The CPS and FA have been given the all-clear to take action against football fans over the worrying increase of a number of offences.
Supporters face being tested for drugs on arrest by police after a surge in cocaine-fuelled violence at matches while people convicted of football-related online hate crime can also now receive banning orders that stop them from attending matches.
Chief constable Richard Lewis, the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s lead on drugs, told MPs this week that he wanted to see a major expansion of testing football thugs amid growing cocaine use before, during and after games.
He told the Home Affairs Committee that there was a growing body of evidence that cocaine use was increasing among fans, creating a “potentially problematic cocktail” of drug-induced euphoria and confidence in the “highly emotionally charged” atmosphere of a football match.
“We are seeing increased use of cocaine at football matches,” he said. “We would like to increase drug testing on arrest for those arrested for football-related disorder.”
He points out how this would not only enable police to identify the culprits – and potentially put offenders on drug treatment orders on top of any punishment – but also help police understand just how big of an issue this is.
Mr Lewis, chief constable of the Dyfed-Powys police force, responded to Bury North Tory MP James Daly, a Huddersfield Town fan, who expressed concern that drugs could be behind pitch invasions by fans, including one in May at his home club.
He was backed by Charlie Doyle, assistant chief constable at the British Transport Police (BTP), who said that BTP was carrying out “discrete” drug swab tests on trains to try to establish the scale of the problem. Traces had been found on tables, train handles and in the toilets on match days, he said.
He told MPs that police would welcome the approach of being able to arrest and to be able to link that to football banning orders “so that we can stop people going to football where there is evidence of drug misuse.”
The Telegraph add that the Government wants to crackdown on middle-class drug users whose habits ministers blame for fuelling the violent drug trade. It’s estimated that Brits consumed an estimated 117 tonnes of cocaine a year in a trade worth £11 billion a year.
Under the proposals, football fans who take cocaine or other class A drugs to matches will face bans of five years from all stadiums with passports potentially being confiscated if their team or England play abroad as well as facing travel bans and exclusion zones around grounds. For those who who break rules surrounding their banning orders could be jailed for up to six months.
While temporary removal of passports or driving licences, offenders could be also punished with curfews and increased fines to stop this happening on repeat.
Policing minister Kit Malthouse spoke on how in the last year almost 3,000 people died due to illegal drugs – more than from all knife crime and road traffic accidents, and that drug use has risen by 19 per cent.
“This will need bold steps to show we are serious about bringing in impactful consequences to all who snort, sniff, swallow or smoke,” Mr Malthouse wrote in an article for the Telegraph.
Meanwhile, football banning orders have been extended so that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) can ask courts for tougher penalties on those who post online abuse involving race, sexuality or religion.
They could only previously be issued for in-person offences, with the 2021 PFA study finding that 44% of Premier League players received abuse online.
“Football banning orders are one of the many tools available to the justice system for imposition on offenders who are convicted of crimes related to our national game,” said Douglas Mackay of the CPS.
“This new CPS legal guidance gives prosecutors wider authority to request banning orders from the courts. It is another consequence for those guilty of shameful behaviour.
“Over recent years and months hate crimes relating to sporting events have been on the rise. The recent internal UK Football Policing Unit mid-season report has shown a significant rise in football-related criminality compared to pre-pandemic levels.
“At the CPS, we play a crucial role in tackling these crimes and making our national sport inclusive and safe to watch. There is no place for hate in football. Hate crime can have a profound impact on victims.”
Home secretary Priti Patel said in January that football banning orders would be extended to cover online hate offences with the change coming into effect on the 29th of June.