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What to Know about Football Related Offences in the UK

Everyone who has ever been to a match precisely knows how much such an experience differs from watching the game at home. Football matches are intense, especially those in the Championship. Being part of the whole stadium that is shouting out players’ names is an inexpressible sensation – even if you came as a spectator, not a devoted fan of either of the teams.

Sometimes feelings overflow – usually depending on how the match is going and what decisions the referees make (thank God we have VAR now!) – and that can lead to bursts of fans’ supportive energy which may result in violence or disorder.

When planning to attend a football match, it is not odd to think about your safety, so you might be asking yourself “What are public order offences?” and “How many of them are related to football?”. But what is more important – it is checking the football-related offences that are described in specially designed acts, such as Football Offences Act, Sporting Events (Control of Alcohol etc.) Act, and Football Spectators Act – let’s concentrate on them.

Football Offences Act

This act represents the basic requirements of the supporter’s behaviour, and following them will be enough to avoid any further criminal offences. Offences described in the Football Offences Act include:

  • Throwing missiles (i.e. flares) at or towards playing area and area in which spectators or other persons are or may be present;
  • Indecent or racialist chanting;
  • Going onto the playing area.

This legislation applies two hours before the beginning of a football match and one hour after it ends, and relates to things done at a designated sports ground.

Sporting Events (Control of Alcohol etc.) Act

This act focuses on entering or trying to enter the designated sports ground whilst possessing prohibited articles. Offences related to alcohol, containers etc. at sports grounds include:

  • Carrying alcohol in coach or train, or certain other vehicles on route to designated sporting events;
  • Possession of alcohol at or when entering an established sporting event;
  • A person who is drunk in a designated sports ground at any time during the period of a designated sporting event at that ground;
  • Causing injury to a person struck by an article capable of it (a bottle, can or other portable containers).

Offences such as the possession of fireworks, flares, fog signals, and pellets and capsules intended to be used as fumigators or for testing pipes, i.e. articles that emit smoke or physical gas, can be prosecuted if a person has them:

  • at any time during the period of a designated sporting event when he is in any area of a designated sports ground from which the event may be directly viewed;
  • while entering or trying to enter a designated sports ground at any time during the period of a designated sporting event at the ground.

Football Spectators Act

This act was designed to provide recommendations on the admission of football spectators to a designated football match, such as being licenced. To obtain a licence, the stadium must have all-seated accommodation for all spectators. It is also applied to football-related arrests along with several generic criminal offences committed concerning a football match. The Football Spectators Act, just like those discussed above, aims to make the spectators’ experience as safe as possible and provide them with comfortable and secure conditions.

Football Banning Orders

A football banning order (FBO) is designed to protect regulated football matches from violence and disorder and prevent further similar situations. A person found guilty becomes prohibited from attending football matches in England and Wales, and can even be required to report and surrender their passport at the local police station, to exclude the possibility of attending an overseas regulated football match or tournament. The so-called “control period” lasts from 3 to 10 years and varies from one individual to another.

According to experimental statistics, football banning orders at the beginning of August 2019 have decreased by 3%, compared to the previous season, and football-related arrests are 10% lower. Still, these numbers are quite impressive – 1,771 banning orders and 1,381 arrests, respectively. Number of FBOs does not necessarily equal the number of restricted supporters, as some of them may have FBOs for different football clubs.


As you can see, all of the restrictions and football-related offences described in the legal acts are quite obvious and fair, as they help take care of your own and other spectators’ safety during sports events. They are primarily designed to ensure security at a designated sports ground in certain hours. Public order offences will regulate disorders that go beyond them.

In case you are groundlessly arrested or have to attend a police station, always make sure to ask for contact with a lawyer and let the solicitors regulate the case.

Supporting your favorite football club, whether it be a London derby or a battle at the very bottom of the League table, is always a noble cause, so make sure you don’t tarnish it with a football banning order!