviewed on the run-up to the fixture and planning meetings are held regularly to discuss whether the policing response needs to change.
"The club chairman has been invited to all of these meetings and given the opportunity to make representations."