Football banning orders rise significantly over first half of season

Football banning orders issued in relation to matches in England and Wales have increased notably in the first half of the current season compared to the same period last season, according to new police figures.

Data released by the UK Football Policing Unit on Thursday showed there were 343 banning orders issued between July 1, 2022 and December 31, 2022, an increase of 230 per cent compared to the same period in the 2021-22 campaign.

The huge increase in banning orders is seen by police chiefs as evidence of the positive action that officers and the Crown Prosecution Service are taking to tackle the problems behind football disorder, which is still described as an “elevated problem”.

Police activity at football matches in England & Wales
Police activity at football matches in England & Wales

From November 10 last year, anyone convicted of either possessing or supplying class A drugs at a regulated game could be made subject to a banning order.

There were 999 football-related arrests in the period covered by the data, an 11 per cent increase on the first half of 2021-22.

Reported incidents at matches were down 19 per cent to 661, but that still represented the second-highest mid-season figure on record. Incidents were reported at 43 per cent of the 1,550 matches covered by the data.

Incidents involving supporter drug use increased by 42 per cent, while incidents featuring pyrotechnics increased by 12 per cent.

Hate crime incidents at matches were down by 24 per cent – with 157 in the first half of 2022-23 compared to 206 in 2021-22. However, there were 29 incidents of online hate allegations, a 53 per cent increase compared to the same period in the previous season – 19.

Pitch incursions were also down 39 per cent compared to the corresponding period in the previous season – 120 instances compared to 199.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council’s football policing lead, Chief Constable Mark Roberts of Cheshire Police, told the PA news agency he thought there were two major reasons for the high number of banning orders being issued: “The first thing is that there have been more fans making themselves eligible for a banning order, and the second thing is that the police and the CPS have been a lot more focused on it.

“We’ve done a lot more post-match investigations, so as a consequence we’ve put (those individuals) before the courts. The next step in the chain is that the courts are now alive more than they were perhaps that there is an issue (with disorder).

“We still see some quite puzzling rulings by courts where banning orders aren’t issued.”

Liverpool v Villarreal – UEFA Champions League – Semi Final – First Leg – Anfield
Football-related arrests have risen since last season (Peter Byrne/PA)

Roberts is encouraged to see all parties concerned now recognising there is an issue with increased disorder post-Covid.

“I think when we highlighted the significant increase (in disorder) post-Covid, obviously everyone’s concerned, but I think you’ll probably remember there was a bit of commentary from some people about ‘well, it’s just a spike, the police are overhyping it’.

“I think we’ve got beyond that. The stats clearly demonstrate there is an elevated problem. It’s good that everyone’s on board with that, all the leagues, the FAs, the safety officers’ association. Everyone’s agreeing there is a problem, and once you’ve got that agreement you can actively start targeting it jointly.”