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Football-related arrests: downward trend continues

The almost-decade long decline in football-related arrests shows no signing of stopping according to the latest round of Home Office statistics.

There were 1,381 football-related arrests recorded across the 2018-19 season, a 10% decrease on the previous year. Additionally, the number of active football banning orders also continues to fall, the current 1,771 banning orders in force representing a 3% decrease from last year.

Football-related arrests are now at record lows, with just 3.3 arrests per 100,000 spectators – comparing favourably to other large-scale public events.

“It’s reassuring to see this long-term downward trend continue,” said FSA casework Amanda Jacks. “These figures show what match-going supporters know instinctively – that the overwhelming majority of games pass without significant incident.”

The most common offence types leading to the arrests were public disorder (38%) and violent disorder (19%). Clubs with the highest number of supporters arrested were Stoke City (80 arrests), Leeds United (49 arrests) and Aston Villa (42 arrests).

There were an additional 155 football-related arrests by British Transport Police last season, a 28% (34) increase from 121 in the previous season. The most common offence type continues to be public disorder (50%).

However, compared with the recent peak in the 2015/16 season, the total number of BTP football-related arrests has fallen by 55% (-193).

Incidents down

This is the first year that the Home Office has included “reported incidents at football fixtures” an experimental statistic that relies on information provided by the UK Football Policing Unit (UKFPU).

They say reported incidents include football related anti-social behaviour, violence and disorder – but it is unclear from the Home Office release what the threshold for an incident is, or how robust this data is.

Last season there were 1,007 fixtures with “reported incidents”, a decrease of 4% on the previous season.

The Home Office say they will continue to evaluate the new statistic in conjunction with the UK Statistics Authority.

The full picture

The headline figures represent more good news for football supporters in a year when high-profile pitch incursions caused hysteria in the national media around football-related disorder and a potential return to the “bad old days”.

However, Amanda would like to see a more comprehensive set of statistics to allow for detailed analysis of football-related disorder.

“Until we get conviction rates and the number of banning orders arriving from these arrests or incidents we won’t have the full picture,” she said.

“Investigations and court-proceedings can take time, years in some cases, so that data could be more difficult to provide.

“But it’s doable and not an unreasonable ask – it would be vital data for supporters in their ongoing discussions with the authorities around how they’re perceived and policed.”

Thanks to PA Images for the image used in this article.

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