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Regrettably, football has a long-standing history of hooliganism and violence, caused by a small minority of people. As a consequence, football fans have unfairly gained a bad reputation with British fans in particular, often being as such are targeted by other groups and gangs and therefore being identified to the police as being high risk, both at home and abroad.

EURO 2016 has presented issues for British Police, French Police, and various governing bodies (e.g. The FA, UEFA). Even within stadiums, there have been pyrotechnics used, scenes of violence, and riots. Violence also extended to public hotspots, where England fans clashed with Russian fans in the streets of Marseille, the French police made numerous arrests.

Just recently, an English fan was issued with a five-year football banning order by Birmingham Magistrates’ Court, after throwing a chair in the direction of Russian supporters.

What is a football banning order?

Football Banning Orders are a preventative tactic used by the English Courts to prevent hooliganism, violence, and other forms of disorder at football matches, whether in this Country or abroad. Essentially, they prevent individuals from attending any kind of official football match often by imposing restrictions on an individual’s ability to travel.

Bans can last from anywhere between 2 and 10 years, depending on the type of offence and severity. Orders also prevent the attendance of club and international matches, home and away games, and matches abroad.

Some orders also impose restrictions on your whereabouts on match days, for example restricting you from certain public hotspots. Some orders may also prevent you from using network rail services, without special dispensation from the British Transport Police.

The Courts also have the power to request that a person’s passport is surrendered to authorities, in order to prevent attendance at matches abroad, particularly during the Summer when international tournaments are held. This could restrict your ability to enjoy a holiday or travel for work purposes without explicit permission.

Football related offences

772 arrests were made at just Premier League matches during the 2014/15 season. Typically, offences are regarded as ‘football related’ if they take place within 24 hours either side of kick-off, or are in someway connected to football.

During International Tournaments, such as EURO 2016, the British Police appoint a Police Chief for operations at the tournament, to directly liaise with the Football Association, local police and other governing bodies of football (e.g. FIFA or UEFA).

The Football (Disorder) Act 2000 was introduced as a preventative measure, rather than simply a method of punishing offences at football matches. This new act has increased the number of Football Banning Orders issued to fans.

These Football Banning Orders have been issued for offences of:

  • Violent Disorder
  • Public Disorder
  • Throwing Missiles
  • Racist & Indecent Chanting
  • Pitch Invasions
  • Alcohol Offences
  • Ticket Touting
  • Possession of an offensive weapon
  • Possession of pyrotechnics (e.g. Flares)
  • Breaching a banning order
  • Offences against property

Banning Orders can also be issued for spectators of football matches at any level of the game; from youth level games to local matches, all the way to international tournaments.

Possible consequences

The majority of football related offences are summary-only, meaning that offences are only likely to be heard by the Magistrates’ Court, however, if a case is deemed severe enough it will be heard by the Crown Court.

If an individual is found Guilty of an offence related to football and is imposed with a prison sentence, the minimum term for a football banning order is 6 years.

Other restrictions may also be imposed as part of a Football Banning Order, namely: being ordered to surrender your passport, and, potentially being prohibited from using network rail services without the consent of the British Transport Police. These measures are intended to prevent individuals from attending away matches and overseas games, however, this can prevent you from enjoying holidays and travelling.

Failure to comply with the terms set out in a football banning order can result in a maximum of a 6-month prison sentence, and/or a maximum fine of £5,000.

What you should do

Watching football is not a crime, but issues with hooliganism in football in the past have given football fans a bad reputation, and as such it’s extremely easy for fans to find themselves in trouble.

In most cases where an offence is deemed to be related to football, the Prosecution will almost always argue the case for a Football Banning Order to be issued. Without the support and advice of experts who specialise in this area of the law, you could not only lose access to your greatest pastime or leisure activity, but you could find yourself restricted from travelling or entering specific places on matchdays.

Football banning orders are used by the Courts as a preventative measure, aiming to reduce future offences and general disorder and public unrest. Due to the fact that Football Banning Orders are only intended for prevention, there are a number of approaches you can use to make a strong defence, so you can carry on attending football matches.

Nb. This guide is intended to give general information only and not intended to be used as the basis upon which Advice is given nor should it be relied upon as giving advice specific to a case or individual and Lawtons do not accept liability for anyone using this guide. Should you require specific advice in connection with a real case or situation, please contact us immediately so that we can provide specific Advice