Football Spectator Violence

Is there any legislation which deals specifically with Football Spectator Violence?

Violence surrounding football has been a problem throughout the UK since the 1970’s. It is a heavily publicised area of violence and at times gives both the country and the sport a bad name. It is not, however, something which is simply limited to football within the UK as throughout many countries in Europe there are huge problems concerning violence associated with the biggest spectator sport in the world.

In the UK currently there are civil measures such as the Football Banning Order which can be used to ban known individuals from attending football matches, to stop certain individuals traveling abroad for matches, to prevent certain areas of a city near a football ground from being attended and even to stop individuals traveling on British Rail during a specified time frame.

There is also legislation which has been adopted by the European Union in relation to football spectator violence, most notably the European Convention on Spectator Violence.

The European Convention on Spectator Violence

What is the European Convention on Spectator Violence?

The European Convention on Spectator Violence and Misbehaviour at Sports Events entered into force on 1 November 1985 and concerns all sports in general but it was brought in specifically in relation to the many problems associated with football.

It aims to prevent and control spectator violence and misbehavior as well as to ensure the safety of all spectators at sporting events throughout Europe.

The Convention commits the European Union Member States to take practical measures in order to both prevent and control violence. There are also key provisions within the convention which set out the measures for identifying and prosecuting offenders.

One of the most important aspects of the European Convention on Spectator Violence was that it set up the Standing Committee which follows the implementation of the Convention, adopts recommendations and to reply to any new difficulties suffered.

What is contained within the Convention?

The European Convention on Spectator Violence centers on the following three themes:

  1. Prevention
  2. Cooperation
  3. Repression

When concerned with prevention of football violence the European Convention deals with the following aspects and measures:

  • Deploying public order resources within the stadia
  • Deploying public order resources along transit routes used by spectators
  • Separating rival groups of supporters
  • Placing strict controls upon the sale of tickets to achieve segregation within the stadia
  • Excluding known individuals from the stadia
  • Limiting or prohibiting the sale of alcohol within the stadia
  • Conducting appropriate security checks – in relation to weapons, dangerous objects etc
  • Clearly defining responsibilities between organisers and public authorities
  • Designing football stadia in a way to guarantee spectator safety
  • Development of social and educational measures to prevent violence and racism

The Convention details the importance of cooperation between the individual sports clubs or event organisers and the police authorities of all countries involved during the organisation of major international sporting events. This could include the police of the host nation and the nations competing in the tournament and the reason for this is it will give the best understanding of how to identify the possible risks and thus prevent them before they happen.

All meetings prior to international events such as the World Cup or European Championships are conducted within the framework of the Convention.


The above legal cooperation should enable the possible identification of individuals known to cause trouble and to partake in football violence. This will then lead to their exclusion from stadiums and matches, the transfer of legal proceedings to their country of origin for sentencing and extradition or the transfer of those found guilty of violence in and around football matches or any other sporting contest.

Monitoring Member States Compliance

In 1998 a compliance programme for monitoring the individual European Union Member States compliance was launched. Consultative visits were then organised in order to help various countries implement the policies and programmes required for compliance with the convention.

Evaluation visits are also organised which then lead to publication of the evaluation reports.

Each Member State which is a party to the convention will be required to submit an annual report to the Standing Committee detailing the steps it has taken to implement the provisions contained within the Convention.

The Standing Committee

What is the Standing Committee?

The Standing Committee is the body which is in charge of monitoring the application of the European Convention on Spectator Violence.

Function of the Standing Committee

The main function of the Standing Committee is to ensure that the European Union Member States which are parties to the Convention respect the terms of the Convention.

Specifically at major international tournaments such as the World Cup and the European Championships the Standing Committee sets up an ad hoc division within it to specifically evaluate the security provisions prior to and during the event. Following the event the ad hoc division will continue the evaluation in order to establish any lessons learnt from the event.

What is the structure of the Standing Committee?

The Standing Committee is made up of one or more national delegates who have been nominated by the individual Governments of the European Union Member States which are parties to the Convention. Each individual Government will make the decision as to how long their delegate will remain in office.

A Chair and two Vice-Chairs will be elected through a majority voting system. The term of the Chair and Vice Chairs will last for a period of two years after which another election will take place. An individual holding the position of Chair of Vice Chair can be re-elected only once.

How often does the Standing Committee meet?

The Standing Committee meets in Strasbourg once a year at the headquarters of the Council of Europe or in a host country before the opening of one of the aforementioned events.

Decision making process

Each European Union Member State which is a party to the Convention holds one vote and all decisions as to appropriate courses of action are taken by majority voting.