FOOTBALL FANS ON A FOOTBALL BANNING ORDER MAY HAVE BEEN UNLAWFULLY PREVENTED FROM TRAVELLING DURING THE NATIONS LEAGUE IN JUNE 2019
Lawyers have identified that the United Kingdom Football Policing Unit may have required football fans on a football banning order to surrender their passports prior to the 2019 Nations League tournament in Portugal, without a law being in place to require them to do so. If this is the case, the travel restriction on banned football fans is likely to have been unlawful, and the fans may be entitled to compensation.
If the United Kingdom Football Unit did not have the power to issue the travel restriction, it is questionable how the police had the authority to seize and retain passports. Any action by the police at a port or airport, stopping football fans and preventing them from travelling is also likely to have been unlawful.
Quite simply, the law requires the Secretary of State to stipulate the Control Period during which the football fans have to surrender their passport. The United Kingdom Football Policing Unit required fans to surrender their passport to the police between 29thMay 2019 and 1stJune 2019. It appears that no control period was put in place by the Secretary of State for the Nations League tournament. If the United Kingdom Football Policing Unit did act unlawfully, then at best those who surrendered their passport on 1stJune 2019 had their human rights interfered with for 9 days, those who surrender their passport on 29thMay 2019 had their rights interfered with for nearly 2 weeks.
If it is correct that there was no authority in place to restrict banned football fans’ movements, this could affect nearly two thousand football fans!
The claim against the United Kingdom Football Unit, which is part of the Home Office, is being brought on behalf of some football fans by Sarah Magson of Watson Woodhouse. Anyone who wishes to find out more about the claim, or thinks they too may have been affected can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or Sarah Magson at email@example.com 01642 266 559
Last week Twitter’s laughing policeman, Constable Chaos posted his own impressions on his day of football policing Football Crazy . I have reblogged this below. While I can’t dispute what he says, because I wasn’t with him, his experience doesn’t reflect mine, nor the majority of police officers I speak to and who police football matches.
Most of his gripes seem to relate more to the fact he had his rest day cancelled, had to get up early to provide mutual aid, ad by virtue of the fact he was providing mutual aid he wasn’t familiar with the town, and he didn’t get a very clear briefing from the Match Command. My response to that is, I feel sympathy for cops who are now facing this on a daily basis in all levels of their duty, but that is not the football fans’ fault. As the Twitter hash tag says #cutshaveconsequences
In reality, hundreds of thousands of fans travel across the country every week to watch their team play football. And these hundreds of thousands of fans are policed by a handful of police officers, compared to the number of police required most Friday and Saturday nights in towns up and down the country.
In a recent case in which I was involved, the UK Football Policing Unit provided a statement in an attempt to show how football fans are hooligans. The statement covered a 6 week period and included all Premier League and Football League games, as well as a cup game at Wembley. In those 6 weeks there had been 8 incidents of disorder. Sounds bad? More than 1 incident a week? But when cross examined, the Director of the UK Football Policing Unit had to accept that during those 6 weeks there would have been 260 sets of travelling fans, home and away, and that would have accounted for more than a million individuals travelling to a football match. The 8 incidents don’t quite sound so bad now, do they? If I was to ask just one large Metropolitan force how many incidents of disorder they had recorded on a pay day Friday, I’m guessing that the answer would be a lot more than 8.
The problem is not the travelling football fans, it’s the way they are treated by the media, and the Government ( which then trickles down to the police in their policy implementation). Most football matches are either totally police free or have a very low police presence. I attended a match a couple of weeks ago, one police serial (12 officers), 2 football spotters from each club, and a football intelligence officer and match commander were the only police in attendance. None of those officers lost their rest day, or were on mutual aid, and they managed to police over 10000 fans, without a single incidence of trouble. But that doesn’t make good media coverage.
At a match at the end of last season, fans ran on the pitch in celebration of the result. They were not fighting, or being disorderly, but actually doing the same as the much celebrated England fans in 1966. The next day the newspaper reports had headlines such as ‘Return to the Dark Days of Football’. I can just imagine the first draft of the report saying ‘jubilant fans celebrate their club’s success’ and the Editor deciding that the headline didn’t have enough punch.. ‘I know…. Let’s get the Dark Days of Football headline out again, that always sells papers’.
