It’s not often we blow our own trumpet at the FSF, we’re far too shy and retiring for that sort of thing and prefer to let our work do the talking. That’s why it’s always nice when someone else bigs us up and gives us a great big thank you for a job well done, which was the case this week.
A fan (who’s asked not to be named) got in touch with us offering us his account of a recent incident that could’ve ended up rather nastily for him, were it not for the assistance that we provided.
Of course, it’s all in a day’s work for us, but we know that each individual’s case can feel like the end of the world when they’re facing prosecution or another unnecessary banning order that the police are trying to foist on them.
This story is typical of the sorts of things we hear week in, week out, and we’re only too happy to provide advice and assistance to supporters who find themselves in trouble. In this case, as in so many others, the FSF’s intervention has helped a supporter out of a sticky situation and some unnecessary trouble with the police.
Rather than covering ourselves in glory, however, we’ll leave him to tell the story in his own words:
Supporting my team is not just a case of turning up and being there, it’s a way of life; which is why my heart sunk when I was told I could be facing a football banning order at the age of 17.
I had arranged to go to London Road, Peterborough, with my mates for an away game. We arrived around 2 hours before kickoff and decided to follow the masses and have a few drinks before getting into the ground around 45 minutes before kickoff. The game had started off fairly slowly, and at one point me and my friend decided to go to the toilet. Upon leaving the toilet we were approached by stewards who said we looked too drunk to go back into the stands, which was fair enough, and were advised by the stewards that if we left without any hassle then the police would not be informed.
We left the ground and were met by police officers. They took my details and the next thing I was put into the back of a police van and taken to the local police station, where I was put in a cell for around six or seven hours and was charged with “being drunk in a sports ground”. I was also informed that I would have to attend Peterborough Magistrates Court, 70 miles away from my home town, and that because the offence was football related, an application for a football banning order had been filed. At no time had I caused any problems, and was completely cooperative with all forms of authority.
I thought that as I had followed instructions and listened to the advice of both the police and stewards I would be allowed to leave the area of the football stadium without there being any further actions. This was not the case; instead the police seemed hell bent on making me an example despite me being compliant. My father spoke to the police officer and was told that under normal circumstances I would have been allowed to go on my way, but because I was near a football ground I was going to be arrested.
After speaking with fellow football fans on the internet a Cardiff City fan advised me to get in touch with The Football Supporters Federation. I sent them an e-mail informing them of what had happened and I was put in contact with Amanda Jacks, who I spoke to on the phone; she informed me that as I was only 17 and still in full time education (college) I would be entitled to legal aid. The FSF arranged for a solicitor to get in contact with me and the following day a solicitor contacted me, and I was sent the forms to apply for legal aid.
I had planned the day off college and also transport arrangements to and from Peterborough for my first appearance at court. It was arranged for a Thursday, and on the Friday before I was sent a letter telling me that my court date had been changed to the Monday as I had to appear in front of the Youth Court, and if I didn’t turn up then I would be committing an offence.
After getting in touch with the court, I was told that my local police were given the message to tell me at the start of the week (I was given the message on the Friday). The court agreed that it just wasn’t possible for me to attend on the Monday and the court agreed to put it back a week.
I spoke to my solicitor a few days later and he informed me that the Crown Prosecution Service could not believe that my case had got this far and believed that it should have been dealt with at the Police Station, although the officer was still keen on a banning order being placed. My solicitor tried to get the court appearance adjourned, for the arresting officer to decide whether or not he wanted to the case to continue on to court. Unfortunately my solicitor could not get the paperwork through in time as I had only spoken to him at very short notice and I would have to appear at court for the case to be adjourned. I appeared in front of the Youth Court, and was literally in there for 30 seconds, where they agreed to adjourn the case for 3 weeks.
A week later we were visited by local police who informed me that the arresting officer was willing to let the case go after advice from the Crown Prosecution Service. I went to my local police station and signed the paperwork and was issued with just a reprimand, which I consider a great result as I had initially worked myself up for a fine and a possible banning order.
Throughout the whole case the FSF was fully supportive of me and responded to every email I sent. If it wasn’t for my initial contact with Amanda I would have attended court without representation and accepted whatever the court had to throw at me.