An Evaluation of Football Banning Orders in Scotland

This report presents the findings of an evaluation into the use of football banning order (FBO) legislation in Scotland.


6.1 This chapter explores the operation and effectiveness of football banning orders in England and Wales, in an attempt to benchmark their operation in Scotland and to learn from their experiences, good and poor practice.

6.2 Data about FBOs in England and Wales were obtained from the Minerva system in relation to the numbers of orders in force and new orders made for the six football seasons from 2003-2004 to 2008-2009. In addition data were also obtained for the offence types to which the imposed banning orders relate. Unfortunately the UKFPU does not keep data on the total number of banning orders attempted for each year, a breakdown of the expired bans achieved by type or the total number of violations of FBOs relating to domestic fixtures so the possibility of doing any quantitative analysis on the overall effectiveness of FBOs was not possible.

Numbers of banning orders in England and Wales
6.3 Data in relation to banning orders in England and Wales were available for six seasons (2003/4 to 2008/9). The number of FBOs in force in England and Wales increased from 2,596 for the 2003-2004 season to 3,241 for the 2008-2009 season (an average of between 20 and 25 per club). On average just under a thousand new FBOs were imposed each season (or 5 and 10 per club).

Table 6.1: Total number of FBOs in force and new per season: 2003/04 to 2008/09

Number in force Average number in force per club Number of new orders Average number of new orders per club
2003-2004 2,596 20.0 1,263 9.7
2004-2005 3,207 24.7 989 7.6
2005-2006 3,367 25.9 995 7.7
2006-2007 3,000 23.1 618 4.8
2007-2008 3,168 24.4 1,038 8.0
2008-2009 3,241 24.9 944 7.3

Base: all orders by club (total of 129 clubs, which includes football league clubs, non-league clubs and a small number from Scotland and Europe[11])

6.4 There is obviously variation in the rate of orders imposed according to the club affiliations of the individuals for whom the orders are imposed. Over the six seasons for which data are available, ten clubs had had an average of over 60 FBOs in place per season. Three clubs (Cardiff City, Leeds United and Portsmouth) had an average of over 100 FBOs in place per season.

Table 6.2: Average number of orders in force per club: highest ten clubs 2001/2002 season to 2007/2008 season (6 seasons in total).

Club Total FBOs 2001/02 to 2007/08 Average per club per season
Cardiff City 795 132.5
Leeds United 753 125.5
Portsmouth 614 102.3
Stoke City 553 92.2
Manchester United 536 89.3
Millwall 521 86.8
Aston Villa 447 74.5
Chelsea 427 71.2
Middlesbrough 379 63.2
Wolverhampton Wanderers 368 61.3

Base: all orders by club (total of 129 clubs)

6.5 Further analysis was conducted to establish if there was a correlation between average attendances and the number of banning orders issued. This comparison (for season 2008 to 2009) is presented in Table 6.3 and shows that:

  • Few of the clubs with the highest attendances feature in the list of those with the highest rate of banning orders.

Table 6.3: Rate of orders by average attendance figures: season 2008 to 2009

Top ten average attendances Top ten banning order rate
Team Average attendance Division BO rate per 1,000 attendance Team Average attendance Division BO rate per 1,000 attendance
Manchester United 75304 P 1.0 Millwall 8940 1 12.3
Arsenal 60039 P 0.7 Chesterfield 3448 2 10.4
Newcastle United 48749 P 2.0 Grimsby Town 4474 2 9.2
Liverpool 43625 P 1.8 Aldershot Town 3276 2 8.5
Manchester City 42900 P 1.2 Darlington 2931 2 7.8
Chelsea 41588 P 1.5 Cardiff City 18043 C 6.9
Sunderland 40163 P 1.7 Leeds United 23813 1 6.8
Aston Villa 39811 P 2.0 Tranmere Rovers 6575 1 6.5
Tottenham Hotspur 35928 P 1.1 Hartlepool United 3834 1 6.5
Everton 35662 P 1.6 Rochdale 3222 2 6.2
  • The top rates of banning orders tend to be for clubs who played in the lower leagues (with the exception of Cardiff City & Portsmouth)
  • Of the teams with the highest average number of orders per season (Table 6.2), four still appear in the top twenty banning order list

Banning orders by offence type
6.6 In England and Wales, as of December 2010 there were 3,183 banning orders being imposed of which 86.8% (n=2,765) were on conviction and 13.2% (n=418) were on complaint ( i.e. civil orders).

