Football-related arrests rocket amid rise in violent disorder

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Everton was among the clubs with the most arrests, amid a national rise in disorder and pitch invasions (Peter Byrne/PA) (PA Wire)
Everton was among the clubs with the most arrests, amid a national rise in disorder and pitch invasions (Peter Byrne/PA) (PA Wire)

Football-related arrests have rocketed amid a rise in violent disorder and pitch invasions, new figures show.

There were almost 2,200 arrests at international and domestic matches involving English and Welsh clubs and the national teams during the 2012-22 season.

The figure is 59 per cent higher than in 2018-19, which was the last normal year of play before the Covid pandemic, and the largest total for eight years.

Incidents were reported at over half of all regulated domestic matches, compared to a third in the last pre-Covid season, although most were graded as “low severity” and mainly involved the increasing use of pyrotechnics and throwing missiles.

A total of 441 pitch incursions were recorded in the 2021-22 season and hate crime incidents - mostly racial - were reported at 384 matches.

The Home Office separately recorded 52 incidents of online hate crime connected to football between January and July this year.

The national lead for football policing, chief constable Mark Roberts, said there had been an increase in crime at football matches across the country, from the Premier League right down to the National League.

“We are keen to support our partners in delivering their proposals – which include the introduction of stadium bans for people who enter the pitch, as well as those who use pyrotechnics,” he added.

“We are also pleased that the government is adding Class A drugs offences to the banning order legislation. This will provide police with another option to tackle criminal and anti-social behaviour by those who are under the influence of drugs.

“Anyone who commits a criminal offence either outside or inside a football ground can expect to face the consequences of their actions.”

The FA Cup had the highest arrest rate, while the lowest was at international competitions and only three arrests were recorded at England and Wales national team matches at the Women’s Euro 2022 tournament.

Figures for domestic FA Women’s Super League and FA Women’s Championship matches are to be included in the figures for the first time for the current season.

A Home Office report said two thirds of the arrests happened inside football grounds, rather than in the areas surrounding stadia, and the most common offence was public disorder.

Violent disorder arrests were 72 per cent higher than the 2018-19 season, while the number of people being detained for pitch invasions and throwing missiles also leapt up.

The club with the highest number of supporters arrested in the 2021-22 season was West Ham United, with 95 arrests, and it also had the largest increase in arrests since before Covid.

West Ham was followed by Manchester City (76 fans arrests), Manchester United (72 fans arrested), Leicester City (59 fans arrested) and Everton (58 fans arrested).

As at 28 July, there were 1,308 football banning orders in force, with the Birmingham City supporters being subject to the highest number of any team, followed by Millwall and Bolton Wanderers.

Home Office minister Jeremy Quin said:“Our football clubs are at the heart of our communities, and it is unacceptable that the game we all love is tarnished by a minority of selfish troublemakers.

“The increase in football-related arrests shows that police are taking firm action to stop this disorder and preserve the enjoyment of the game for fans and families which I wholeheartedly support.”

The statistics were published after police urged football to “press the reset button” after a season marred by rising violence and disorder.

Confrontational pitch invasions became a worrying trend in English football at the end of last season (Peter Byrne/PA) (PA Wire)
Confrontational pitch invasions became a worrying trend in English football at the end of last season (Peter Byrne/PA) (PA Wire)

In May, the government announced an extension of football banning orders to fans convicted of using cocaine at matches, and allow passports to be seized when their teams are playing overseas.

The orders, imposed by courts, could previously be imposed on people convicted of violence, disorder and hate crimes.

In July, the Premier League, EFL and Football Association announced separate measures to ban pitch invaders, drug users and people carrying pyro from stadiums.

PC Adam Collins, a football officer from Derbyshire Constabulary, previously told The Independent forces across the country that reported an increase in disorder was not confined to one area of the country or even to England, with several countries in Europe reporting upticks in football-related violence following the Covid pandemic.

“We were in a really good place before Covid, everything was coming down,” he said.

“I think a massive part of it is coming out of the pandemic, people had been restricted and not allowed in football matches for 18 months.”