The case of the incredibly clever soccer thugs which influence FOI decisions

My local daily newspaper, the Lancashire Telegraph, has been making strong use of the Freedom of Information Act in recent days – no doubt to ensure they have enough stories to see them through the Christmas period.

(Just as an aside, the editor of the Northern Echo, Peter Barron, wrote on Christmas Day on Twitter that “the news doesn’t stop just because it’s Christmas” when explaining he was off into the office. I think he’s wrong – the news normally does stop at Christmas, it’s just the production of newspapers which keeps going at full pelt.)

Anyway, the Lancashire Telegraph asked Lancashire Police a number of questions relating to the costs of policing the Blackburn Rovers v Burnley FC football derby, which normally attracts a fair amount of trouble, but which also is very well covered by police.

It’s one of those questions you’d expect the police to answer – after all, the cost of policing demonstrations, royal visits etc is often put forward by the police straight off.

The LT reports today:

The Lancashire Telegraph asked a number of questions under the Freedom of Information Act about the details of the Rovers versus Clarets operation, including the number of officers involved, the cost of policing the game, and how much each club contributed.

The response it got, as reported in the paper, was as follows:

The force’s Corporate Support and Information Services said it believed providing a detailed breakdown could ‘allow an individual to compare the costs of, and various resources deployed at, each match and then potentially use this information to calculate a prediction for the level of policing planned for future matches’.

The response to our FOI questions referred to a ‘real risk’ posed by organised groups of fans targeting games with ‘less chance of being detected’.

It suggested criminals might then take advantage of diverted police resources and mentioned the ‘impact of an increase in the level of football related disorder’ in relation to the other emergency services and even the community.

So in other words, football hooligans in East Lancashire are so smart that by being told how many officers were on duty for the game, and how much was spent by the force on policing the game, including how much each club chipped in, they’ll be able to work out how to evade the police next time?

Somehow, I think it’s more a case of the thugs seeing what the police did on the ground on the day that will play more in their minds when trying to cause trouble without police interference next time.

I hope it is one the LT appeals.

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