Figures released by the Home Office this week prove what the Football Supporters’ Federation have been arguing for years – there is absolutely no need to treat football fans as criminals.
The latest Home Office statistics show that 37 million supporters attended football matches in England and Wales last year and there were only 3,842 arrests made – one in every 10,000 fans.
Only one in 10 of these arrests were actually made for acts of violence - the majority related to consumption of alcohol, pitch incursions and public disorder offences.
Of these offences the majority were committed away from football stadiums, meaning less than half a fan per game, per stadium was arrested inside a football ground.
And the FSF are extremely concerned with the manner in which police increasingly choose to use legislation in order to criminalise normal football supporters.
FSF National Council member Amanda Jacks said: “The vast majority of football supporters are normal, law abiding citizens and we’re very concerned at this portrayal of fans as violent, mindless thugs.
“The Government’s own statistics show this is simply not the case, and we’re pleased that Home Office minister Vernon Coaker has acknowledged this.
“There were fewer than 1,600 arrests inside football stadiums last year, a tiny amount when you consider a total of 37 million people attended games. And a large number of these were for trivial offences such as persistent standing or drinking alcohol within sight of the pitch.
“It’s very difficult for many supporters to challenge fairly minor, non-violent charges. We’ve heard from people who have been put off from contesting dubious charges purely because of the expense involved or have had their cases thrown out due to lack of evidence – although these still appear in the arrest figures.
“Supporters are frequently treated like criminals, and we hear of far too many worrying cases.”
Recent examples of this include 80 Stoke fans rounded up in a Greater Manchester pub before their club’s visit to Old Trafford and forcibly taken back to Stoke, while in another shocking case last month, Chelsea fan Cliff Auger was victimised for protecting his teenage son.