Powers of the police preventing violence at football matches

There are a number of different powers that the police have to prevent disorder and violence at football matches played within England and Wales and also abroad.

What powers do police have to prevent disorder and violence at football matches?

The Police and various authorities have the following powers to prevent disorder and violence at football matches:

  • Football banning orders
  • Section 27 of the Violent Crime and Reduction Act

Football Banning Order

What is a Football Banning Order?

Football banning orders were first introduced by the Football (Offences and Disorder) Act 1999 and are civil orders rather than a criminal sanction used as a preventative tactic to stop certain individuals being able to attend football matches both at home and abroad.

Would it be possible to bring a legal challenge against a Football Banning Orders?

Individuals may wish to bring a legal challenge against a football banning order as they feel that it is unfair to impose conditions on them not attending football matches. In some cases this can last for up to 10 years.

How will this challenge be brought?

When a football banning order is imposed on a specific individual they have a right to appeal. Any legal challenge brought against the order will thus be heard in the appeal.

On what grounds would a legal challenge be brought?

The main grounds on which a legal challenge may be brought is that the order has been unfairly imposed and that the individual concerned does not adhere to the requirements to have a football banning order imposed on them.

However, football banning orders will only be imposed if that individual has been suspected of football related violence or has in fact being convicted of football related violence.

If an individual has a conviction or there is evidence such as video evidence then it will be extremely difficult to show that the order would not have been imposed.

Would there be any other possibility of a challenge?

An individual who is the subject of a football banning order may wish to bring legal challenge regarding the duration of the football banning order.

On what grounds would this challenge be brought?

The grounds on which this challenge may be brought will relate to the individual claiming that the duration of the banning order is disproportionate to the offence committed. This again is a claim which is unlikely to succeed.

Why is this unlikely to succeed?

Football violence has been an extremely important issue prior to and since the creation of the Football (Offences and Disorder) Act with the need to eradicate it a huge issue. It is therefore unlikely that a decision taken to protect the individuals attending a football match will be decreased in favour of an individual who has been convicted or has clear evidence against them to show they are involved in violence and football matches.

Can an individual apply to have a football banning order terminated during the term of the order?

Following the expiration of two thirds of the duration of the football banning order specified by a court an application can be made back to the same court for the order to be terminated. The court will consider the reasons why the order was made in the first place alongside the conduct of the applicant since the order was made.

Section 27 of the Violent Crime and Reduction Act 2006

What powers do the police have under Section 27?

Under Section 27 the police have the powers to move individuals from a designated area for up to 48 hours. This power was originally put in place to combat alcohol related behaviour whereas now it has been extended to be used at football matches.

Is this power open to potential abuse?

There have been instances of the police using this power to prevent groups of individuals from attending football matches. Often the individuals involved will be the occupants of a pub. The issue here is that there is no requirement, as with football banning orders, to show evidence of football related violence. It is simply done at the discretion of the police.

Can this be open to legal challenge?

As yet there has been no legal challenge brought against this power but there is currently a campaign run by the Football Supporters Federation (FSF) to limit the use of this power at football matches. The campaign is called watching Football is not a crime!

The Football Supporters Federation feels that the imposition of Section 27 can be extremely unjust. For example if the police use it in a non-discriminatory manner individuals who have committed no criminal offence will be sent home without being able to view the match and will not receive any type of compensation.

What are the aims of the campaign?

The aims of the campaign are as follows:

  • To stop the use of Section 27 legislation as a strategy for policing football supporters
  • To inform supporters that this is happening with previous examples and steps to take if an individual is a victim of Section 27
  • Prosecution / compensation – an attempt to establish whether or not the use of Section 27 by police on football supporters is lawful as it was not initially intended by the legislation.
  • If it is found to be unlawful to take appropriate legal action to compensate as many victims of the tactic as possible