Arrests for football-related disorder fell by 10% last season, according to the latest Home Office statistics. The figures for the 2009-10 season include all football specific offences, such as pitch encroachment, and more general offences committed inside or outside stadiums.
From a football fans’ perspective the figures make for very pleasant reading. 37m football fans attended matches in England and Wales during the 2009-10 season with 0.01% falling foul of the law. That means only one in every 10,000 supporters finds themselves arrested at a game.
As well as the 10% drop, which equates to 395 fewer arrest, seven out of every 10 games passed by without a single arrest. During the course of the season only 1.05 arrests were made per match, inside or outside grounds, and only half of all matches required a police presence.
Crime prevention minister James Brokenshire said: “There are many factors behind this and the greatest credit must go to the fans. But I want to see them continue to build on that good behaviour. We must also applaud the work of police in making football a safer environment for all.”
Astonishingly, despite this being a World Cup year, not a single fan was arrested while following England or Wales abroad. More than 90,000 English and Welsh club fans also travelled to Champions League and Europa League matches on the continent. The 42 matches resulted in just 12 arrests.
“The latest figures once again underline that the reputation that England fans had and, to some extent, still suffer from is out of synch with reality,” said Kevin Miles, who heads up the FSF’s Fans’ Embassy. “English fans follow their team in bigger numbers than almost any other country and the response we’ve had at the last few tournaments from the hosts, media and tournament organisers has recognised this good behaviour.”
While these figures show supporters in a very positive light over-zealous policing and stewarding is still one of the most common complaints received by the FSF. That is because, as supporters, we are often unfairly policed on stereotypes and reputation rather than actions and behavior.
This year’s Home Office statistics show bad behaviour is not only very rare but also on the decrease. Hopefully this will further encourage all those in positions of power to treat fans in a fair and respectful manner.
However, many laws still exist which apply only to football fans such as drinking in sight of the pitch or on a coach travelling to or from a game. Sup a pint at a rugby league game or pop concert in view of the pitch and no one would bat an eye-lid. Do the same at a football match and you’ll soon get a hauled off to the cells and a criminal record.
As almost one-third of football-related arrests involve alcohol offences such as these an overhauling of unjust laws would see a further, significant, decrease in the number of fans arrested at football games.
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