Football-related arrests soar to EIGHT-YEAR high in England and Wales as fan disorder escalates

·3-min read
Everton fans invade the pitch at Goodison Park after the win over Crystal Palace in May  (AFP via Getty Images)
Everton fans invade the pitch at Goodison Park after the win over Crystal Palace in May (AFP via Getty Images)

Arrests and reported incidents of disorder at football matches in England and Wales last season reached an eight-year high, according to figures released by the Home Office on Thursday.

There were 2,198 football-related arrests last term — the highest number since 2013-14 — and a 59 per cent increase on 2018-19, the last full campaign before the pandemic.

West Ham fans were the worst offenders, with 95 arrests, followed by Manchester City (76), Manchester United (72), Leicester (59) and Everton (58).

Incidents of disorder were reported at 53 per cent of all matches — 1,609 of the 3,019 games played. By contrast, in 2018-19, there were reported incidents at 1,007 matches, equivalent to a third of the games played, marking a 60 per cent increase last season.

The most reported types of incidents were pyrotechnics (729 matches), throwing missiles (561) and public order or anti-social behaviour incidents involving youth supporters (444).

Most strikingly, pitch invasions increased by a staggering 127 per cent on the 2018-19 campaign, with 441 reported.

The end of last season was marred by a series of ugly incidents during pitch invasions, and a supporter was jailed for head-butting Sheffield United’s Billy Sharp following Nottingham Forest’s win over the Blades in the Championship play-offs.

There was also an alarming increase in hate crimes, with 384 reported, an increase of 99 per cent. There were 516 new banning orders issued to fans.

The figures paint a depressing picture of the state of the domestic game, and come after Premier League clubs unanimously agreed to introduce minimum bans of one year for supporters who take part in anti-social and criminal behaviour at their grounds.

England internationals Eric Dier and Jordan Henderson this week both spoke out about fan disorder, with the Tottenham defender revealing he feels “too uncomfortable” for his family to attend away games. “[Fan behaviour] has definitely got worse,” Dier said. “It is a serious problem.”

Chief Constable Mark Roberts,the UK’s most senior football police officer, said: “Following constructive talks with the Premier League, EFL and FA we are keen to support our partners in delivering their proposals – including the introduction of stadium bans for people who enter the pitch, as well as those who use pyrotechnics.

“The statistics released today show a worrying rise in these crimes, which are both extremely dangerous for players, staff and fellow fans alike. As well as being banned, anyone who commits these offences should also expect to be prosecuted by the police.”

Meanwhile, the new Government is reportedly considering shelving plans to introduce an independent football regulator. Liz Truss’s administration is said to prefer to avoid legislation in favour of giving the game a fixed deadline to come up with an alternative plan.

An independent regulator was the leading recommendation of the fan-led review into football governance, authored by former sports minister Tracey Crouch.

The new regulator, which is opposed by the Premier League, would have sweeping powers to sanction clubs who break financial and other rules.