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Football (Disorder) Act 2000 -
summary and commentary


by Matthew Robb

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Text in red are items that I think are true, but would appreciate any further information (though, as ever, any feedback is appreciated, whether relevant to the red text or not).


The Football (Disorder) Act 2000 was passed in late July 2000 as a response to the violence seen during Euro 2000, particularly in the town of Charleroi, Belgium. It represents a significant restriction of the civil liberties of all citizens, not just football hooligans. The Act has a number of deficiencies, explained in the commentary.

  1. It fails to draw an appropriate balance between law and order and civil liberties
  2. It is rushed, reactive legislation that has used blunt legislative tools and failed to consider other, less draconian options
  3. It uses the ‘demonisation’; of a group to justify powers that would not normally be accorded to the State.


  1. Description of Key terms
  2. Description of the Act and key clausesreturn to top
  3. Commentary

Description of Key terms

  1. Banning order: A banning order is a court prohibition on going to any football matches ("entering any premises for the purpose of attending such matches"). For regulated football matches outside the country (e.g. large, international tournaments, international games), banning order requires the person to attend a police station during the time of the match to ensure that they have not travelled abroad.
    A banning order is in force for up to five years (the duration is determined both at the courts discretion, and the exact section of the Act under which the order is made. (See section 14F for details.)
  2. Regulated matches overseas: Any match that the Secretary of State decides should be ‘regulated’.
    There are no restrictions on which matches are defined this way.
  3. Control period: From five days before a match until the match is over. In the case of international tournaments, from five days before the tournament.

Description of the Act and key clauses

A full text of the Act is shown here. Alternatively you can go to the HMSO site and read the Bill text there.

A summary of the important parts of the Act follow:

There are four principal elements to the Act as announced by Jack Straw on July 4th 2000 in the House of Commons. They are as follows:

  1. Combining the international and domestic banning orders
    To “combine the domestic and international football banning orders that are made by a court following a conviction for a football-related offence".
  2. Requiring the surrender of passports during international games
    The requirement of people who are subject to banning orders to “surrender their passport[s] while major overseas games are on".
  3. Allowing the banning order to be made without prior conviction
    The creation of a “civil process” for a football banning order.” In these cases, “it will not be necessary that the person in question should have been convicted of a football-related offence, or indeed of any offence".
  4. Preventing those subject to banning orders from leaving the country if the police suspect there may be grounds for a banning order
    That the police should be given “a new power effectively to prevent a person from leaving the country where they believe there may be grounds for making a banning order. There would be a power of arrest in that respect”.

    (All quotes are taken from Jack Straw's address to the Commons on 4 July, 2000.)

    Combining the international and domestic banning orders

    This provision is contained in section 1a of the Act, where the definition of a banning order is given.return to top It essentially says that if a person receives a banning order, then they will be banned from domestic and international games.

    Requiring the surrender of passports

    This is provided for in Schedule 1, section 14E (3) of the Act, which says; “A banning order must…impose a requirement as to the surrender…in connection with regulated football matches outside the United Kingdom, of the passport of the person subject to the order”.

    Essentially, if a match is considered to be‘.regulated’, then anyone who is subject to a banning order must do two things:

    Report to a police station described in the order
                         (not of the person's choosing)
    Surrender their passport

    Failure to comply with the requirements of is banning order means that the person is subject to a prison sentence of up to six months or a fine up to level five or both. The person accused of failure to comply is tried before a magistrate, not a jury (summary conviction).

    Allowing the banning order to be made without prior conviction

    Banning orders can be made under a variety of circumstances. The first is an extremely wide definition of violence.

    Under section 14B, in which “an application for a banning order in respect of any person may be made by the chief officer of police for the area in which the person resides…[if it appears that the person]…“has at any time caused or contributed to any violence or disorder in the United Kingdom or elsewhere”.
    Violence and disorder includes “threatening violence”, and using racist, abusive words or “displaying writing or any other thing which is threatening, abusive or insulting” (see 14C).
    The police must make their application to a magistrates court.

