Whilst celebrations continue following back-to-back promotions for the Saints, the return to top flight football will bring both positives and negatives.
Southampton FC’s return after relegation and administration has fascinated many fans, and increased business is just one of the benefits of extra interest in the club.
However, figures from a Home Office report suggest the extra supporters could bring an increase in match day crime.
Last season, the Championship welcomed 9.6 million spectators whilst the top flight attracted nearly 4 million more.
The report shows that the Premier League saw over 500 more arrests than the Championship over the course of the season which included a staggering 595 alcohol related offences, 422 more than tier the Saints are leaving.
Public order arrests were also more common as were cases of ticket touting.
In comparison, the average number of arrests per club last season were 31 for the Championship and 76 for the Premier League.
Paul Howlett, a retired Police Chief Superintendent who grew up a Southampton supporter, says there are ‘well established networks’ to manage football matches.
‘If Southampton were playing away, police football intelligence officers would travel and liaise with the home side’s police and if Southampton were at home then the away team would send their intelligence officers.’ Says Howlett, 56.
‘They would be looking to shepherd away supporters to protect them from the home fans whilst looking out for known trouble-makers.’
But Hampshire Constabulary will need to be wary as they have already come under fire for their ‘bubble’ system employed during the South-Coast derby between Southampton and Portsmouth.
One of the more controversial issues in policing is paying for police, Howlett raises the question: ‘why should the taxpayer have to fund extra officers just for football?’
The former top-cop says ‘it is often cheaper to have trained stewards to work instead of the police and cooperate with them when necessary.’
Whilst crime is just one of the many challenges that will be faced in this new era for the club, fans are still optimistic for the future.
Lifelong supporter, Michael Bromley calls the back-to-back promotions a ‘great achievement’.
The 25 year old from Dibden Purlieu, near Hythe, says ‘there’s a good vibe.’
‘As with the FA Cup run and finals in 2003, you can see the smiles on people’s faces’.
Bromley, who has been attending matches from a young age believes ‘the publicity from top flight football brings positives for business which would be good for Southampton’s shopping centres and maybe even the tourism industry.’
Southampton will be welcoming the Premier League back into the city and there is no doubt that the club and fans will be eagerly anticipating the next season as well as the challenges it will bring.