Football fans face being tested for drugs on arrest by police after a surge in cocaine-fuelled violence at matches.
Chief constable Richard Lewis, the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s lead on drugs, told MPs on Wednesday that he wanted to see a major expansion of testing football thugs amid growing cocaine use before, during and after games.
He told the Home Affairs Committee there was a growing body of evidence that cocaine use was increasing among fans, creating a “potentially problematic cocktail” of drug-induced euphoria and confidence in the “highly emotionally charged” atmosphere of a football match.
“We are seeing increased use of cocaine at football matches,” he said. “We would like to increase drug testing on arrest for those arrested for football-related disorder.”
He said this would not only enable police to identify the culprits - and potentially enable offenders to be placed on drug treatment orders on top of any punishment - but also help police to establish the scale of the problem.
Mr Lewis, chief constable of the Dyfed-Powys police force, was responding to Bury North Tory MP James Daly, a Huddersfield Town fan, who expressed concern that drugs could be behind pitch invasions by fans, including one in May at his home club.
He was backed by Charlie Doyle, assistant chief constable at the British Transport Police (BTP), who revealed BTP had carried out “discrete” drug swab tests on trains to try to establish the scale of the problem. Traces had been found on tables, train handles and in the toilets on match days, he said.
He told MPs police would welcome the power to test on arrest and to be able to link that to football banning orders “so that we can stop people going to football where there is evidence of drug misuse.”
The Government is currently drawing up plans to crackdown on middle-class drug users whose habits ministers blame for fuelling the violent drug trade. MPs were told Britons consumed an estimated 117 tonnes of cocaine a year in a trade worth £11 billion a year.
Under the proposals, football fans who take cocaine or other class A drugs to matches will face bans of five years from all grounds.
They could also have their passports confiscated if their team or England is playing abroad as well as facing travel bans and exclusion zones around grounds. Anyone who breaches the banning orders could be jailed for up to six months.
As well as the temporary removal of passports or driving licences, offenders could also face curfews and increased fines designed to punish and deter repeat drug users.
Policing minister Kit Malthouse said that in the last year almost 3,000 people died due to illegal drugs – more than from all knife crime and road traffic accidents – while there had also been a 19 per cent rise in drug use.
This was why the Government had set a target of reducing drug use to a 30-year low within a decade. “This will need bold steps to show we are serious about bringing in impactful consequences to all who snort, sniff, swallow or smoke,” Mr Malthouse wrote in an article for the Telegraph last month.