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Huge rise in fan disorder at football matches in England and Wales last season

Incidents were reported at 1,609 of the 3,019 matches played in England and Wales over the course of last season.

Everton v Liverpool – Premier League – Goodison Park
Everton v Liverpool – Premier League – Goodison Park

The shocking extent of criminal and anti-social behaviour at matches in England and Wales last season has been set out in data released by the Home Office on Thursday.

Reported incidents of disorder at matches in England and Wales were up by 60 per cent compared to the last full season before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Incidents were reported at 1,609 of the 3,019 matches played in England and Wales over the course of last season – equating to 53 per cent.

(Cheshire Police Handout/PA).

In 2018-19, there were reported incidents at 1,007 matches, equivalent to one third of the games played.

There were 441 matches where pitch invasions were reported last season – up by a staggering 127 per cent on the 2018-19 campaign – and 384 matches where a hate crime incident was reported, an increase of 99 per cent.

Football-related arrests were up by 59 per cent to 2,198 – the highest number of arrests since 2,273 were made in the 2013-14 season.

West Ham had the highest number of arrests for a single club – 95 across the season – followed by Manchester City (76), Manchester United (72), Leicester (59) and Everton (58).

The authorities issued 516 new football banning orders in the 2021-22 season, and 1,308 were in force at the end of the season.

There were 729 matches where possession of pyrotechnics was reported, and 561 where missile-throwing was reported.

The arrest rate was 5.2 per 100,000 attendees in 2021-22, the highest figure since the rates were first published for the 2014-15 season.

On Wednesday the Premier League announced the introduction of a minimum one-year ban from home and away matches for any fan guilty of entering the pitch or carrying or using pyrotechnics.

Chief Constable Mark Roberts, the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for football policing, said on Thursday: “Disorder is a problem that has not gone away, and throughout the whole of last season we saw an increase in crime at football matches across the country – from the Premier League right down to the National League.

Chief Constable Mark Roberts, the NPCC lead for football policing, said drug use was a key factor leading to disorderly behaviour
Chief Constable Mark Roberts, the NPCC lead for football policing, said drug use was a key factor leading to disorderly behaviour (Aaron Chown/PA)

“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.

“We know that drug use, along with alcohol, is one of the key factors which leads to disorderly behaviour, and we are pleased that the Government is adding Class A drugs offences to the banning order legislation.

“This will provide police with another option to tackle criminal and anti-social behaviour by those who are under the influence of drugs.

“Anyone who commits a criminal offence either outside or inside a football ground can expect to face the consequences of their actions.

“The increase in arrests and football banning orders demonstrates that the police are taking positive action to tackle the problems, working closely with the Crown Prosecution Service.

“We collectively need to make football a safe environment for the overwhelming majority of supporters who just want to enjoy the game.”

Douglas Mackay, deputy chief crown prosecutor for West Midlands and CPS sports lead prosecutor, added: “There is no place for violent and hateful criminal acts in football, and incidents such as these have a significant negative impact on victims.

“The CPS is currently working with the police, football clubs, football bodies and charities to seek to stamp out this blight on football.”

Banning orders have been extended to cover anyone found guilty of an online hate crime connected to football, and the Home Office is committed to adding the possession or sale of Class A drugs to the list of offences for which a banning order can be imposed.

The Home Office has also moved to ensure that the women’s domestic game is covered by the banning order regime.

Minister for the Home Office Jeremy Quin said: “Our football clubs are at the heart of our communities, and it is unacceptable that the game we all love is tarnished by a minority of selfish troublemakers.

“The increase in football-related arrests shows that police are taking firm action to stop this disorder and preserve the enjoyment of the game for fans and families which I wholeheartedly support.”

The figures contained experimental data on online hate crime linked to football for the first time.

In addition to the reported incidents at matches, there were 52 recorded incidents of online hate crime linked to football between January 1 and July 28 this year.

Prior to January 1, 22 online hate crime incidents were investigated by police forces in the 2021-22 season.

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