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Football – from joy to arrest in a matter of moments

As an ardent football supporter I thought I would share some legal advice to football fans.

The late, great Brian Clough once said “it only takes a second to score a goal.” The feelings that follow are familiar to all football fans, whether it is the joy of seeing your team score, or the pain of it being the opposition.

It’s fair to say that emotions can run high during a football match. I know what it’s like to celebrate that last minute winner, or watching the goal go in that condemns your team to relegation. I have followed my club Nottingham Forest since I was a boy and held a season ticket for many years before I moved to London. I know the ups and the downs all too well.

But just as it only takes a second to score a goal, it only takes a second to do something silly or stupid, which can have lasting consequences. Whether it’s throwing a sweet, jumping over the advertising hoardings, or shouting something completely out-of-character that you immediately regret, they can all lead to you being arrested, being brought before the Courts and potentially facing a Football Banning Order.

If you find yourself on the wrong side of the law at a football game, always remember:

  • If you are arrested, you are entitled to free and independent legal advice from a solicitor. You should always use it! Just because you are asking for a lawyer does not mean that you have anything to hide. It is your right and it is free.
  • If you are contacted by the police and asked to attend the police station as a volunteer for an interview under caution, you are still entitled to free and independent legal advice. Contact us first!
  • Even if the offence seems to be minor, or low level, remember that a conviction will stay on your record and can have long lasting effects. It could also lead to an application for a Football Banning Order (see below).
  • Think carefully before accepting a police caution. Never accept it purely on the basis that it is the easy option. It amounts to a full admission of wrongdoing.
  • If you are charged or asked to attend Court, you may be eligible for Legal Aid. If you are not eligible for Legal Aid we will provide you with a competitive quote for private representation. Please feel free to get in touch and ask.
  • Similarly; if you receive a Football Banning Order application and would like some advice, please get in touch.

Football Banning Orders – a factsheet:

What are they?

Football Banning Orders are a type of court order, usually made after a conviction for a ‘football related’ offence. They can last between three and ten years and will include one or more conditions which you must obey. Breach of a Football Banning Order is a criminal offence punishable by up to six months in prison.

What could the terms be/what could I have to do?

The conditions can include:

  • Preventing you from attending football matches at home or abroad;
  • Preventing you from going to a specific place or area for a period beginning two hours before a match starts until two hours after it finishes. In some cases this can include public transport or entire towns.
  • Surrendering your passport before international football matches.
  • Reporting at a local police station.
  • Exactly what conditions are made may vary depending on the facts of each case, however many Courts have ‘boilerplate’ Banning Orders- i.e. a pre-set list of ‘standard’ conditions which appear on most Orders that they make.

How could I end up with one?

Football Banning Orders were originally designed to prevent football hooliganism in the late 1980s but many supporters now finding themselves facing them, sometimes after conviction for minor offences or even where they haven’t been convicted of any offence at all. There are two possible ways to end up with one:

a) After Conviction
The court must make a Football Banning Order if you are convicted of a ‘relevant offence’ and it is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to believe that making a banning order would help to prevent violence or disorder. It is for the Prosecution to show that the offence was, in some way, football related. Relevant offences include:

  • Possession of alcohol or being drunk while entering/trying to enter ground;
  • Disorderly behaviour;
  • Any offence involving the use or threat of violence towards another person or property;
  • Any offence involving the use, carrying or possession of an offensive weapon;
  • Drunk and disorderly;
  • Driving or being in charge of a vehicle with excess alcohol, or driving or being in charge of a vehicle while unfit through drink or drugs.
  • Throwing of missiles at a football match;
  • Indecent or racialist chanting;
  • Going onto the playing area;
  • Unauthorised sale of tickets.

b) ‘On Complaint’
The police can also apply for a Football Banning Order if an officer believes that you have (at any time) caused or contributed to any violence or disorder in the United Kingdom or elsewhere. These applications are usually based on police intelligence reports from football games. Many fans returning from EURO 2016 found themselves facing these applications despite not being charged or convicted in connection with any alleged behaviour in France.

If the court is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to believe it would help to prevent future football-related violence or disorder, they will make a Football Banning Order.

Can I fight it?

Absolutely. If you need help please do not hesitate to contact myself or one of my colleagues today.

I already have a Football Banning Order. Can I apply to have it removed early?

Yes. You can apply to the court after two thirds of the order length has been completed (e.g. after two years of three year order). The court will consider your character, your conduct since the Order was made, the nature of the offence or conduct which led to it and any other circumstances which appear to be relevant.

Can I get Legal Aid?

If you qualify financially, yes. If you do not qualify for Legal Aid, ask about fixed fees – you will know in advance exactly how much you will need to pay for assistance.