Football fans caught with hard drugs will now be banned from matches
| Last updated
Football fans caught with hard drugs will be banned from attending games in a new move that aims to tackle increasing spectator violence within the sport.
The new legislation, which comes into effect next week, means anyone convicted of taking or selling class A drugs at footy matches will be slapped with a football banning order (FBO).
So alongside a criminal conviction, they'll be banned from attending games for between three and ten years.
Plans for the new rule were initially announced back in May when former PM Boris Johnson blamed 'middle-class coke heads' on a rise in crime.
The UK Home Office says the aim is to crack down on violence at sporting events after new statistics demonstrated a spike in incidents in England and Wales following the Covid-19 pandemic.
In its annual report on football-related arrests and banning orders released in September, it said: "The 2021 to 2022 football season was the first full season where all scheduled matches in England and Wales were played at full spectator capacity following the Covid-19 pandemic (3,019 matches).
"In the previous season (2020 to 2021), 93 percent of matches were played without spectators and 7 percent were played at various reduced capacities."
There were 2,198 football-related arrests in the latest season, a majority of which were for public and violent disorders.
This proved to be a stark contrast to the 1,381 arrests in the 2018 to 2019 season, resulting from a downward trend in football fan violence over the past decade.
Speaking about the new regulation, policing minister Chris Philp said: "Class A drug use at football matches is a disgrace which has fuelled some of the shameful behaviour we have seen at games by certain groups of fans.
"Using and dealing drugs is neither safe nor victimless and has no place in society or football.
"That is why we have taken action to make sure anyone who takes or deals drugs such as cocaine at football matches will be prevented from attending games and threatening the safety of the majority of fans, including children, who just want to enjoy the game."
Upon the release of the Home Office's report in September, Cheshire Police chief constable Mark Roberts told PA: "When we do operations on the rail network and when we do operations at grounds, we are consistently finding the presence of cocaine.
"When we’ve done exercises where we’ve swabbed in toilets in grounds, we know they’re clear before the game, then when we swab afterwards, you’re generally getting an 100 percent hit rate.
"So clearly it’s a prevalent thing to take at football and we need to clamp down on that.
"There is ample evidence that cocaine, particularly with alcohol, in a heightened state of emotion which you often get with football, leads to aggressive and violent behaviour."