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What Is A Football Banning Order?

A football banning order is an order made by a Magistrates’ Court that prohibits the person named in the order from attending a regulated football match. A regulated match is any association (FA) football match (in England or Wales). What that means in simple terms is any match in a recognised professional and possibly semi-professional league.

The banning order prohibiting attendance at a regulated football game can be for up to 10 years, if a term of imprisonment was imposed as part of a criminal prosecution. In other cases it can be for a shorter period. The minimum is a ban for three years. For those of us that love football and attending matches, that feels like a lifetime, even when your team is losing.

Every Football Banning Order may include the requirement to surrender passports when England play abroad, if the relevant enforcing authority think it necessary. While this may be justifiable in the most serious cases, for example preventing hardened hooligans from causing trouble abroad, one must remember that many ordinary fans are finding themselves on the receiving end of these applications.

Even when the infractions are apparently minor, the authorities will apply for a Football Banning Order. Is this proportionate? Take for example the man convicted of throwing a boiled sweet at opposition fans. In his case, the prosecution applied for a football banning order. While what he did was undoubtedly silly, should he really face surrendering his passport for six weeks every other summer? So he can’t take his kids on holiday abroad if England are playing? Will that really prevent future disorder? Is that really the kind of offending that Parliament had in mind when passing this legislation?

It cannot be overstated that these orders are serious restrictions on people’s liberties. Aside from surrendering passports, they can (and often do) include requirements to not go within a mile, or other defined distance, of a football stadium when a match is being played. Also these orders can require reporting to a local police station on match days. The banning orders last for a minimum of three years and can remain in place for up to ten, I remind you. If you live and work near a relevant stadium, that can be onerous.

Some feel the law needs review. However no one wants to be the one who says this publicly. You will recall the recent story of the Sunderland fan who mocked the death of Bradley Lowery. No one wants to be associated with that sort of behaviour or that sort of person, so we all shrug our shoulders and say that a three year minimum ban is fine. I agree that if you are mocking the death of a child it clearly is, that particular person was in fact banned for five years and given a 12 week prison sentence, which was suspended. I felt ashamed of my love of football after that story, but remember the original story is that Bradly loved Sunderland FC. His favourite player, Jermain Defo, who played for Sunderland, formed a real bond with Bradley.

If the man, I won’t say football fan, who mocked Bradly, was banned for five years then throwing boiled sweets (surely the most middle class confectionery) should not face a three year ban. Things are out of kilter.

The threshold for when a Football Banning Order can be imposed and for how long it can be imposed could be raised substantially. This would still allow the police to effectively police football games. However, until that time we must deal with what is in front of us, which are long banning orders for often minor offences.

Here’s what you need to know about Football Banning Orders:

What are they?

Football Banning Orders are a type of court order, usually made after a conviction for a criminal offence, for a ‘football related’ offence. They can be made on request by the police even when the subject of the order has not been convicted of a crime. They can last between three and ten years and will include at least one but usually 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?

The conditions can include:

  • Preventing you from attending regulated 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. Now many supporters find themselves facing banning orders 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 a banning order:

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.

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?

Yes. You are entitled to oppose an application for a Football Banning Order. You or your legal representative will have an opportunity to put forward representations as to why it is not necessary in your case.

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 a 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.

How do I fund this?

It is really quite unlikely legal aid will be granted in cases for a standalone football banning order. You will need to fund this privately

If you fear you are about to be or have already been made the subject of a football banning order, you may want to take legal advice. Please call one of our criminal defence experts on 0330 822 3451 or request a callback to discuss the issues. We can provide estimates of our fees and guidance on what is achievable.

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