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An idiot’s guide to Football Banning Orders

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

You may have seen police press releases about football hooligans being reigned-in by Football Banning Orders in the news last week. FSF caseworker Amanda Jacks tells us more about these orders, uniqe to football…

We are just under 100 days away from Euro 2016 and inevitably the media have already started reporting how “up to 2,000 Hooligans Stopped from Travelling to France”.

Football Banning Orders (FBOs) were first introduced in 1989 by the Football Spectators Act and were originally intended to prevent violent and/or repeat offenders attending football matches here and abroad.

Today we see FBO applications attached to virtually every charge sheet regardless of the offence and the history or background of the alleged offender.

We’ve seen banning order applications made against fans – all first time offenders – who’ve thrown fancy dress trousers, chewing gum, sweets and till roll, sworn at stewards, fans pushed onto the pitch during goal celebrations, middle-aged otherwise respectable men who’ve been drunk trying to enter a stadium and teenagers who’ve been found with a can of beer in their pockets or who’ve been chanting on trains.

If any of these fall into the category of “football hooligan”, I’m a super model.

If you’re interested in the legal technicalities, you can read more here but in brief to qualify for a (14a criminal) FBO you need firstly to be convicted of a football-related offence. The list of relevant offences is long and even includes drunk driving or driving under the influence of drugs to or from a football match; further it includes offences that are not related to violence.

Football-related means 24 hours either side of a match so you can commit a related offence without even setting foot in a stadium and miles away from it. Once convicted, the court has to be satisfied that granting an application will prevent future disorder. Sometimes that test is applied, other times an application will be granted automatically, particularly in cases where the supporter may not be legally represented.

Unfortunately, with a few notable exceptions, the media often repeat verbatim the press releases they are fed from the police or Home Office ahead of international tournaments so I thought it would be helpful to give a little context to FBOs. With regard to the idea that FBOs stop fans from travelling overseas, well they do, but…

  • The idea that fans on banning orders were even planning on attending an international fixture is nothing more than supposition;
  • You have to surrender your passport even if you’ve never attended an England or Wales game here or overseas;
  • There is no research whatsoever that details how many of those on FBOs follow country as well as club.

With regard to FBOs preventing disorder and violence, we don’t know conviction rates since only arrest figures are released so working on those…

  • The arrest figures from 2014/15 show that there are double the number of arrests for public disorder (threatening, abusive or distressing language) than for violent disorder;
  • Roughly a quarter of arrests last season were for alcohol related offences many of which apply only to football fans;
  • There is no evidence whatsoever that banning orders reduce football related disorder;
  • A minority of those serving FBOs have been convicted of an offence involving violence;
  • Fans on ‘civil’ banning orders may not even have any criminal convictions, let alone convictions for violent disorder.
  • As is often suggested, there is no evidence whatsoever that banning orders are the envy of the world. The suggestion is also mere supposition (and even if that were a provable assertion, so what? It doesn’t make the legislation effective)

It is often suggested that banning orders are “the envy of the world” but again this is supposition.

It doesn’t mean the legislation is effective or fair. According to Dr Geoff Pearson the biggest threat to fans attending the Euros isn’t football related disorder but bad policing and terrorism – fans travelling abroad are more likely to be victims of crime than perpetrators.

Watching Football Is Not A Crime! is part of the FSF’s ongoing drive to monitor the police in their dealings with football fans and work with them to ensure that all fans are treated fairly and within the law. You can contact FSF Caseworker Amanda Jacks via:

Thanks to Rog01 for the image used in this blog.

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