PCC Blog 65

What’s the difference between cricket and football?

One answer has got to be: police overtime. We don’t have Test Match cricket in South Yorkshire and so I may be quite wrong about this, but I imagine the call on police resources in Leeds, Manchester or Birmingham to maintain order for one afternoon of football far exceeds anything a cricket match requires even over several days.

What I note, as an outside observer, is the difference in crowd culture between football fans and cricket supporters. They can both be very partisan and equally passionate and vocal, though if anything these days, the crowd at cricket matches can be more colourful. (All very different from when I went to Grace Road and Filbert Street in my youth.) But what you cannot do at a football match is have supporters from opposing sides sitting together, intermingling.

I have many good friends who are normally quite sane, calm and rational – some of them are even MPs – until they come within a few yards of a football stadium. Then raucousness, excitability and irrationality take over.

At the Test Match – I am writing this on day two, confidently expecting an England victory – emotions are running high, yet people are not segregated and no one is behaving badly towards supporters of the other side. Passion is defused through shared good humour.

How do we get cricket culture into football grounds? That could be the greatest contribution football could make towards the overtime bills of the police service.

Making a difference

There is no doubt, however, that sport can play a really significant role both in keeping some of our young people out of trouble, and, more importantly, in teaching how to behave well by learning self-control and respect for others.

Last week I visited the Firth Park Boxing Academy in one of the more deprived parts of Sheffield. We had given them some funding and I wanted to see how they had spent it and what they did in their sessions. By chance, the former Sports Minister, Richard Caborn, was also visiting. He maintains a keen interest in amateur boxing.

The club is housed in a room that was at one time part of a pub, now closed and turned into flats. The developer and former owner has very kindly given the club a long lease at a peppercorn rent so their future is secure. It is open seven days a week with a session for younger ones in the first part of the evening, then the older ones later.

There were dozens of children and young people, mainly boys but some girls as well, and from all the different ethnic groups who live locally. They were all energetic and active and there was a really friendly buzz in the hall.

The parents I spoke to said the club was a ‘godsend’ and a ‘lifeline’, somewhere ‘safe’ that they could send their children to. They had no doubt that their young people were better behaved, more responsible and more focused because of the values of the club.

As with many such clubs, Firth Park Boxing Academy is only possible because of the devotion and determination over many years of the head coach – Nasser Hussain – and his five voluntary helpers. He started the club when he worked on the railways and is there every day. And in this case, the club was also indebted to the landlord for her sheer generosity.

One of the privileges of this job is being able to meet such people who make the lives of many of our young people richer and worthwhile, while keeping some away from potential criminality.

A part-time deputy

I am one of the few, if not the only, PCC who has never had a deputy. I have taken the view that most of the time, people want to see the PCC not a deputy at meetings and events. But also, we have to justify every penny of public money we spend because this is not a wealthy part of the country. Not having a deputy has meant that I have spent many long days in the office and then at evening and weekend engagements. And sometimes I have not been able to be in two places at the same time.

But the Home Office has indicated that it wants each PCC to have a deputy because there can be circumstances when a PCC may be incapacitated and decisions still have to be taken. This has happened in one or two police force areas in recent years and has caused some difficulties. A deputy may become mandatory anyway when the current Home Office Review of PCCs is concluded.

So I have decided to see if we can have a deputy. I don’t think I need someone full-time, but I will be looking for someone who in some key respects is not like me or who can bring something distinctive and different that would add value to what we do and help policing in some crucial respect. For instance, a deputy might have an interest in particular aspects of policing or criminal justice – such as rural crime or youth justice – or be from an ethnic minority. There are a number of possibilities, and if anyone feels they could help in this way, I would be happy to hear from them. However, even though a deputy PCC, like the PCC, has to be politically impartial, they still have to be a member of the same political party as the PCC.

As to the finance, we already have something in the budget.

Mohammed Munib Majeedi

We were all shaken by the news that this little boy, known as Munib, had died after falling from a window in the Metropolitan Hotel, Sheffield. His family had left Afghanistan when the Taliban took over the country because Mr Majeedi had worked for the British Embassy. The hotel was being used to house refugees.

A former member of our Independent Ethics Panel, Imam Mohammad Ismail, whom some of you will know, texted me last week to say that he had just taken the funeral service of Munib. He went on to say, “The family was very grateful for the support received from mosques, council, police and others.”

The death of a young boy in this way would be sad in any circumstances, but for a family who had just escaped from what must have seemed like the worst possible future imaginable, this was especially cruel. We owe thanks to the police family liaison officer who assisted them.

Stay safe and well.