Bans for fan disorder will help protect supporters who want to enjoy football without feeling intimidated

Sharp rise in crowd trouble at matches leaves Premier League with no choice but to crack down on anti-social and criminal behaviour, writes Laura Lawrence.

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Football disorder has reached an eight-year high. High, ain’t that the truth? I wonder what percentage of the 2,198 fans arrested last season were high?

According to Home Office figures, last season incidents were reported at over half of matches played in England and Wales (53 per cent). Pitch invasions were up by 127 per cent from 2018/19 and the most reported types of incidents were pyrotechnics, throwing missiles and public order or anti-social behaviour offences involving younger supporters.

Could this be like sexual assault reporting, it’s not that there are necessarily more incidents occurring, but people are being braver with reporting? Reported incidents were up by 60 per cent compared to 2018/19. The Premier League shareholders had already announced this week, measures from immediate effect, to try and prevent this behaviour from perpetuating.

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Their statement stated that “fans caught carrying or activating pyrotechnic or smoke bombs, or entering the pitch without permission, will receive an automatic club ban with a minimum term of one year.”

With younger supporters’ behaviour being highlighted as one of the top three reported incidents, the bans can also extend to “accompanying parents or guardians” who take part in this behaviour.

The bans have prompted some resistance, including BBC Five Live’s Danny Baker who tweeted: “… The move to make supporters simply film extras at their own games continues apace.”

Hard disagree Mr Baker. Supporters are starting to stay away from home — and especially away — games because of the aggressive and disruptive behaviour of some fans. Missiles are definitely being used to express supporters’ aggrieved emotions, prompting clubs to put out statements on a much more regular basis.

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With the EFL likely to follow with immediate bans, it’s a step in the right direction. This is not denying fans their right to voice their dissatisfaction with their team, their owners, their performance.

This is protecting the majority of supporters who want to enjoy live football without feeling intimidated or making a choice not to simply not attend. If the atmosphere is so toxic, law-abiding fans will stay away and clubs will lose revenue. Clubs cannot afford for this behaviour to snowball, financially or reputationally.

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Players including Eric Dier and England team-mate Jordan Henderson have also commented on worsening fan behaviour. Stating that they are “uncomfortable” with their families attending away matches. 

The government have also stepped in and made the decision to add Class A drug use to football banning order legislation to crack down on cocaine related anti-social behaviour at matches.

Something had to be done. Only time will tell whether the clubs are brave enough to issue the bans and the disruptive fans come to understand there are consequences to the stupid things they do, high or not.

Follow Laura on Twitter @YICETOR

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