Regrettably, football has a long-standing history of acts of hooliganism and violence caused by a small minority of people. As a consequence, football fans have unfairly gained a poor reputation. British fans in particular are often targeted by other groups of fans and are therefore identified to the police as being high risk, both at home and abroad.
Football tournaments such as the Euros have historically presented issues for the British police, the police in each hosting country and various governing bodies such as the FA and UEFA. Pyrotechnics have been used within stadiums and there have been riots and scenes of violence. Acts of violence have also extended to public hotspots, where England fans have clashed with fans from other countries with numerous arrests taking place.
Football (Disorder) Act 2000
An amendment to the Football Spectators’ Act 1989, the Football (Disorder) Act 2000 strengthened the power of football banning orders (FBOs).
The Act was enforced following acts of violence in France at Euro 2000 and allowed the police to arrest those suspected of travelling to the tournaments purely to commit acts of violence or terrorism at international games.
Under the Act the courts have the power to request that a person’s passport is surrendered to authorities up to 5 days prior to an international fixture in order to prevent travel to matches abroad, particularly during the summer when international tournaments are held. This could restrict your ability to go on holiday or travel for work purposes without explicit permission.
The Football (Disorder) Act 2000 was introduced as a preventative measure, rather than simply a method of punishing offences at football matches. The Act increased the number of football banning orders issued to fans.
What is a football banning order?
A football banning order – also known as an FBO – is a civil order which may be issued by the UK courts, or by the police.
Football banning orders are a preventative tactic used by UK courts to prevent hooliganism, violence and other forms of disorder at football matches, whether in this country or abroad.
FBOs may ban individuals from specific UK football grounds for a period of between two to ten years. Individuals may also be banned from using public transport on match days without permission from the British Transport Police. An order may also prevent an individual from visiting town centres or specified ‘high risk’ areas before, during and immediately after football matches.
Orders also prevent attendance at club and international matches, home and away games and matches abroad.
What can a football banning order be issued for?
A football banning order may be issued for offences including:
- Violent disorder
- Public disorder
- Throwing missiles
- Racist chanting
- Indecent chanting
- Pitch invasions
- Alcohol offences
- Ticket touting
- Possession of a bladed article or offensive weapon
- Possession of pyrotechnics such as 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 and local matches, all the way to international tournaments.
Football related offences
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, the British police appoint a police chief for operations at the tournament to directly liaise with the Football Association (FA), local police and other governing bodies of football such as FIFA and UEFA.
What are the possible consequences of football offences?
The majority of football related offences are summary-only, meaning that the offence is only likely to be heard in the magistrates’ court. However, if a case is deemed severe enough it will be heard in the crown court.
If an individual is found guilty of an offence related to football and receives a prison sentence, the minimum term for a football banning order is 6 years.
Other restrictions may also be imposed as part of an FBO, 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 also prevent you from travelling abroad.
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 should you do if you are accused of a football offence?
In most cases where an offence is deemed to be related to football, the prosecution will almost always argue the case for an FBO to be issued. Without the advice of expert solicitors such as Lawtons who specialise in this area of the law, you could not only lose access to your favourite 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 FBOs are only intended for prevention, there are a number of approaches you can use to make a strong defence, so you able to continue attending football matches.
If you have been accused of committing a football related offence, you should seek legal advice as soon as you are able. Get in touch with our specialist team of solicitors, who can provide you with expert advice and assistance regarding your case.
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. 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.