As of 1 January 2014, organisers no longer have to reimburse the police for the cost of maintaining order at public events and public gatherings organised for the purpose of making a profit. Statskontoret (The Swedish Agency for Public Management) has been commissioned by the Government to analyse the effects of abolishing this obligation.
The reimbursement obligation was contested and abolished
The content of the legislation has varied over the years, but there has been some form of obligation since 1868. The reimbursement obligation was limited to events organised for the purpose of making a profit, and non-profit organisations have been exempt. There has long been an acceptance that organisers of events based on commercial interests, such as concerts, should reimburse the State for the cost of policing such events. It was only when the police began to apply the reimbursement obligation to sporting limited companies that the law was contested and subsequently abolished. The fact is that some sports clubs are organised as limited liability companies and others as non-profit associations, and applying the reimbursement obligation to sporting limited companies alone was perceived as unfair.
Police costs are unchanged
Police costs for maintaining order have not changed as a result of the abolition of the reimbursement obligation. Nor has there been a reduction in the organisers' efforts to maintain order and security. This means that the organisers have not shifted the costs of maintaining order over to the police as a result of the abolition.
The police continue to have very high costs in connection with certain specific events, in particular football derbies in Stockholm. In these cases, the removal of the reimbursement obligation has not made any difference.
The reimbursements yielded relatively modest revenues for the treasury and, in connection with certain events, these did not correspond to the actual cost of policing. Furthermore, the reimbursement obligation created a disproportionately large administrative burden for the police. This work diverted resources away from the legal operations, permit operations and the operational activities.
Improved climate for cooperation but no visible impact on order
During the short time that the reimbursement obligation was applied to sporting limited companies, the climate for cooperation between the police and the clubs in question was decidedly frosty. According to both parties, cooperation has significantly improved following the abolition of the reimbursement obligation. However, Statskontoret has not seen any signs that the improved climate for cooperation has had any effect on order; in this respect, there are still major problems, primarily in Stockholm. Nor can we assess whether any effects of the improved situation in terms of public order can be expected in the future.
Issuing conditions is a more practicable approach
Overall, the reimbursement obligation was not an effective tool for the police at sporting events. At concerts and festivals it has worked better, but disturbances rarely occur during these events to the same extent as they do during, in particular, football derbies.
Today, the conditions that apply to the issuing of permits remain a tool for the police. Through permits, the police have ample opportunity to impose conditions prior to an event, for example a football derby. Examples of conditions that can be imposed if order and security could not be maintained at previous events include limiting the number of spectators in the standing areas, sectioning the terraces or cancelling the event.
The police conduct a dialogue with the organisers when specifying the conditions for an event. Both the police and the football clubs also state, as mentioned above, that the climate for cooperation has improved significantly since the reimbursement obligation was abolished. There should therefore now be good opportunities to deepen the dialogue and formulate stricter conditions for high-risk events such as football derbies.
Another advantage is that the police do not have to prepare cost evaluations before every event and can instead broaden the perspective and relate the imposition of conditions to the event's expected total cost to society. Public funds must be used as effectively and appropriately as possible. It is therefore reasonable to reduce the societal cost of certain football matches in particular.