6.7 The majority of orders on conviction (70%: n=1,938) related to Public Order Act (1986) offences, with a further 8% (n=234) relating to offences covered under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act (1994), 7% (n=168) Football (Offences) Act 1991 and 6% (137) Sporting Events Act (1985).

6.8 All civil orders (on complaint) related to the Football Disorder Act (2000), with 99% applied for under section 14B (one was a S14J [12] and two S21B [13]).

Banning order by length in England and Wales
6.9 There is some interesting variation in the length of bans by type. Successful bans by complaint (14Bs) do not appear to extend beyond 5 years in length and the overwhelming majority of these bans are for three years. On the other hand, the FBOs by conviction (14As) which again are dominated by 3 year bans but also have a high number of individuals who are currently on FBOs that range from 6 to 10 years. These longer bans typically stem from convictions for violence based football related crimes.

Table 6.4: Breakdown of the Total Number of Present FBOs by Length

Length of ban
Type of ban 3 Years 4 Years 5 Years 6 Years 7 Years 8 Years 9 Years 10 Years
Complaint 327 41 46 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Conviction 1805 175 207 338 79 85 5 75

Performance and Effectiveness
6.10 In England and Wales focus group members were keen to stress that the purpose of banning orders is preventative rather than punitive, and that they had worked hard to get that message across. Though they conceded that those subject to banning orders experienced them as punitive measures, indeed their effectiveness in part depended on their being punitive.

6.11 The issue of proportionality was stressed. Banning orders were not and should not be applied for and awarded arbitrarily. All the circumstances needed to be considered: a great deal of discretion is used in the interests of applying for them only when it appeared justified. Processes within police services before application for banning orders, processes in the CPS to determine when it was reasonable to apply for banning order and court processes were deemed sufficient to make sure that banning orders were not abused or applied arbitrarily, a consequence that had been quite widely feared when they were first introduced.

6.12 The current legislative framework is deemed very good: so much so that one participant in the focus group said, 'We love the legislation.'

6.13 Banning orders were deemed to be very effective in relation to those subject to them, in relation to others who did not want to risk being subject to one and in relation to those overseas who had become persuaded that English football related disorder was being taken seriously and serious measures were being taken to prevent it. Awareness of banning orders had grown over time and they were seen as an effective general deterrent against disorderly behaviour. Moreover those subject to them did not want to suffer the consequences of being found to have engaged in further antisocial behaviour. The national reconviction rate was said to be only eight per cent, which compares very favourably with rate for the Anti-Social Behaviour Orders. The banning orders were perceived to be so powerful a preventive measure that those in other jurisdictions were looking to try to emulate their provisions.

6.14 In Manchester, it was suggested that the general atmosphere around games is a good indicator of the way that hooliganism and the 'less desirable' fans have disappeared. This is partly down to the legislation and (of course) the way football has changed. The example of Manchester United Versus Liverpool was given. This is a fixture where widespread violence was once common though now the atmosphere around the stadium is relatively pleasant.

6.15 Effectiveness also depends on the way other areas use FBOs. For example, in Manchester, a game against Leeds United is regarded as a very difficult game to police as Leeds were said to have a large hardcore of problem fans.

6.16 In all interview areas, it was thought the civil order has broken up many of the hardcore hooligan groups. The police now have powers to deal with the persistent hooligans who they just can't convict. This has also led to behaviour modification of the hangers on. All areas commented that many hooligans would actually rather get to see their team on a Saturday than risk getting banned.

6.17 Greater Manchester Police ( GMP) suggested that they think some fans with FBOs have been to Old Trafford but that those with FBOs wouldn't want to draw attention to themselves by causing trouble and getting thrown out of the stadium. Middlesbrough also said that many of the old hardcore are no longer involved in violence as they don't want to risk being banned from the Riverside Stadium. Put simply, ' most would rather give up ' aggro' and be able go and see Boro on a Saturday'.

6.18 The police did say for some, giving up the 'buzz' of aggro was difficult and some had repeat orders imposed on them.

6.19 In Newcastle risk groups have changed their behaviour, they now have a less visible presence and quite often without the large numbers seen in the past.

