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Sports Law Insights: Crowd Disorder

Initially, the UK government responded to acts of public disorder through public inquiries and reports, although by the 1980s, the legislature took action following incidents of public disorder at football matches. The Sporting Events (Control of Alcohol) Act 1985 regulates alcohol use before, during and after designated football matches as well as prohibiting the possession of fireworks.

The Football Spectators Act of 1989 provides for a system of Football Banning Orders (FBO) as a means of controlling spectator behaviour. The FBO prevents attendance at designated football matches for a given period as well as prohibiting those that are subject to one of them from travelling abroad to watch European club or International matches. Under section 14A, there is a presumption that a court should issue a FBO to any person found guilty of a relevant football offence. This is referred to as a banning order on conviction. Under section 14B there is also provision for a banning order on complaint. This order gives the power to the chief officer of police to make a complaint to a magistrates’ court on the condition that the respondent has at any time caused or contributed to any violence or disorder in the United Kingdom or elsewhere. The FBO will be issued if the court is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to believe that making a banning order would help to prevent violence or disorder at or in connection with any regulated football matches. The FBO on complaint was unsuccessfully challenged in Gough v Chief Constable of Derbyshire [2002] EWCA Civ 351).

The Football Offences Act 1991 established specific football related offences including: the throwing of any object at or towards the playing area or any other area where spectators or others are present; indecent or racialist chanting (See DPP v Stoke on Trent Magistrates Court [2003] EWHC 1593 (Admin)) and going onto the playing area (See R (on the application of White) v Blackfriers Crown Court [2008] EWHC 510 (Admin)).

The costs of policing football matches have been challenged under the Police Act 1996 as witnessed in Leeds United’s victory over West Yorkshire Police in Leeds United Football Club Ltd v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire [2013] EWCA Civ 115.