Football, creative comms licence, Denis Dervisevic

Picture from Flickr under creative comms licence, Denis Dervisevic

Google ‘football banning orders yobs’ and you get nearly six million hits.  Leading up to the World Cup you can guarantee lurid headlines about how Football Banning Orders (FBOs) will stop hoards of violent, rampaging hooligans from travelling to Brazil and bringing shame on their country.

National media film crews will be invited to airports to film the police in their operations and even the local news will get in on the act, reporting on those who have to hand in their passports. Many in the media – not all, there are some good ‘uns out there – will regurgitate police press releases verbatim with little in the way of actual analysis.

Were they to scratch the surface it wouldn’t be too difficult to unearth the real facts behind FBOs. As of September 2013, 2,451 people were serving FBOs. The Home Office only releases arrest stats so we know that 573 people were arrested for violent disorder.  We don’t know how many of those arrests lead to charges, convictions and FBOs but in our experience, around half is a reasonable guestimate.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that a proportion of the 2,451 FBOs won’t even have been given on the back of a criminal conviction, they’ll have been handed out thanks to a successful civil application by police where the burden of proof is lower. (Yes, you read that right, your passport can be confiscated even if you haven’t been convicted of anything.) 

An FBO involves surrendering your passport for at least five weeks, scuppering any plans for family holidays and perhaps even causing professional inconvenience.  A further irony is that Welsh fans will also have to surrender passports despite not qualifying for the World Cup.

If a supporter ends up in court the police and Crown Prosecution Service will almost certainly apply for an FBO regardless of the offence and regardless of the history of the offender. Thankfully, the vast majority of supporters who approach us looking for legal assistance avoid an FBO but many fans don’t seek legal advice and attend court unrepresented.

Without an experienced solicitor defending, magistrates or judges invariably grant an FBO application on conviction. A sizeable proportion of fans on FBOs won’t have committed an offence involving violence and many will be first time offenders.

Middle-aged men having had one too many and arrested at the turnstiles, young lads who got carried away and fired off a volley of verbal abuse over a railway platform, fans pushed onto the pitch during over-exuberant goal celebrations.

FBOs don’t prevent thousands of ‘yobs’ and ‘hooligans’ from following their country, despite what the headlines might tell you. In actuality the number of those 2,451 who have even been near an England away game is very small, you’re probably looking single fingers.

However, surrendering your passport is not open to negotiation – get an FBO and you have to hand over your passport when your country is playing overseas.

Despite what the media might have you believe trouble at England games is extremely rare nowadays. Only one England fan was arrested at an away international during 2012-13, and that was for an offence related to alcohol, not violence. It took place in San Marino, that known hotbed of football violence.

There are numerous factors at play but, not to be shy of our own role, the good work carried out by the volunteers at the FSF’s Fans’ Embassy has played its part. They dish out the excellent Free Lions fanzine at every away game and offer advice around security, transport, travel and the best bars to grab a pint in.

Sadly, it doesn’t make for lurid headlines about “Hooligans stopped at airports” but why let reality get in the way of a good story?

The Football Supporters’ Federation is the democratic fans’ group representing more than 500,000 individual and affiliate members in England and Wales. Join the FSF for free via www.fsf.org.uk/join and like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @The_FSF.

 

– See more at: http://www.fsf.org.uk/blog/view/the-truth-about-world-cup-hooligans#sthash.Ezmt4hlG.dpuf

Google “football banning orders yobs” and you get nearly six million hits.  Leading up to the World Cup you can guarantee lurid headlines about how Football Banning Orders (FBOs) will stop hoards of violent, rampaging hooligans from travelling to Brazil and bringing shame on their country.

National media film crews will be invited to airports to film the police in their operations and even the local news will get in on the act, reporting on those who have to hand in their passports. Many in the media – not all, there are some good ‘uns out there – will regurgitate police press releases verbatim with little in the way of actual analysis.

Were they to scratch the surface it wouldn’t be too difficult to unearth the real facts behind FBOs. As of September 2013, 2,451 people were serving FBOs. The Home Office only releases arrest stats so we know that 573 people were arrested for violent disorder.  We don’t know how many of those arrests lead to charges, convictions and FBOs but in our experience, around half is a reasonable guestimate.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that a proportion of the 2,451 FBOs won’t even have been given on the back of a criminal conviction, they’ll have been handed out thanks to a successful civil application by police where the burden of proof is lower. (Yes, you read that right, your passport can be confiscated even if you haven’t been convicted of anything.)

An FBO involves surrendering your passport for at least five weeks, scuppering any plans for family holidays and perhaps even causing professional inconvenience.  A further irony is that Welsh fans will also have to surrender passports despite not qualifying for the World Cup.

If a supporter ends up in court the police and Crown Prosecution Service will almost certainly apply for an FBO regardless of the offence and regardless of the history of the offender. Thankfully, the vast majority of supporters who approach us looking for legal assistance avoid an FBO but many fans don’t seek legal advice and attend court unrepresented.

Without an experienced solicitor defending, magistrates or judges invariably grant an FBO application on conviction. A sizeable proportion of fans on FBOs won’t have committed an offence involving violence and many will be first time offenders.

Middle-aged men having had one too many and arrested at the turnstiles, young lads who got carried away and fired off a volley of verbal abuse over a railway platform, fans pushed onto the pitch during over-exuberant goal celebrations.

FBOs don’t prevent thousands of ‘yobs’ and ‘hooligans’ from following their country, despite what the headlines might tell you. In actuality the number of those 2,451 who have even been near an England away game is very small, you’re probably looking single fingers.

However, surrendering your passport is not open to negotiation – get an FBO and you have to hand over your passport when your country is playing overseas.

Despite what the media might have you believe trouble at England games is extremely rare nowadays. Only one England fan was arrested at an away international during 2012-13, and that was for an offence related to alcohol, not violence. It took place in San Marino, that known hotbed of football violence.

There are numerous factors at play but, not to be shy of our own role, the good work carried out by the volunteers at the FSF’s Fans’ Embassy has played its part. They dish out the excellent Free Lions fanzine at every away game and offer advice around security, transport, travel and the best bars to grab a pint in.

Sadly, it doesn’t make for lurid headlines about “Hooligans stopped at airports” but why let reality get in the way of a good story?

The Football Supporters’ Federation is the democratic fans’ group representing more than 500,000 individual and affiliate members in England and Wales. Join the FSF for free via www.fsf.org.uk/join and like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @The_FSF.

– See more at: http://www.fsf.org.uk/blog/view/the-truth-about-world-cup-hooligans#sthash.Ezmt4hlG.dpuf

Profile photo of Amanda Jacks About Amanda Jacks
Amanda Jacks is a caseworker for the Football Supporters Federation, and deals with complaints about the way fans are treated by police and stewards, as well as giving legal support and advice

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