6.20 All areas remarked that fans are now more 'camera' aware and try to resist being filmed.

6.21 In Newcastle there is a belief that media support has helped in preventing violence by letting hooligans know that the police have powers to ban and that breach is taken seriously. Northumbria Police have a very close relationship with the Newcastle Chronicle. They ran a large story when one 'hard-core' hooligan was banned (with the strong support of Newcastle United F.C). Therefore, media coverage is thought to be an important tool.

6.22 Despite the media attention in Newcastle they appear to be unique among the areas that were identified for the study because Newcastle hooligans who receive FBOs in Northumbria have a recidivism rate of approximately 70% which lies in stark contrast to the national estimate of only 8%, a figure referred to during the national level focus group.

6.23 Generally, it was thought that in the 1980's the police did not have the tools to deal with hooliganism, but now they do. As one officer in Manchester stated:

'In the old days two groups would come together and have a punch up, the police would try to deal with it the best they could by dragging them apart and getting the away fans out of town. It was like we would try to keep the peace, but then the Saturday after we would all reconvene for the next round'.

6.24 In practice breaches vary in type. At one extreme is a wilful effort to defy the order by attempting to evade it. At the other are more technical breaches, where for example there has been a failure to notify the authorities of a change of address. Practices may vary according to the nature of the breach. Moreover police services vary in their policing following breaches. Some will not act until, for example, there have been three breaches, which in the view of those at the focus group could lead to a weakening of the preventive power of the order. Other police services will take action on the first taking those involved back to court. It was said that courts tend to take breaches very seriously. They are apt to lead to a prison sentence.

Police processes
6.25 All four areas examined in England and Wales were fairly clear about who the targets for the FBOs should be. The FBO gives the police the power to try and impose restrictions against a group of hardcore hooligans. The civil orders (14b) are particularly useful as they allow the police to take action against a group of people who it is often very difficult to get the required standard of proof to convict. The banning orders allow for action to be taken, but also reduce the time it takes police to draw together the evidence required for criminal conviction (the evidence dossier one intelligence officer in Middlesbrough showed us on one hooligan was over 50 pages long, showed him in regular contact with other hooligans and he was always present when it 'went off'. However, there was never enough on him to convict).

6.26 The football intelligence officers stressed the importance of proper 'targeting' of FBOs. The FBO is there to use as a tool against the 'risk' supporters (those organising/ committed to becoming involved in trouble). This is not to be used against 'over-excited' fans. Types of targets are:

  1. Those convicted (14A applications): Mainly "ordinary" supporter who has behaved in an out of character but nonetheless is problematic, probably has a history of public order/violence elsewhere or another football related arrest/fpn/conviction. A few may be "risk" supporters who have been "caught in the act" on match day.
  2. Civil applications (14B applications): Mainly known "risk" supporters who have not been convicted of any offence but on whom there is further evidence available of their behaviour. This is usually one "trigger" incident supported by evidence of association with other known "risk" supporters.

6.27 Many of the most serious hooligans fall into the 14B category. The 14B targets are identified by FIO at the start of each financial year (the funding of posts by the UKFPU is dependent upon FBOs actually being implemented). The banning officer then prepares applications, usually by drawing evidence together into a dossier.

6.28 Ticket touts are also problem at Manchester United and they are targeted by the police. They are problematic as they can potentially sell tickets to banned supporters or upset segregation in the stadium. Touting is an offence, though is also used as evidence for an FBO application.

Evidence Required
6.29 The evidence required for a sec 14A application is pretty straightforward as it is tied to a conviction ( i.e. a conviction for hitting somebody over the head after a game is pretty good evidence that an FBO might be appropriate). There were slight differences of views in relation to the evidence threshold for a sec 14B order. All areas acknowledge that involvement or association with one incident was enough to make a civil application, though whether this was actually enough to get an order granted by the magistrate was subject to debate. For example, in Middlesbrough civil applications had occasionally been pushed through where there been involvement in just one incident. An example was given where after a UEFA Cup game in Czech Republic in 2006 many applications were pushed through on the strength of video evidence against some known hooligans and first time hooligans. Only one application was rejected in relation to that incident; against a fan who was present, but not directly involved and had no known history of hooliganism.

