Here are some of the many cases of ordinary football fans having their civil rights unnecessarily restricted. If you have any more cases do get in touch.
A Leeds fan was wearing fancy dress over-trousers to a fixture with QPR on 1 March 2014. At a moment of excitement, he took the trousers off and threw them in the air. He was arrested and charged with the offence of throwing a missile.
the inflatable shark
The Grimsby Town supporter Kenny Meech was charged with common assault when his inflatable shark accidentally made contact with a steward. ‘We were all jumping up and down and my inflatable must have accidently hit the steward on the head’, he said. Mr Meech was given a Football Banning Order and bail conditions which prevented him from entering the town centre four hours either side of a match, although he runs a café in the town centre. He was eventually prosecuted and convicted of assault and fined nearly £800 pounds. He commented: ‘If this had been any sport other than football it would never have happened.’
Carlisle supporters were travelling for a match in Preston on 26 December 2011. The head of Carlisle United Supporters Club, Kate Rowley, had arranged through her brother (a parish priest in Preston) to stop at the Blessed Sacrament Club prior to the game for food and drink. Food was purchased in readiness for their visit. However, their plans were thwarted when Lancashire Police imposed restrictions on their travel, which meant that coach parties were prohibited from stopping.
Police prevented the Punjabi Rams from attending a pre-arranged post-match meal with Punjabi Wolves in March 2015. The fans had shared a meal together after a previous fixture, but were told at the last minute that their arrangement ‘contravenes the national guidelines about coaches leaving grounds within an hour of a match finishing’. Mr Samra from the Punjabi Rams said: ‘We asked the officers why and told them this had been agreed with West Midlands Police but they would not give us an explanation. We are trying to show people that football fans can act in the same friendly and harmonious way as fans of rugby and cricket but being treated like this doesn’t make things any easier for us to do this’.
a 350-mile round trip
15-year-old Hull City fan, Louis Cooper, launched a legal challenge against West Yorkshire police’s decision to make his team’s trip to Huddersfield on 30 March 2013 a ‘bubble’ match. The travel restrictions meant that Cooper, who lives in Manchester, would have to make a 350-mile round trip to watch the game even though he lives just 30 miles from the stadium. West Yorkshire Police had decided that the match was high risk because the 5.20pm kick-off time allowed fans more drinking time. Yet there is no historic animosity between Huddersfield and Hull City fans. John Prescott, the former deputy prime minister and former Hull MP described the curbs on away fans as ‘the most draconian travel restrictions since miners’ strike pickets were targeted’. As he points out, not one single Hull City fan was arrested for a drink-related football offence throughout the whole of the previous season.
A Grimsby town fan was prosecuted in February 2014 for aggravated Section 5 Public Order Act offence, after a steward alleged that he has shouted ‘get up you fucking gay poof’ to one of his team’s players, at a fixture with Barnet. The fan vehemently denies shouting this, but was nonetheless arrested and held for four hours, released only on bail after midnight. On the day of the trial, he travelled down to London with two friends, a lesbian couple prepared to account for his open-mindedness towards homosexuality. On the day, the judge acquitted the fan before his friends could give their evidence, on the basis that the stewards’ account was unreliable.
47- year old Darrell Boland was thrown out of a Leeds United match for climbing over a barrier. He was trying to take his 10-year old grandson to the toilet by the only available route, but was told that this was ‘crossing from one part of the stadium to another’ which contravened club regulations. As his grandson was his ‘guest’, Darrell was held responsible for his ‘behaviour’ and the club later wrote to inform him that his grandson’s season tickets would be suspended until he’d signed a ‘behavioural agreement’. This was done without giving either of them any opportunity to supply evidence, with the club effectively acting as judge, jury, and executioner. See post on FSF website.
Crystal Palace season-ticket holder Andrew Saunders was ejected from a match for sitting next to a friend who is drunk.
Anthony James was arrested for racially aggravated abuse when his League Two club played away at Yeovil in September 2015. Towards the end of the match, when the Yeovil goalkeeper was wasting time taking a goal kick, Anthony had shouted ‘hurry up you Polish bastard’. Minutes later he was approached by a police officer, arrested and kept in a cell for nine hours. When interviewed he admitted using the word ‘Polish’ but denied that he had done this with racist intent and apologised for any offence caused. He was charged and given bail conditions which included not going within four miles of anywhere his team was playing. In court he was convicted of racially aggravated abuse and fined £795, although he successfully contested the police’s further application for a three-year banning order. Now, he says, ‘every time I open my mouth at football, I replay it two or three times in my head. I can’t support the team in the same way, I’m scared to say something that might be misconstrued.’
Newcastle United Fan Phil Newton was ejected from the KC Stadium, after a Hull City steward said that Phil had stood persistently through the opening 10 minutes of the game. Phil admitted standing at the back of the stand but claimed he wasn’t blocking anyone’s view and was ejected before he had been asked to sit.
A Rangers Fan was imprisoned for four months and given an 18-month banning order, after singing singing the sectarian Billy Boys song.
Three Spurs fans were prosecuted for chanting the term ‘Yid’, in spite of the fact that they were using it as a badge of pride in reference to their own team. Charges were eventually dropped.
A Liverpool fan Jonathan Poulter was banned from football matches for three years after arguing with a fellow fan who said that his banners were blocking his wife’s view (she was in a wheelchair). Before the banning order the fan had been banned from the club, a decision of which he was informed by letter without any prior contact. In response to these and other incidents involving banners, Liverpool supporters group Spion Kop 1906 removed all banners and flags from the team’s matches. In negotiations, the club suggested that all banners and flags should be accredited – a proposal that was later dropped. Poulter was also subjected to an eight-week curfew between 9.30pm and 6am.