The Reading Chronicle was forced to apologise to Reading fans last year. It published an article which indicated that Reading fans were thugs and that football required policing, otherwise the hooliganism of the 1980s would return. So weak was the story, that they had to use an actor for the staged photo of a person in a Reading FC shirt, covering their face and holding a stick. It has to be questioned why the newspaper bothered to run the front page article in the first place as it wasn’t in relation to any football events in Reading, but why publish the truth when fiction sells more papers.
A ‘risk supporter’ is a term that was created by ACPO many years ago, and has stuck ever since. Its current definition is ‘A person, known or not, who can be regarded as posing a possible risk to public order or anti-social behaviour, whether planned or spontaneous, at or in connection with a football event.’ In reality this means that anyone travelling in a large group, anyone singing football songs, or anyone drinking in a pub before the match can easily fall into that description, despite the fact they never have been involved in any football related disorder and probably never will be. Compare this with the pay day Friday in town, by 11pm at least half of those in town will fall into the risk category if there was a ‘risk reveller’ category. The person who is staggering in the street, the couple having a drunken argument, the usual jostling in the kebab shop queue, the lad denied access to a club or bar who swears at the doorman, and the Hen Do group singing a bad rendition of Beyoncé on the top of the night bus. Giving football fans the title of risk supporter is nothing more than scaremongering.. It makes the public and the courts think that these fans must be ‘hooligans’ as otherwise they wouldn’t be called ‘risk’.
Football policing is a self perpetuating way for the police forces to make money from the football clubs, justify putting more cops on the beat on a Saturday or Sunday, and provide figures to the Home Office every year to justify the existence of police football units. In some areas the football stadium is way out of town, on a leisure park. The Kassam Stadium in Oxford is a good example of this. Thames Valley Police wanted to charge Oxford FC for extra policing resources to patrol the leisure park car park. This wasn’t due to football fans breaking into the cars, as they were all in the football stadium watching the football, but it did mean that TVP could provide a greater police presence for the family taking the kids to Frankie and Benny’s on a Saturday afternoon.
If the briefing by the Match Commander was poor, then that should be taken up with the Force. The match briefings I have been to, and I have been to many, do differ between forces, but should all include the main explanations of the main pubs which will take the fans, whether they are home or away, the areas the serials are tasked to cover, the incident number on which every incident from that day’s policing should be recorded, and whether there is any intelligence about potential disorder. I have experience of poor match briefings which have resulted in the police marching a group of, so called, Away risk supporters to a pub, and then refusing to let them leave despite the fact it was the designated Home supporters pub. Yes, someone screwed up there, but it wasn’t the football fans. And despite the fact the two groups of ‘risk’ were forced to stay in the same pub, and alcohol was being served, there was no trouble.
We all have different match day experiences, clearly Chaos had a chaotic experience, but that’s not the fault of the football fans, and they shouldn’t be vilified for choosing a game which ignites the passions of billions of people around the World in a way that no other sport can.
I am a social justice barrister, with an interest in criminal law, complaints against the police, prison law, International human rights, inquests and any challenging cases which involve the criminal justice system.
- football supporter law;
- human trafficking;
- defending people facing the death penalty.
My employment law work includes unfair dismissal, whistle blowing, minimum wage claims and discrimination, also police and prison officer disciplinaries.
I have been voted Pro Bono Lawyer of the year for 2012 and have also been awarded the Florida Criminal Defence Lawyers Association Rodney Thaxton Award for criminal defence work on a high profile death penalty case. The Florida Chapter of the American Civil Liberities Union awarded me the Clyde Atkins Award for my work defending death penalty cases.
I work from 1 Gray’s Inn Square chambers in London, but will travel anywhere.
