Football related arrests continue to fall

WPC at football CC WMP2

For the third consecutive season, football arrests have fallen and have reached their lowest level on record – although you probably won’t read about it elsewhere, as football arrest figures only really seem to grab attention when they go up.

Statistics released by the Home Office this morning show that the 2014-15 season saw an 18% decrease in arrests (-400) on the previous season (which itself was a record low). There were 1,873 football-related arrests, with 4.9 arrests per 100,000 spectators. Public disorder (34%) and alcohol related (22%) made up the majority of the arrests.

That’s about one arrest per 20,000 football fans. To put that into context there were 75 arrests at Glastonbury this year out of 135,000 people, so one arrest for every 1,800. People are 11 times as likely to be arrested at Glastonbury, as at football.

Of course the overwhelming majority of people who go to Glastonbury stay out of trouble and have a great time, and the same is true of football. Isolated incidents of unpleasant behaviour happen, but they are very unusual.

However, arrests don’t give us the full picture as they aren’t convictions. We’d be interested to know how many of these arrests result in convictions or fixed-penalty notices. That information isn’t available.

While helping fans in trouble with the authorities we still see far too many prosecutions ending up in court that arguably don’t pass the public interest test. Many fans that we help feel they’re only being put through the Criminal Justice System purely because their arrest occurred in a football context.

We work with Melanie Cooke at Football Law Associates to secure fairer representation for football fans through the Criminal Justice System. Melanie says: “We have noticed an increase in fans arrested for the first time being prosecuted in cases where they would have been eligible for a caution or out of court disposal had it had not been football related. “

“Football related” covers 24 hours either side of a match. Arrested with a match ticket in your pocket travelling home hours after a match? It’s enough to deem it football related.

Alcohol-related offences make up a significant proportion of the arrests and football fans get unique treatment in this respect. Certain crimes, such as having alcohol on a coach travelling to a game, drinking in sight of the pitch or being drunk entering a stadium are football specific. They wouldn’t occur in other walks of life and, effectively, this means people are criminalised because of the sport they follow.

Since 4 September 2014, 484 new football banning orders have been issued; a decrease of 29% (-194) when compared with the previous year. As arrests fall, over time, you’d expect the number of football banning orders to fall and there has been a steady decline in the total number of active football banning orders over the last five years, falling by almost a third (31%) from a high of 3,174 as at 29 November 2011.

Despite the fall in the number of banning orders issued, we’re still seeing police asking for football banning orders as a matter of routine, regardless of the offence or previous convictions. Even if you have no criminal history and end up before the courts following a football-related arrest we are hearing that the police will almost always ask the court to consider a football banning order application regardless of the risk you pose. 

Once you have a banning order you have to surrender your passport and/or report to a police station either side of a game involving England or Wales and if your club happens to be playing in Europe. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never followed your club or country abroad, your passport will still be taken during those periods.

We know there can be no room for complacency but the decline of football-related arrests is note-worthy. Although sections of the media hype up football-related disorder, match-going fans know the reality – that the days of the stereotypical football hooligan are over, and we believe the statistics back that up.

Thanks to WMP for the image used in this blog. Reproduced here under CC licence.