Will festivals and sports clubs soon have to pay for policing?

According to Interior minister Annelies Verlinden (CD&V), the federal government should consider introducing shared policing costs for major events. The proposal, made in an interview with the weekly magazine Knack, would make the organisers of events responsible for some of the security costs.

According to the latest figures, the taxpayer pays 11 million euros a year for police presence at football matches. This, along with security at other sports and events, puts pressure on the police service. It also costs the taxpayer a lot of money to keep police on duty, especially as many events take place in the evenings and at weekends, requiring officers to work expensive overtime.

To ease this burden, the police have been advocating shared costs for years. Organisers would then be responsible for some of the security costs themselves. Verlinden wants to start this conversation, she told Knack.

"At the moment, resources are limited. That is why we should dare to look at paid policing"

"Although Flanders is full of entrepreneurship, from festivals to major sporting events, I also look at what is expected of the police. And at the moment, resources are limited. That is why we should dare to look at paid policing," she said.

The idea of shared policing costs is not new. In 2012, then Interior minister Joëlle Milquet (cdH, now Les Engagés) proposed a similar measure. However, organisers of festivals and the Jupiler Pro League, Belgium's top football league, were critical of the plans.

"Nine out of ten festivals are run by volunteers, and they don't make much money"

Even today, there seems to be little enthusiasm in the event sector, as Serge Platel of the Federatie Muziekfestivals Vlaanderen considers Verlinden's idea impractical. "Nine out of ten festivals are run by volunteers, and they don't make much money," he says. Moreover, Platel believes it's the government's job to ensure public order. "If we have to add that, it's all over for many festivals."

Platel also points out that many festivals already rely on private security or volunteers to protect the festival site. "Depending on the size of the festival, this is agreed in a security plan with the authorities and the police," he says.





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