‘When I walked into the pub and spoke to Football Fan 1 and tried to engage in discussion about today’s game he ignored me. I then saw him in a crowd chanting football songs as he walked to the ground. When in the ground he sat in his seat initially but then moved to another seat..showing complete disrespect to the stewards. he was wearing a black Northface jacket which is the attire worn by many risk football fans at football matches…After the game he was seen to be giving hostile looks at some opposing team supporters as he stood outside the kebab shop, I then saw him go inside the off license and slam the door. All of this leads me to believe that he is a risk supporter with no regard to the police or other fans. His lack of engagement with the police show that he is anti-police, and his chanting in the street was in a residential area where women and children who were not attending the football match could have been present and could have been frightened and offended by the chanting and group mentality.‘
THIS IS AN ACCUMULATION OF COMMENTS MADE BY FOOTBALL INTELLIGENCE OFFICERS IN THEIR STATEMENTS TO THE COURT. IT IS NOT AN ACTUAL STATEMENT, BUT IT GIVES A GOOD FLAVOUR OF THE TYPES OF ‘INTELLIGENCE’ AND COMMENTS MADE BY OFFICERS IN FOOTBALL BANNING APPLICATIONS.
With the football season well underway, now is the time that many police Football Intelligence Officers start to collate the ‘intelligence’ collected during the past few months on football fans. For some fans, the result is that they face an application made by the police or Crown Prosecution Service for a Football Banning Order. The recent Home Office statistics show that in comparison with the number of arrests which are made at football matches, the number of successful football banning applications is quite high. However, from speaking to fans who are or have been served with a football banning order application, the reason for this seems to be that in the main, fans will accept the banning order as they believe that if they have been arrested before or after a football match that means they can be banned from attending football matches in the future. Although the Football Spectators Act 1989 seems to indicate this, there is a wealth of case law which has narrowed this quite considerably, I have included some of the case law in this blog for those who have an interest in reading more.
When considering the imposition of a FBO the court should consider both the factual evidence – whether there is sufficient evidence to satisfy the requirements of Section 14 Spectators Supporters Act 1989, but also the persuasive evidence, in effect this is where the court is being asked to make a decision on what is likely to happen in the future. The persuasive evidence which can be taken into account by the court includes:-
- evidence that the defendant has not previously been warned about their behaviour at football matches;
- evidence that the defendant has not been convicted in any court of any football related disorder or violence previously;
- evidence that there have been no previous applications (criminal or civil) for FBO in respect of the defendant;
- evidence that there have been no previous attempts to control this defendant or that any control efforts have failed;
- no evidence that the behavior of the defendant had a detrimental effect on other football fans, or caused other football fans to become involved in disorder or violence;
So what is the meaning of ‘football related’?
The Court of Appeal has made it clear (R v Arbery & Mobley , and R v Mabee (Craig) [2007). There should be a distinction drawn between violence arising directly from the football, and violence or disorder carried out by those who follow football. Hence a football fan who decides to fight another football fan due to their colours, whether inside or outside of the football match, may fall into the category of disorder or violence arising directly in connection with a football match. However, two fans who have a fight in a pub over a spilt drink, and who both just happen to be wearing football colours or intending to attend a local football match will not fall into this category. The relationship between the violence and the football must be explored in the facts of each particular case.
In Gough v Chief Constable of Derbyshire  the Court of appeal made it clear that a FBO cannot be made purely due to a defendant’s history of violence. The circumstances of the individual case under consideration should be taken along with the past conduct of the defendant, and whether these indicate that there is a likelihood that they will be involved in future violence or disorder. The issue for the court is very specific with regard to preventing future football related disorder, not just a general deterrence relating to any violent disorder.
In Doyle and others the Court of Appeal addressed the definition of football related and determined “because the Act requires the judgment of the Court whether the particular offence was ‘related to football matches’ it is clear that the mere fact that the defendant was on a journey to or from a match is not enough. There must be another connection…We offer the observation that it will not by itself be enough to make an offence ‘related to football matches’ that it would not have occurred “but for” the fact that [the defendant] was en route to or from a football match. If that by itself were enough, then every offence of the listed kind which was committed on a journey to or from a match would automatically qualify and the additional test of relation to football matches would be unnecessary and meaningless”.
Hence in the consideration of whether to impose a FBO in this case on either or both of these defendants, the Court should only impose an order if is it satisfied so that it is sure, that the FBO is required for the court to prevent further acts of violence or disorder at a football match, or in connection with a football match. In doing so, the Court should consider
- whether the offences on which the defendant was convicted were actually football related; and
- even if it was deemed to be considered football related, the Court must be satisfied that there is a likelihood that the defendant is going to be involved in acts of disorder or violence in the future; and
- that such acts will be football related;
- that a FBO will prevent such disorder or violence.
