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Advice for fans: Watching Football Is Not A Crime!

This is a story from the FSF archive – the FSF and SD merged to become the FSA in 2019.

The FSF is here to help fans who’ve found themselves in a spot of bother. In this blog Caseworker Amanda Jacks runs through some of the more familiar scenarios and offers a little advice on what to do next…

It’s important to stress that the vast majority of supporters attending games go home without being arrested or having had any real contact with the police (or stewards).

With that in mind we hope you’ll never need the advice in this article but, nonetheless, it is important that supporters are aware of their rights on arrest and know what to do in the event they wish to make a complaint about how they’ve been treated.

I’ve been arrested, help!

The more you co-operate with the police the easier you’ll find the experience. The police don’t like smart a***s and remember, they’ve got the keys to your cell so if you want to get out faster, don’t mess them around, be polite and don’t swear at them.

The absolute Golden Rule is to say yes to the offer of legal representation and never, ever admit to an offence you’re not guilty of to “get it over with” or “so you can get home”.

You are entitled to free legal advice at the police station by a solicitor completely independent of the police. Even if you have to wait for this, wait. You may think you’ve been wrongfully arrested and therefore don’t need a solicitor. Wrong. You definitely do.

Do NOT accept a caution in the absence of legal advice. A caution isn’t a “slap on the wrist” – it is an admission of guilt and will stay on your record. If you’ve been given a Fixed Penalty Notice, do not pay it before speaking to the Football Supporters’ Federation.

I’ve been charged or bailed pending further enquiries, what next?

Phone the FSF immediately. We refer supporters to an excellent solicitor who has dealt with many, many fans with an overwhelming success rate. Her initial advice will be free of charge and, if she does represent you, charges will be kept as low as possible.

If you are successful in your case, you may be able to reclaim some of your costs. If you’re entitled to legal aid, you’ll get it. Your mates might give well-meaning advice but you’ll be better off speaking to a solicitor experienced in football-related matters, trust us.

I’ve been served with a section 14b Football Banning Order (FBO), is it worth contesting?

We’ve heard from fans who say the police officer serving them with an FBO told them there was no point in contesting it, it will be too expensive and that the FBO will be made longer if they do. Ignore this “advice” – don’t sign on the dotted line, ring us instead.

We offer preliminary advice as to the merit of contesting the application free of charge. Sometimes solicitors say there’s little point in fighting it but that’s not always the case – we’ve seen several cases of fans successfully contesting FBOs.

Can I take photographs or film the police? Can they film us?

The answer to both those question is yes (although it is against ground regulations to photograph or record the game itself).

Don’t be intimidated if the police tell you it is “illegal” for you to take their pictures. It isn’t. Nor do they (or stewards) have the power to make you delete any images. If you’re filmed at a game, and feel uncomfortable about how these images might be used, let us know and we can offer advice about how the images might be used.

Can the police make me join an escort or hold me in a pub before or after a game?

There isn’t a straightforward answer to that question as every instance will be different and there will be occasions when it is perfectly lawful for the police to dictate your movements. If you want to challenge their actions, ask to speak to a senior officer and make your case (politely!) to be allowed to move of your own free will. If they say no, ask them what powers they’re acting under and keep a note of their shoulder number as it may be possible to challenge their decision afterwards.

I’m not happy with the policing and/or stewarding today, what can I do?

Get in touch with us and we can advise and support you through the complaints procedure and, if appropriate, take the complaint up or refer you to solicitors who can advise on the merit of legal action.

Don’t ignore how you’ve been treated it or shrug it off as being part and parcel of being a fan. Sometimes supporters are their own worst enemies in that we have an “expect and accept” mentality – we expect the worst and accept it when it happens.

The complaints process isn’t always an easy one, you can’t guarantee the outcome and it is time consuming. But this is what we’re here for and if we don’t know it’s happening we won’t be able to do anything about it – we’re only as good as the information we receive.

You’re a football supporter who invests a lot of emotional energy – not to say money – in supporting your team. You do have rights and a reasonable expectation of being treated as a law-abiding citizen. Sadly this isn’t always the case but never forget, Watching Football Is Not A Crime!

You can contact Amanda Jacks, Caseworker for the FSF, via:

Amanda is happy to take calls outside of normal office hours, including weekends.

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