Publication - Research and analysis

An Evaluation of Football Banning Orders in Scotland

Published: 29 Jul 2011
Part of:

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

72 page PDF

1.1 MB

72 page PDF

1.1 MB

An Evaluation of Football Banning Orders in Scotland

72 page PDF

1.1 MB


7.1 The evaluation found that the implementation of the FBO legislation has improved over time, with more FBOs being issued, and with a greater proportion of FBO applications being successful. Our analysis of FBO cases also shows that FBOs are generally being correctly targeted at appropriate offenders, individuals with a history of engaging in football-related violence and disorder. Moreover, from a statistical analysis of conviction data there was indicative evidence to show that FBOs may be reducing the intensity of offending amongst those subject to banning orders.

7.2 Whilst there are some ongoing challenges confronting the FBO regime, a commitment to tackling these was very evident across the range of agencies involved in implementing the legislation. Recommendations deriving from this evaluation as to how to meet some of these challenges are contained in the report's executive summary.

7.3 The successful implementation of new legislation usually requires a range of partner agencies to act in concert to 'deliver' or 'give effect' to that legislation. In the case of Football Banning Orders, this report has hopefully demonstrated how the effective use of the legislation requires coordinated and consistent actions from club officials, through to police officers, Procurator Fiscal deputes and Sheriffs.

7.4 There are a variety of ways in which one can model the delivery of legislation, though for our purposes it is helpful to think of legislation requiring a coordination and consistency of implementation on three inter-related levels:

  • Legislation needs to be underpinned through robust and agreed processes;
  • These processes in turn need to be supported through the provision of appropriate resources;
  • And finally, there needs to be a reasonable degree of agreement as to the interpretation of that legislation.

7.5 The evaluation found that FBO processes were largely robust and well-aligned across partner agencies, and where problems did exist, plans or projects were already in place to remedy these deficiencies. Processes were strongest when it came to targeting in-stadia violence and disorder and incidents that occurred on obvious travel routes to and from the stadia, but were weaker when it came to problems occurring away-from the stadia.

7.6 Whilst the rate of FBOs being issued at Scottish Premier League ( SPL) fixtures was not - in fact - far below equivalent rates for English Premier League clubs, FBOs were rarely used outside of the SPL. This stands in stark contrast to the situation in England and Wales where the majority of FBOs are issued at fixtures outside the Premier league. It was beyond the scope of this research to determine whether this represents a missed opportunity to use the legislation to tackle problems that are - indisputably - not confined to the SPL.

7.7 Some missed opportunities for imposing FBOs have resulted from police officers or Procurator Fiscal deputes not having sufficient awareness, or specialist knowledge, to either initiate or progress FBO cases appropriately. However, it does not appear realistic for all officers or deputes to have more than a basic level of awareness of FBO legislation. Rather, approaches that rely on designated officers or deputes taking responsibility for identifying and 'steering' FBO cases seems more achievable and resource efficient. Models for doing this are already in place to a limited extent, though there is clear scope for their more widespread adoption.

7.8 The introduction of the FBO legislation in Scotland was not supported by the 'pump-priming' monies made available by the Home Office in introducing legislation in England and Wales. However, whilst this may partially account for the initial, slower uptake of the legislative provisions in Scotland, this funding disparity seems less relevant going forward.

7.9 Rather, a key issue for Scotland appears to be to achieve a suitable degree of resourcing across all those geographical areas where football related violence and disorder is a significant issue. The resourcing required is not primarily monetary, but ensuring that key officials already required to deliver the legislation, have enough 'ring-fenced' time to do so (acknowledging that in most instances there will be few officials with a full time role for dealing with FBOs or indeed football-related violence and disorder more broadly). Where resourcing is already sufficient, the challenge going forward is clearly preserving this capacity in the current fiscal climate, though an argument can surely be made that investing in a preventative measure such as an FBO is likely to be more cost-effective than dealing with future incidents of football-related violence through more conventional policing and criminal justice responses.

7.10 A minimum level of resourcing for effectively maintaining the FBO regime, includes not only those resources required for directly applying for, and administering FBOs, but in particular those intelligence and policing resources which underpin the FBO regime in the first place (by knowing where trouble may be, who troublemakers are, and having the resources to intervene). These broader resources are shared between both police and club officials, and the effectiveness of the relationship between these two sets of officials is of increasing importance.

7.11 Across all parties, irrespective of their official function, there were quite marked differences in terms of how the legislation was interpreted. One would of course anticipate this to an extent when it comes to new legislation. Moreover, one might convincingly argue that some flexibility in interpretation is healthy, both in terms of accurately reflecting normative differences as to how football related violence and disorder is viewed, and in terms of being a by-product of judicial independence.

7.12 That said, the degree of some of the observed differences was quite problematic, limiting the effectiveness of the legislation, and indeed undermining the credibility of the legislation for some respondents. There were two major areas of disagreement. First, there were clear disagreements as to how vigorously FBOs should be utilised against sectarian offences. Second, there was disagreement and uncertainty as to the degree to which the legislation permitted more extensive restrictions being placed on certain types of offenders ( e.g. imposing additional conditions on risk supporters who didn't attend games, for instance preventing them from travelling to away matches or excluding them from a city centre on match days). Even if the legislation permitted such restrictions, there was also clear disagreement as to whether imposing them would be fair or proportionate.

7.13 It is not clear at this stage that there would be any benefit in tightening the existing legislation further to attempt to resolve these issues. In particular, both Sheriff and Procurator Fiscal depute respondents were very wary of any move to make the legislation more prescriptive. On the contrary, most respondents felt that the drafting of the existing legislation did not in any way hinder the effective use of FBOs. This viewpoint will be tested over time as the legislation is utilised - and indeed challenged - more.

7.14 It may be that many, if not all of these issues regarding the legislation will be resolved in due course- as more guidance is issued, as more case law is available to inform the decision making of legal professionals, and as training and awareness raising events pay further dividends. However, it also appears likely that some of these issues stem - not purely from a close reading of the legislation and its associated guidance - but from broader normative debates regarding the acceptability of different forms of behaviour within the context of football matches, and regarding how best to deal with different forms of unacceptable conduct. As a consequence, advancing the effectiveness of the FBO legislation may hinge as much on achieving some measure of consensus on these broader issues, as focussing on the understanding and implementation of the legislation itself.