The Court must be satisfied that there are reasonable grounds
to believe the FBO would prevent future disorder or violence
It is clear that FBO must not be made merely as a matter of course following the conviction of a football fan for a disorder or violence related offence (RVBoggild et al), consideration must be made of the facts of the individual case in front of the court. It has been accepted by the European Court of Human Rights that in cases where such orders are imposed, that to restrict the actions of a defendant in the future, on the basis of a belief in how the defendant is going to behave in the future ‘the court must determine whether a fair balance [is] struck between the demands of the general interest and the requirements of the protection of the individual’s fundamental rights’ (Sporrong5).
In Doyle and others v R  the Court of Appeal addressed this issue directly and stated “..what is important to remember is …that there must be a risk of repetition of violence or disorder at a match before it is met…….it is clear that it is not automatically satisfied because the current offence was football related.”
Hence, even if the offence is football related, it is clear that does not automatically justify the imposition of the FBO, in other words the court must ask itself is it necessary to impose a FBO to stop/prevent likely future disorder or violence at a football match?
So going back to the sample statement at the beginning of this blog, it is very unlikely that the list of complaints included in it would be taken by the court to show that a person has been involved in football related disorder nor that they are likely to be involved in disorder in the future. However, in my experience many fans will accept the ban rather than challenge the statement, but without appreciating the consequences of a banning order, which in addition to a ban from attending any football games, can include exclusion from the town on match days, a ban from using the railway network on match days, a ban on traveling overseas when any team match or England match is played overseas. And these bans can run to 5 years..that’s a very extreme restriction based on the weak comments in the sample statement.
Challenging a football banning order is not the right thing for every fan, but if the application is served on a fan, they should give careful consideration to whether it actually shows that they are a risk of committing football related disorder in the future.
Football Banning Order spiraling out of control – from drinking in sight of the pitch to a 5 month prison sentence!
The news reports of the football fan who has just received a 5 month prison sentence for breaching his football banning order, makes it an opportune time to remind fans how acceptance of a football banning order, in the belief that it is a civil order, can result in a criminal conviction and prison sentence.
While I don’t have first hand knowledge of this case, and will leave you to draw your own conclusions from the news article below, the circumstances are similar to those that play out in magistrates and crown courts all over England and Wales during every football season. A Football Banning Order can be requested by the police against a fan who they police deem to be causing or likely to cause disorder at football matches. This is a civil order, and many fans will accept the order without challenge due to the fact it is civil and they are under the impression that they cannot challenge it in court. That impression is incorrect, although it is a civil order, the consequences of breaching it are criminal and as such it can be challenged from the first stage.
A civil order can be imposed on a fan by the Magistrates Court for between 3 and 5 years. If the fan breaches that order (and a breach can be as simple as entering a town on a saturday where the fan’s team are playing) then the fan can face a prison sentence. If it is a Home game, this often means that a fan, subject to a football banning order, who takes his or her family into town on a Saturday can be arrested. The breach then becomes a criminal case and this can result in prison.
The fan may consider that the alleged incident in or outside of the football ground which resulted in the football banning order was a minor incident. They may also consider that taking their family into town on a Saturday is a minor incident and as such they will be able to talk their way out of it with the Police or the Magistrates Court. This is a big mistake. The Football Banning Order is a court order and the courts take the breach of one of their orders very seriously. So the simple facts of the case will not excuse the fan, the fact they have breached a court order will mean that they will likely be sentenced to a criminal sanction which can include imprisonment. And hence the minor incident has a life changing effect on the fan, a criminal record, and possibly a period at Her Majesty’s Pleasure!
The key to all of this is not to immediately accept the order, or panic when a summons arrives on the doorstep or is handed over by a police officer. It is best to seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity, and most lawyers specializing in football banning orders will provide their initial advice for free. But even if things have started to spiral out of control, and a criminal conviction for breaching an order is looming, seek advice. Not only the future of attending football matches, but also of work and liberty may depend on whether advice is sought.