Football hooligans face ban from World Cup and Euros under CPS guidelines
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) have today (23 August 2013) published a joint policy for dealing with violence, disorder, criminal damage and abuse in and around football matches this season.
The guidelines remind supporters that Football Banning Orders (FBOs) carry a minimum duration of three years, meaning hooligans face a ban from travelling to a range of important upcoming football matches should they commit football related crime this season.
Nick Hawkins, lead sports prosecutor at the CPS, said:
“There is no place for criminal behaviour in football grounds and the CPS is clear about how those engaging in violent, abusive or dangerous behaviour at football matches will be dealt with; where there is sufficient evidence to bring offenders before a court on appropriate criminal charges and a an FBO is necessary, a prosecution is likely.
“With the last remaining World Cup qualifiers just a couple of weeks away, fans need to be aware that FBOs carry a minimum duration of three years. That means that anyone receiving an FBO this season will be prevented from travelling to both the World Cup 2014 in Brazil and Euros 2016 in France, as well as European Club games and Euro 2016 qualifiers. That’s a hefty penalty for anyone who claims to be a dedicated follower of either a club or national team.”
Nick Hawkins, who is also Chief Crown Prosecutor for the CPS’ 24/7 charging service CPS Direct, made the point that the law-abiding majority should not be deterred from attending football matches by a minority of law-breakers.
“The overwhelming majority of football fans are well behaved and deserve to be able to attend games free from the fear of violence and disorder. We’ve seen a welcome rise in recent years in the numbers of families attending football matches together as a result of friendlier atmospheres inside grounds, and that’s a trend that we’d all like to see continue.
“This policy should act as a deterrent to all forms of football related criminality. We stand ready to tackle emerging challenges such as pitch invasions and the use of pyrotechnics. It is illegal to enter or attempt to enter a stadium in possession of a flare or firework and these offences have and will be prosecuted. The same goes for pitch invasions involving assaults on players; it is not behaviour that will be tolerated.”
Today’s announcement also lays out CPS powers for tackling all forms of abuse in football, be it in the stands, or on our computer screens. Nick Hawkins said:
“In years gone by, racist and homophobic chanting in the stands was an ugly feature of football matches across the country, but I believe we are beginning to see a shift in culture. Organisations such as ‘Kick It Out’ and Stonewall have done much to tackle the root causes of hate crime in football, but hate crime legislation has a large part to play in this ongoing culture change; there is no room in the eyes of the law for racist or homophobic abuse on the pitch or in the stands.
“But it’s not just criminality in the stands that will be taken on. Our legal guidance on communications sent by social media clearly sets out how we will approach the abuse of players or fellow supporters online and I’m glad to say we have the full support of the FA and the PFA in this field.
“There is obviously a place for appropriate humour in football, and we mustn’t lose sight of that. Decent, law-abiding football fans deserve to be reassured that the criminal justice system is better equipped than ever before to protect their right to follow their teams in safety, whilst players, referees and supporters should know that harassment and abuse against them will not be tolerated. Let’s make this season one to be proud of in all possible ways.”
Darren Bailey, Director of Governance and Regulation for The FA, said:
“The FA welcomes the CPS’ policy and wholeheartedly supports its ambitions in continuing to make football a safe environment for everyone. We can be pleased with the strides that the whole of the game has taken in tackling negative behaviour, but we have to continue to eradicate disorder wherever it exists.”
Bobby Barnes, Deputy Chief Executive of the PFA said:
“We welcome the CPS initiative with regard to dealing with disorder around football matches. As the players’ representatives the safety of players on a pitch, which is their place of work, is paramount, therefore we welcome strong sanctions against those who trespass onto the playing area. We also welcome all the initiatives designed to ensure that football grounds remain safe and inclusive places for all who wish to attend the game. By working together as stakeholders, governing bodies and authorities we can ensure that the sport we all love remains the major sport, not only in this country, but around the world.”