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Football arrests continue long-term downward trend

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

Football-related arrests have fallen once more continuing a long-term trend towards historically low levels according to Home Office statistics released this week.

Over the 2017-18 season there were 1,542 football-related arrests, a 6% decrease of 96 on the previous season. Additionally the number of live football banning orders, and new banning orders issued, also fell.

There has been a steady decline in the total number of active football banning orders in the last seven seasons, falling by 43% (-1,352) from 3,174 in November 2011.

“It’s very pleasing to see football-related arrests falling again,” said FSF caseworker Amanda Jacks. “Any match-going fan will know that the overwhelming majority of supporters are well behaved and that matchdays mostly pass without incident – these figures once again reflect that.

“Despite football supporters being subjected to the most draconian legislation of any other mainstream pastime in England and Wales, fan behaviour by-and-large is constantly getting better and we hope to see recent improvements in policing and planning continue to become more widespread in the coming years.”

The arrest rate was just 3.5 football-related arrests per 100,000 attendees – comparing favourably to other large scale public events. Of all competitions with 30 arrests or more, League Two had the highest arrest rate of 8.6 per 100,000 attendees whilst European club competitions had the lowest of 1.2 arrests per 100,000 attendees.

Across the 2017-18 season the three most common offence types were public disorder (36%), violent disorder (20%) and pitch incursion (12%).

Though the headline figures are good news and confirm once again a positive long-term trend, Amanda said that the Home Office statistics don’t provide the full picture.

“These figures only tell half the story,” Amanda said. “Arrests for pitch incursions don’t tell us whether they were from celebratory pitch invasions, fans falling onto the pitch from overspill or whether a pitch invader had sinister intent.

“The same applies to something like missile throwing – a season ticket lobbed onto the pitch in protest at the club’s management is regarded the same in these statistics as a bottle thrown aggressively at opposition fans.”

Crucially, conviction rates resulting from football-related arrests are not included in Home Office’s release and although court cases can be time consuming, Amanda believes the Government should release such figures.

“Despite the fall in banning orders we’re still seeing prosecutors seeking banning orders on first offences, no matter how minor the charge,” Amanda said.

“Just because it’s football the CPS guidance removes discretion from police forces and prosecutors – we’d like to see this improved and become more flexible in future.”

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 PA Images for the image used in this blog.

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