6.30 In Manchester the threshold for evidence required for a civil order appears to be higher. There is a 100% success rate, but only because the force case review solicitor will not allow an application to proceed if there is flimsy evidence as it will not get past the magistrates (the CPS review applications linked to a conviction). The example was given of Merseyside where there are far higher numbers of orders because the threshold of acceptable evidence is lower.

6.31 In Northumbria there is 40% failure rate with civil orders. They have now taken steps to ensure that evidence is very tight to push orders through.

6.32 The suggestion is that, orders are 'easier' to obtain in some areas. However, there was a general view among interviewees that for a civil application to be successful there was a requirement to prove association between people (hooligans) and that the individuals that are identified present a risk of engaging in violence. It is necessary to try and prove:

  1. Proof of proximity to events ( i.e. the person was there when it kicked off)
  2. Association with other hooligans ( i.e. Person 'A' is a hooligan and person 'B' hangs out with them/ goes to same pubs etc)
  3. Routine/persistent behaviour pattern ( i.e. often around when there is trouble, always with group of hooligans etc)

6.33 In one area, the Head of Legal Services mentioned that the time it takes to gather the dossier of evidence together for an order can be an issue. Here it was stated that the FBO was the only type of civil order where an interim order couldn't be made for 14Bs. For example, for an ASBO, whilst the application is being processed through the system, an interim ASBO can be made where the individual concerned is subject to the conditions of the order before the full ASBO is imposed. She made the point that there can be a 2-3 month delay between the date the application is made and when it is imposed. Therefore, this can be a further 2-3 months when hooligans are active.

6.34 Northumbria Police did state that there are likely to be issues in the future in relation to building a case using video evidence. This is due to the possible tightening of rules in relation to routine, continual and indiscriminate video-taping of football supporters.

Court processes
6.35 The police in all three areas commented on the perceptions of FBOs amongst magistrates and within the CPS, suggesting that there is a view the legislation is draconian and restrictive. In one area an officer was so frustrated by the views of a member of the CPS (who appeared to sympathise with a number of hooligans for whom applications had been made) he took her to a major policing operation to get some firsthand experience of what can happen on match days (and to begin to understand the difficulties the police face in policing determined hooligans who know what police tactics are and how they can avoid detection). A lack of understanding in the CPS/courts as to how football hooligans operate appears to be an issue.

6.36 Stakeholders in England and Wales felt there may be more scope for specialist prosecutors in Scotland, given small number of cases.

6.37 In London, Northumbria and Greater Manchester Police ( GMP) the clubs were very supportive of the police in relation to issuing and enforcing FBOs and there was close coordination in relation to policing and club stewarding. Only in Cleveland were there tensions between the police and the club, with Middlesbrough F.C. requesting FBOs be imposed on a group of fans which the police do not view as a problem.

6.38 GMP had a fairly relaxed view about enforcement in relation to domestic fixtures. Those hooligans with banning orders will quickly come to the attention of the police if they are involved with the hooligan firm or violence (through the police hooligan spotters). As long as those with FBOs behave/ their behaviour is modified, then GMP had little concern if fans actually entered the stadium (which is a clear breach). GMP were clear that it is not about imposing a set a conditions/restrictions on somebody and just making sure they comply, it is about ensuring behaviour is modified.

6.39 Unlike GMP, Cleveland Police were harder on enforcement and viewed this as a problem. Anybody breaking the restrictions on movement on a banning order or entering the stadium is a concern and the police take a serious view on breaches. There have been some breaches here- though police say this is normally because these people (these hooligans) forget the conditions of their order.

6.40 In all areas a fan breaching their order will normally (first) be given a telephone call by the force banning officer to see why they had failed to comply or broken restrictions of the order. Breaches in all areas tend to be progressed, unless there is a good reason not to. Breach is a criminal matter and breaches do lead to a court appearance (a civil breach is then a criminal matter-like an ASBO).

6.41 Northumbria Police are heavily reliant on match day spotters to know who their banned supporters are and to see if they are around on match days. They said there was no intelligence to suggest breaches are taking place on match days. They have had very few arrests on match days for breach's (2 or 3 out of 167 since 1/11/08).

