Home Office: Football arrests are "lowest on record"

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You saw the good news reported all over the media last week that football arrests during 2013/14 had dropped by 7% and represented the lowest total on record, right? Of course you didn’t – because it was largely ignored!

While it comes with the usual caveats about there being no room for complacency we do think this fall in arrests is noteworthy. Match-going fans know those hoary-old hooligan stereotypes are, largely, a thing of the past and the numbers back that up.

More than 38m spectators attended regulated football matches in England and Wales last season with only one arrest for every 16,800 spectators. Over the course of 2013/14 that’s less than one person arrested inside or outside the ground at every game.

With that in mind it’s a shame these figures were so widely ignored as last year the likes of the BBC, Guardian, Mail, Mirror, and Telegraph all reported the 4% rise in arrests during 2012/13. That was still part of an overall downward trend as 2010/11 saw a 9% fall while arrests fell by an enormous 24% during 2011/12.

The only national outlets we saw reporting last week’s record low were Wales Online (Western Mail/South Wales Echo) and the Daily Mail – although the fact they were the lowest figures on record still didn’t make the headline in the Mail. We're sure a record high would have. To the Football League’s credit they did report the news.

Stories depicting fans in a positive light aren’t always deemed newsworthy by those who apparently know of such things, especially when they can't find an “angle” in it.

One telling example came a few years ago when we appeared on a local radio show after being invited to talk about the 24% decline in arrests.

The conversation swiftly turned to the local side who were near the top of the arrest table. That was primarily because they had large crowds compared to those around them, not because they had a genuine hooligan problem.

Any attempt at analysing the stats to make sense of that club’s particular circumstance was pretty futile. Local radio, two-minute guest slots, and nuance aren’t happy bedfellows.

In addition, arrests don’t give the full picture anyway -  they aren't convictions. It’s safe to assume that many of those fans will have charges dropped, while others have cases thrown out or are found not guilty.

Anyway, this isn’t a pop at journalists or editors, many of the publications and writers we’ve linked to are genuinely supportive of the FSF and football fans – and that is appreciated.

It’s just a gentle reminder that good news is still worth reporting too.

The Home Office says:

  • During the 2013-14 season, the total number arrests by Home Office police forces in connection with regulated international and domestic football matches involving teams from, or representing, England and Wales was 2,273. This represents a decrease of 183 arrests, or 7%, on the 2012-13 total.
  • The 2013-14 football-related arrest season total is the lowest on record, continuing the general downwards trend. However, these arrest statistics should be considered in the context that they reflect police activity. Not every incident of violent or disorderly behaviour results in an arrest. In other cases, arrests may be a preventative action. There remains a significant risk of escalation if efforts to prevent and tackle football-related disorder are reduced.
  • The number of football banning orders decreased by 7% to 2,273 on 3 September 2014 from 2,451 on 20 September 2013. This represents 678 new banning orders imposed during the period. Orders are time limited and expiring all the time.
  • The statistics cover all arrests designated in law under Schedule 1 of the Football Spectators Act 1989 reported by police to the UK Football Policing Unit. This includes football specific offences (e.g. pitch incursion, throwing missiles inside a stadium) and a range of generic criminal offences committed in connection with a football match. This covers such arrests at any place within a period of 24 hours either side of a match.
  • This is the second season it has been possible to include British Transport Police’s football-related arrests (total 325, a 3% increase). These have been integrated as far as possible (tables 7, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13). It is not possible to include these arrests in tables 6 and 8 because some of the incidents resulting in arrests involve followers of two, or more, teams that were not playing against each other that day, nor in table 14 because detailed data are not available.
  • Total attendance at regulated football matches during 2013-14 season in excess of 38 million spectators. The total number of arrests represents less than 0.01% of the total attendance, or 1 arrest for every 16,800 spectators.
  • During the season an average of less than 1 arrest was made per match inside and outside of stadia (Premier League 1.57 arrests per match, Championship 1.02, League One 0.51, League Two 0.29).
  • More than 60,000 English and Welsh club fans travelled to Champions League and Europa League matches outside of England and Wales. These 36 matches resulted in just 18 arrests of away fans.