Defending freedom for football supporters

On 30 October, the Manifesto Club partnered the FSF and the Battle of Ideas to host a meeting about the regulation of football fans.

Here is a post by Peter Lloyd, author of the Manifesto Club’s report ‘Criminalising Football Fans – The case Against ‘Bubble Matches’, summarising some conclusions from the meeting.

In the wake of the 30 October debate, we should seek:

  • A recognition that football is overwhelmingly a force for good with generally well behaved fans, and with grounds and surrounding areas extremely safe compared to other urban environments;
  • A change from seeing all football fans primarily as a problem (“a riot waiting to happen”) to one where they are seen as members of the public attending a sporting event;
  • A change in approach by all the authorities from blanket bans to targeting the individual or small groups of troublemakers causing trouble and breaking, or intent on breaking, the law;
  • A recognition that football grounds should be managed differently from other public or semi-public spaces, with boisterous behaviour, shouting, chanting and banter regarded as normal, acceptable and the essence of a football match atmosphere;

    With those principles in place a lot of the incidents stemming from overregulation and poor stewarding and policing described at the debate would not have occurred. We could then see the back of:

  • Alcohol bans;
  • Routine and blanket searching of supporters;
  • Bubble matches;
  • The aggressive policing of speech;
  • The overuse of banning orders;
  • Section 27 of The Violent Crime Reduction Act being used to move on innocent supporters;
  • The blurring of the roles of stewards and police.

    And the start of:

  • A more positive terrace culture with a degree of self policing seen as normal;
  • The introduction of Safe Standing Areas at stadiums which are currently all seater;
  • Personal searches only when there is a reasonable expectation of a problem and of finding something;
  • Banning orders only for violent offences;
  • Alcoholic drink being allowed on football coaches, trains, at stadium seats and on the terraces;
  • Transparency for football safety advisory group (SAG) decisions and the involvement of supporters in them;
  • Clearer rules and protocols for stewarding.

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