The Football (Offences) Act 1991 created a number of offences relating specifically to incidents at football matches. In particular it prohibits the throwing of missiles, racialist or indecent chanting and going onto the playing pitch or the surrounding area.
This legislation applies to games involving either a national side or at least one team from the Premier League, the Football League, the Conference or the League of Wales. It is specified that the Act relates to things done at a ground within a period beginning two hours before the start of a match and ending an hour after the game has finished.
Throwing of missiles
It is a specific offence for someone to throw anything towards the playing area or the area adjacent to it without lawful authority or excuse. It is also an offence to throw anything towards any area in which spectators or other people are or may be present. The Act makes it clear that this offence involves throwing of any item and does not set out a specific list of items which cannot be thrown.
Indecent or racialist chanting
The Act specifically prevents chanting of this nature. Racialist is defined as including something which is threatening, abusive or insulting to a person as a result of their colour, race, nationality, or their ethnic or national origins. Chanting includes acting alone or with others and is defined as the repeated uttering of any words or sounds. Anyone chanting in this way cannot be deemed to be acting with lawful authority.
Going onto the playing area
It is an offence for someone to enter the playing area at a match. This prohibition also extends to the area adjacent to the pitch to which spectators are not usually admitted. In this instance the Act does make it clear that offence is not made out if a person can prove that they were acting with lawful authority or indeed lawful excuse.
Football Stadium Offence Sentencing
Cases prosecuted under this Act must be dealt with in a Magistrates’ Court. The maximum sentence that the Court can impose for an offence under the Football (Offences) Act 1991 is a fine of up to £1000. Of course when imposing any sort of financial penalty the Court must have regard to a person’s financial circumstances. Each of the offences set out above are offences for which the court must make a Football Banning Order if satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to believe that it would help to prevent violence or disorder at football matches.
What can you do if you are arrested or charged with an offence under the Football (Offences) Act 1991?
If you are arrested or charged with an offence under this Act it is essential that you seek legal advice as soon as possible. Steps may need to be taken to preserve evidence such as CCTV footage and witnesses may need to be spoken to. At Olliers we have many years of experience in defending cases of this kind. We can offer you robust advice in connection with your case and excellent representation.