6.42 Police hooligan spotters travel away from home with all main clubs.

6.43 A growing tactic is now for hooligans to drink and occasionally arrange a 'meet' outside of restricted areas.

Policing/ enforcement in relation to domestic European fixtures
6.44 The police in GMP had most experience here. Due to the long history Manchester United have of playing in European competition the police have vast experience of dealing with United hooligans travelling, foreign fans visiting Manchester and working with foreign police. Policing European games is more difficult than domestic games because of the large travel distances involved and the different travel arrangements that can potentially be put in place by fans. For example, if United are away at West Ham, in London on a Saturday, generally, fans will travel on a Friday night or Saturday morning by car down the M6 or by train in to London Euston. This is easy enough to predict and to police. However, if United are away in Europe at Milan or Rome it is harder to police. Fans might (perfectly legitimately) want to travel a week before and take a holiday, they could fly from Manchester or Birmingham. It creates so many more potential headaches in terms of predicting what the travel arrangements are and what risk supporters might be up to.

6.45 As with England games abroad, the police will liaise with foreign police forces prior to games and they travel to away games. At the time of interview, GMP were very closely involved with Strathclyde ahead of the Manchester United v Rangers game in Glasgow (24 thNov 2010).

6.46 Intelligence information will flow in from foreign police about what GMP can expect from foreign fans both at home and abroad ( i.e. ahead of the recent Manchester City v Lech Poznan game intelligence was received that there would be tensions within the travelling fans between ex-pat Poles living in the UK and the travelling Poles- there were problems at the game between these groups, not involving Man City fans)

6.47 The risks from away fans visiting England tends to be low for most European teams- the big risks can be teams from Scotland and Holland/Germany; though hooligans rarely travel in large numbers with continental teams.

6.48 The really big concern is when English fans travel into Europe and ensuring that the conditions of banning orders are observed. Preparation for games will take place weeks in advance and FIOs will know exactly who should not be travelling/ surrendering passports etc.

6.49 Enforcement is also reliant on close working with the club in relation to ticketing. Ticketing is very strict for these games and Manchester United are careful to make sure tickets do not get into the wrong hands. When a season ticket holder buys a ticket for a European fixture away from home, they actually buy a voucher. They can only get their ticket when they arrive at the stadium on the day of the game and the ticket is claimed by producing an original passport as proof of ID. It has to be an original. This is designed to stop anybody with an FBO travelling.

6.50 Some banned supporters have tried to travel on false or borrowed passports. There was an example where a fan with an FBO did travel to Moscow for the Champions League final by using his brother's passport. Somehow he got to Moscow, but was then intercepted by police spotters and deported.

Policing/enforcement in relation to international fixtures
6.51 Many of the processes used by the police/clubs and the issues arising in relation to enforcement of international games are similar to those observed in relation to European club fixtures. However, some interesting points in relation to policing FBOs in international games were raised and are worthy of mention.

6.52 All areas are very tight on enforcement here. The match commander in Northumbria was vehement about this as he did not want Newcastle/Sunderland hooligans slipping through the net and tarnishing the image of the country and the reputation of Northumbria police (for poor enforcement).

6.53 Hooligans have tried to get around police patrols at ports and airports by exiting the country through Scotland.

6.54 In Northumbria it was reported that when surrender of passports/reporting is required is when most breaches occur. Their preparation for the World Cup (2010) began in November 2008.Their process for dealing with FBOs in the run up was to:

  • Send over 120 individual letters reminding them of their FBO responsibilities (January 2010)
  • Over 70 letters hand delivered to individual's subject of FBOs (April 2010)
  • Members of the Northumbria police that were responsible for the policing of football matches as part of their primary duties gave training to front office and admin staff on dealing with FBOs (May 2010).
  • Football Staff worked late shifts in front offices to assist with individuals reporting for their FBOs (May/June 2010).

6.55 It was generally agreed that the FBO needs to be a key tool looking towards Euro 2012 in Ukraine and Poland. The police see European games involving England as a problem and these do attract hardcore hooligans. The context in Poland is very different to other places where the world cup has been held without problems - i.e. Japan, South Africa. The potential for trouble in the Ukraine and Poland is high because of the geographical proximity. Banning orders should work to take out the hard core hooligans. There is a perception in England that hooliganism has disappeared, though police intelligence, crowd control tactics and tools such as FBOs appear to have curtailed the problem.

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