What measures are there in place to protect safety at football matches?
Football disorder or hooliganism as it is more often called is a problem that may be less common today but is something that still persists and when it does happen is a serious threat to the safety of other football fans and to the general public.
The following strategies have been put in place to deal with football violence:
- Football banning orders
- Close and effective relations between the police, football authorities and supporter groups
- Cooperation with overseas police and authorities
- Close contact with fan groups and support for fan-led initiatives such as fan embassies which work to encourage fans to take responsibility for their own behaviour and consequently their reputation
What is a football banning order?
A football banning order is a civil order rather than a criminal sanction and is used as a preventative tactic rather than a penalty for past behaviour. The purpose of them is to stop known hooligans causing trouble at football matches both home and abroad.
Football banning orders were first introduced by the Football (Offences and Disorder) Act 1999.
A football banning order can be used to ban a certain individual from attending football matches both home and abroad for a period of between 2 and 10 years. Precise conditions can also be imposed on a case-by-case basis.
Further than simply being banned from attending the matches individuals who are subject to football banning orders can also be banned from using public transport on match days and from visiting other potential violent “hotspots” such as town centres, certain pubs and bars. The bans from public places will only be during potential risk periods before and following matches.
When may a football banning order be imposed?
Football banning orders can be imposed for one of the following reasons:
- Previous football violence
- Convicted of football related violence
- During a control period
Previous Football Violence
If the police have evidence that a certain individual has previously caused or been involved in either violence or disorder at football matches and who continues to pose a threat. In this instance the police can apply to a magistrates court to have a football banning order imposed on the basis of a variety of evidence. Examples of this evidence will be:
- Video recordings – these can be from home or abroad
- Any convictions overseas received for violence or disorder
- Any reports compiled by police intelligence
Convicted of a football related offence
If an individual has been convicted of a football related offence the law requires that the court must impose the football banning order if it is satisfied that an order will help to prevent any further football related violence or disorder.
What is meant by a football related offence?
A football related offence can be almost any criminal offence connected with football which is committed in any location happening 24 hours either side of a football match.
During a Control Period
A control period will start five days before an overseas match or tournament and will last until the event has finished. The police have the power to intercept and prevent an individual (who is not already subject to a banning order) from travelling if they have evidence that that person has previously been involved in violence or disorder and that they have grounds for suspecting that the individual continues to pose a risk. An individual who has been intercepted in this manner must face court proceedings for a banning order within 24 hours of being intercepted.
The third category will be operation for this summer’s World Cup in South Africa meaning that there will be a police presence at all UK airports in order to intercept possible offenders.
The police will also be working in conjunction with the South African police in order to prevent potential hooligans travelling to the tournament.
Violence or Disorder
A football banning order will be imposed in relation to violence or disorder at football matches. Violence is defined by the Act as meaning violence against persons or property including threatening violence and doing anything which endangers the life of any person.
Disorder is said to include the following behaviour:
- Stirring up hatred against a group of persons defined by colour, race, nationality or ethnic or national origins or against an individual as a member of such a group
Using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour or disorderly behaviour
Displaying any writing or other thing which is threatening, abusive or insulting
- The definitions of violence and disorder by the Act are not restricted to violence or disorder connected with football.
What conditions can be imposed by a football banning order?
As well as being banned from attending regulation football matches the court can impose the following further conditions upon the subject of a football banning order:
- Restricted zones
- Passports and reporting
Individuals who are subject to a football banning order can be restricted from being present in certain areas for a period or 2 hours before to 2 hours after a match and can be banned from the rail network without the prior approval of the British Transport Police.
Passports and Reporting
A person who has been given a football banning order will be required to report to a specific police station within 5 days.
In exceptional circumstances they will also be required to surrender their passport and report to a police station during the control periods in relation to matches outside the UK.
According to Section 35 of the Public Order Act 1986 a court can order an individual who is subject to a football banning order to attend a specific police station at a specified time within seven days to have their photograph taken in order to allow the police to identify them at matches if they have breached their order.
A power of arrest exists for disobedience in relation to this photograph.
How long will a football banning order last for?
The length of a football banning order will depend on whether an individual has been convicted of an offence and whether they have been ordered to immediate imprisonment:
- When made following a conviction a football banning order may be made for up to ten years if immediate imprisonment is imposed, the minimum in this scenario will be a six year football banning order.
- When made following a conviction but where no immediate imprisonment is imposed the maximum period shall be five years and the minimum three years.
- If it is simply an order imposed on the above grounds but where there has not been a conviction the maximum shall be three years and the minimum two years.
Declaration of Relevance
Under Section 23 of the Football Spectators Act the court cannot make a football banning order unless it is satisfied that the offence is football related. The court must therefore make a declaration of relevance that the offence is football related once the prosecutor has served notice on the defendant of this fact.
Are there any other measures imposed to deal with violence and disorder at football matches?
Section 27 of the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 gives police powers to move individuals from a designated area for up to 48 hours.
A power originally put in place in order to combat alcohol related behaviour has been extended to be used in relation to football matches much to the displeasure of the Football Supporters Federations (FSF).