Tougher penalties for football hooligans introduced

The government is set to remove existing time limitations on key football banning order laws and introduce penalties to tackle football disorder.

Banning orders prevent known troublemakers from attending domestic matches as well as travelling overseas to matches such as tonight's England Euro 2008 qualifying match in Spain.

Sections of the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006, which comes into force on April 6, will enshrine on the statute book two banning order measures which were due to expire on August 27.

These are: the police power to require known troublemakers to surrender their passports five days prior to an overseas match or tournament; and the ability of the police to make the case for a banning order based on complaint (for example, using overseas police footage of misbehaviour as evidence), rather than just based on conviction of a football-related offence.

The Violent Crime Reduction Act will also increase the maximum period of a banning order made following a complaint from the police from three years to five.

Powers to apply for banning orders will also be extended for the first time to the Crown Prosecution Service and the British Transport Police. They had previously only been limited to local chief police officers.

Ticket touting laws will also be extended next week to cover the sale of unauthorised football match tickets on the internet, leading to a maximum fine of £5,000 and it will also become illegal to advertise the unauthorised sale of match tickets.

Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker said: "Banning orders have transformed the behaviour of unruly football supporters. Arrests at home and abroad continue to fall and these new measures will help build on that progress.

"Over the weekend, 4,500 England fans travelled to Israel without any incidents or arrests. There is no complacency but the behaviour and reputation of the fans has improved dramatically over recent years."

Arrests for violent disorder in connection with domestic and international football matches have fallen by 32% in each of the last two seasons and this downward trend of violence is continuing this season.

Since banning order legislation was introduced in 2000, less than 4% of the individuals whose banning orders expired have been assessed by the police as continuing to pose a risk at football matches.

Stephen Thomas, Association of Chief Police Officers lead on football-related issues and Assistant Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, said: "These measures will strengthen the current legislation to ensure that those people who present a risk to others' safety and enjoyment are banned from attending games.

"Our message has always been clear - if you behave badly you will be banned."


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