Football banning orders

Football disorder or hooliganism is a less common problem today, but it still persists and when it does happen, it is a serious threat to the safety of other football fans and to the general public. One of the most effective weapons used to combat football related disorder or violence is the football banning order.

What is a football banning order?

Football banning orders were introduced by the Football Spectators Act 1989 (FSA 1989). They are civil orders which aim to stop known hooligans causing trouble at and around football matches, both home and abroad.

They are usually imposed by the court after someone has been convicted of a football related offence, although they can be imposed even after an acquittal. Police can also apply to the magistrates’ court for a banning order if an individual has caused or contributed to any violence or disorder in the UK or elsewhere and the court is satisfied that making a banning order would help to prevent violence or disorder at, or in connection with, any regulated football matches.

They can be used to ban an individual from attending football matches both home and abroad for a period of between two and 10 years. Precise conditions can also be imposed on a case-by-case basis.

Apart from being banned from attending the matches, individuals subject to football banning orders can also be:

  • barred from using public transport on match days and from visiting other potential violent ‘hotspots’ such as town centres, pubs and bars during potential risk periods before and following matches;
  • required to report in at, or surrender their passport to, their local police station during the ‘control period’ (ie, from five days before any international tournament until its conclusion);
  • required to report to a specific police station within five days of the order being made;
  • required by a court under the Public Order Act 1986 to attend a police station at a specified time within seven days of the order being made to have their photograph taken, to allow the police to identify them at matches if they have breached their order.

What is a football related offence?

If an individual has been convicted of a football related offence 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.

Specific football related offences are outlined in the Football (Offences) Act 1991 (throwing of missiles onto the playing area or into the crowd; racialist or indecent chanting at a football match; going onto the playing area); the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 (unauthorised persons (ticket touts) selling or otherwise disposing of a ticket to a designated football match); and the Sporting Events (Control of Alcohol etc.) Act 1985 (carrying alcohol in vehicles on route to designated sporting events; possession of alcohol at or upon entering a designated sporting event; being drunk at a designated sporting event; having a flare or firework etc. whilst entering, trying to enter or being at a designated sports ground during the period of a designated sporting event).

A football related offence, however, can be almost any criminal offence connected with football which is committed in any location happening 24 hours either side of a football match. In such cases, police need to produce evidence that the behaviour was somehow football related: tickets, fanzines, programmes, football paraphernalia and the wearing of football strips can all be useful in this regard.

Violence and disorder

Violence is defined by the FSA 1989 as 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.


Under FSA 1989, 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 a maximum of ten years and a minimum of six years if an immediate prison sentence is imposed.
  • When made following a conviction for a football related offence, but where no immediate imprisonment is imposed, the maximum period is five years and the minimum three years.
  • Where a banning order is imposed following an application of the police to the court, but where there has been no conviction, the maximum is three years and the minimum two years.

Termination of football banning orders

Under s 14H of FSA 1989 , someone subject to a banning order may apply to the court to have it lifted if it has been in effect for at least two-thirds of the period specified. When deciding whether to terminate the order, the court will consider the person’s character, his conduct since the banning order was made, the nature of the offence or conduct which led to it and any other circumstances which appear to it to be relevant.

Other measures

Section 27 of the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 gives police powers to move individuals from a designated area for up to 48 hours.

Article written by...
Lucy Trevelyan LLB
Lucy Trevelyan LLB

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Lucy graduated in law from the University of Greenwich, and is also an NCTJ trained journalist. A legal writer and editor with over 20 years' experience writing about the law.