    Under section 14C, a magistrate may take into account the following factors when deciding to award a banning order:
    ź Court or tribunal appearances in the UK or elsewhere
    ź Deportation or exclusion from any other country
    ź Removal from football grounds in the UK or elsewhere
    ź Video evidence

    What this means is that no prior conviction for any crime is required for a banning order to be made. Merely being captured on CCTV might be enough for a banning order to be placed on someone.

    Preventing those not subject to banning orders from leaving the country if the police suspect there may be grounds for a banning order

    Under section 21A, during the control period, if the police have “reasonable grounds” for believing that a person has committed acts of “violence and disorder” (as defined above), and will cause trouble at a regulated football match then they can detain the person in custody for up to four or six hours (depending on the rank of the police officer) whilst they decide whether they wish to:

    Require the person to appear before a magistrate
    Prevent the person from leaving England or Wales
    Require the person to surrender his/her passport

    Note that there is no requirement for anyone to be convicted of anything. It requires only that the police have “reasonable grounds”return to top for suspicion, based on threats, insults or abuse.

    Commentary [to be completed]

    The Act imposes unnecessary restrictions on civil liberty

    The Act imposes restrictions that are not required to achieve the purpose of the order (to stop hooligans from attending international matches and causing trouble).

    Firstly, by requiring a person to report to a police station named in the order, the person subject to the order is severely restricted in their movement. For example, such a person would be unable to travel elsewhere in the country (even to see family or relatives) if that compromised their ability to report to the police station.

    Secondly, the requirement to surrender your passport is unnecessary and excessive. If a person subject to the order has to report to a police station, then they can not leave the country. There is simply no need for them to surrender their passport, and places unnecessary restrictions on the person's freedom of travel. For example, insisting that they surrender their passports makes applying for visas impossible, even if the application is to travel somewhere entirely unrelated to football.

    During the debate in the House of Lords, Lord Goodman, whom I quote at length below, addressed this issue:

    “So there are two elements both of which are compulsory: one is attending a police station and the other is surrendering the passport. The obvious course of action is to require the subject of the order to attend the police station at the time when a match is taking place. That already happens in domestic banning orders. Effectively, in the case of a match outside the United Kingdom, that prevents the subject of the banning order travelling to watch the match.

    Therefore, what on earth does an order to surrender a passport accomplish that cannot be accomplished by a banning order? Effectively, the answer is nothing. A subject of a banning order is not likely to be persuaded to hand in his passport if he is not willing to comply with such an order anyway. In either case, if he does not comply he will go to gaol. The only possible value of a surrender of a passport is a symbolic one.

    It has been said in the press that the Germans prevented hooligans from travelling to Euro 2000 in the Netherlands and Belgium by removing passports from known hooligans. In fact, as became apparent last night, that is wholly untrue. The Germans imposed reporting orders on most of their hooligans. Under German law a passport can be required to be surrendered only for very serious crimes and there is no question of a football hooligan being required to surrender a passport. Sometimes the authorities stamp a passport in such a way as to make it ineligible for admission to the country where a match is to take place. That is something that the Government, in this case, have decided not to do.

    The requirement to surrender a passport is wholly unnecessary. It is not only unnecessary but for many people it is also a highly intrusive order. It will have all sorts of effects which may happen at unpredictable times and which may persist for long periods such as a month or more continuously. The requirement to surrender a passport may prevent someone from going abroad for family reasons, for work or even for a pre-booked holiday to Florida, which is thousands of miles from the nearest serious football match

    The surrender of a passport is a serious infringement of the right of movement and is almost certainly contrary to European Union law unless it is proportionate to the evil which it is sought to prevent. It may be that if the surrender of a passport was the only possible way in which a hooligan could be prevented from going abroad, that condition might be satisfied. But what is plain here is that, given that a reporting order will do the job just as well, requiring the surrender of a passport in addition is wholly disproportionate, serves no useful purpose, is certainly contrary to European Union law and possibly also to the Human Rights Act.

    In those circumstances it is impossible to see why this provision has been included. It should be removed from the Bill as soon as possible. I beg to move.”

    Matthew Robb

END NOTESreturn to top

1 A level 5 fine is a fine of up to Ł5000.







© 2000, 9 September

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