Club bans: pilot aims to improve use

Against the Flow manchester fans police Photo purplemattfish

Bans issued by football clubs can come suddenly and often leave fans without recourse, FSF caseworker Amanda Jacks tells us more about work being done to redress the balance... 

Assisting supporters who’ve been banned by their clubs takes up a significant amount of my time. The bans can be for a variety of reasons but with one or two exceptions what they all have in common is how clubs manage them.

Generally speaking a supporter receives a letter informing them they’re banned and giving the reasons, in greater or lesser detail. The word alleged is rarely seen in such letters. Evidence to support the ban is never disclosed. If fans are given the option of appealing, the process is invariably little more than a tick box exercise.

Of course being private businesses, football clubs can ban who they like. The contract fans enter into when they buy season tickets offer little protection as they’re heavily weighted in favour of the club (that’s a whole other blog for another day).

Further, there is no legal reason why clubs should afford supporters an appeal process but there is certainly a very strong moral one, not least because in the vast majority of cases, banned fans aren’t refunded for games missed. This means that clubs impose a de facto financial penalty too.

So, given the above, you’d think I’d be pleased when I heard from the UK Football Policing Unit (UKFPU), effectively a civil service department comprising ex and serving police officers, letting us know that at their initiative they’re working on a pilot scheme this season in conjunction with a selection of police services and both the Premier and Football Leagues.

The UKFPU have made several recommendations to clubs involved around the administration of the pilot, including suggested tariffs and, pleasingly, that they have a proper appeals mechanism in place involving a member of club staff not involved in the original banning decision.

The pilot scheme is being run in London, Manchester and South Yorkshire, obviously including all football clubs in those areas.

It aims to improve consistency in how clubs approach bans for offences that could lead to banning orders, and to make more use of them (club bans) in tackling and preventing football violence and disorder.

The pilot is not about replacing the Criminal Justice System, rather to be a “proportionate/considered approach to lower level type offences which could serve as a deterrent to future serious misbehaviour”. It also allows for information to be shared with the police in a consistent way.

Ultimately, the aim of this pilot is “safer stadiums” which is one that can’t be argued with. Who doesn’t want safer stadia?

However, I have shared what I consider to be valid and legitimate concerns about some aspects of the pilot with the the UKFPU who will take them into account when the scheme is reviewed mid way through the season.

We have been offered the opportunity to act as consultants as part of the review, an invitation that we welcome and will, of course, take full advantage of.

If you, or anybody you know, is subjected to a club ban please do get in touch for advice. Further to be as effective as we can be in the review process, we need to hear from supporters effected by it.

Watching Football Is Not A Crime! is part of the FSF's ongoing drive to monitor the police in their dealings with football fans and work with them to ensure that all fans are treated fairly and within the law. You can contact FSF Caseworker Amanda Jacks via: 

Thanks to purplemattfish for the image used in this blog. Reproduced here under Creative Commons license.