6th Feb 2024

The Football Association has launched an investigation into the violent scenes which marred a recent FA Cup tie between West Bromwich Albion and Wolverhampton Wanderers. They have vowed to stamp out criminal behaviour inside stadiums. Football Banning Orders are one device which the English football authorities rely on to act as a deterrent against crowd disturbances.

The Crown Prosecution Service website states that “FBOs can have a deterrent effect significantly greater than any sentence imposed for an offence, and prosecutors must pursue an FBO on conviction whenever one is available unless there are exceptional reasons for not doing so”.

In the article below, 18 St John Street’s pupil barrister Tanya Elahi provides an explanation of Football Banning Orders.

Football Banning Orders (FBOs)

What are FBOs?

An FBO is an order made under the Football Spectators Act 1989 which can be imposed following a conviction for an offence related to football, or through an application to the Magistrates’ Court. Whether an offence is related to football is something that is a matter of judgement. It does not necessarily have to be during a football match, and can even occur some distance away from the ground, or some time after a game has ended.

What is the Effect of an FBO?

The idea behind an FBO is that it should act as a deterrent to lower instances of offending behaviour relating to football. The order can prohibit someone from entering any premises for the purposes of attending a regulated football match. Additional requirements can also be made, such as prohibiting someone from using the national rail network during certain periods without approval, precluding people from going to certain places from two hours prior, to two hours after football matches, requiring an individual to surrender their passport during a specific period of time, or conditions to report to a police station.

FBO on Conviction:

The test for when an FBO can be made on conviction requires the following to be satisfied:

  • A person must be convicted of a ‘relevant offence’. These are listed in Schedule 1 to the Football Spectators Act 1989.
  • Where this happens, the court must impose an FBO unless there are ‘particular circumstances relating to the offence or to the offender which would make it unjust in all the circumstances to do so’ (s14A(2) Football Spectators Act 1989).
  • In deciding whether to make the order, the court may consider evidence from both sides. The court can even consider evidence which would not have been admissible in the proceedings within which a person has been convicted.

Appealing a Decision not to make an FBO:

Prosecutors are able to appeal, either to the Crown Court or Court of Appeal, if the court decides not to make an FBO. For an appeal to the Crown Court, an appeal notice must be served within 15 business days of the decision. For an appeal to the Court of Appeal, the appeal notice must be served within 28 days.

FBO on Complaint:

This is where a prosecutor applies directly to the Magistrates’ Court for an FBO to be granted. Although there may be insufficient evidence to prosecute a football-related offence, or a trial takes place and the Defendant is acquitted, it is still possible to apply for an FBO in this way. This would be a civil application, which means that the standard of proof is on the balance of probabilities.

The test for making an order in these circumstances is as follows:

  • The person who is to be subject to the order must have caused or contributed to any violence or disorder in the United Kingdom or elsewhere.
  • If the court is satisfied that this has occurred, and that there are reasonable grounds to believe that an order would help prevent violence or disorder at, or in connection with, any regulated football matches, it must make the order (s14B Football Spectators Act 1989).

How long does an FBO last for?

If an FBO is made following conviction under s14A Football Spectators Act 1989,  and immediate imprisonment is imposed, an FBO may last between 6 – 10 years. However, if immediate imprisonment is not imposed, it may last between 3 – 5 years.

If an FBO is made on complaint under s14B Football Spectators Act 1989, the FBO may last between 3 – 5 years.

The court does not have any powers to extend an existing FBO.

What Happens if you Breach an FBO?

If a person who is subject to an FBO fails to comply with any of the requirements of the order they would be committing a summary-only offence which is punishable by up to 6 months’ imprisonment.

This would also be the case if they failed to comply with any applicable requirements under a notice issued by the Football Banning Orders Authority.

If a person fails to comply with any requirements and the court wishes to extend the duration of the FBO, a new order can be made.

Can you Vary/Terminate an FBO Early?

Any additional requirements which are imposed under FBOs may be varied if this is applied for either by the person subject to the order, or by the prosecutor who originally applied for it.

In addition to this, once an FBO has been in effect for at least two-thirds of the specified period, the person subject to the order can apply to the court to terminate it. The applicant would need to notify the Football Banning Orders Authority of their application to terminate the FBO. In deciding whether to terminate the order, the court will consider a number of factors, including the person’s character, their conduct since the order was made, the nature of the conduct that resulted in the order, and any other relevant circumstances.

Tanya Elahi is a current pupil barrister at 18 St John Street, undertaking a criminal law pupillage. Tanya is available to deal with Football Banning Orders and all other criminal matters from 4th March 2024.

For more information about the Criminal Department at 18 St John Street and how they can help you, please contact Chambers’ Director James Parks or Senior Criminal Clerk James Hotchin on 0161 278 1800.