Banning orders under the Football Spectators Act 1989

Banning orders under the Football Spectators Act 1989



There are many different football related offences that exist. To name a few:

• Spectators throwing objects into the playing area or crowd, displaying racialist or indecent chanting or going onto the playing area (governed by the Football (Offences) Act 1991).
• Unauthorised persons selling or disposing of tickets to a match (governed by the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994).
• Carrying alcohol on route to a sporting event, possessing alcohol or being drunk at a sporting event (governed by the Sporting Events Act 1985).


A Football Banning Order (FBO) is a preventative measure imposed by the court following a football related offence which prevents individuals attending matches for a significant period. The threat of being imposed an FBO is a serious deterrent to committed football supporters. It also is imposed to be a deterrent upon others (R (White) v Blackfriars Crown Court [2008] EWHC Admin 510). As at 1 August 2021, 1,359 football banning orders were in force


I will explain in this article what a FBO is, when it can be imposed and the consequences of the same.


What is a Football Banning Order?


The use of FBO’s are governed by the Football Spectators Act 1989.

A FBO is defined by the government as “a preventative measure imposed by a court following a football-related offence, with the aim to prevent violence or disorder at or in connection with regulated football matches”.


It is an order which prevents individuals subject to it from attending regulated football matches in the UK. In certain circumstances it may also prevent attendance at overseas football matches or tournaments.


The FBO may have additional requirements to the above if the court sees fit, examples I have seen include that one cannot be near the ground 2 hours before/after kick off, cannot use rail travel on match days, cannot be in certina city centre pubs and many others.


When does a Football Banning Order get imposed?


Firstly, a relevant football-related offence must have been committed. A FBO cannot be imposed without the same. The full list of relevant offences are available at Schedule 1 of the Football Spectators Act 1989 and the policy of the Crown Prosecution Service regarding their application are available at Annex A here.


The relevant offences largely relate to the use or threat of violence, disorder, the use of weapons, carrying or possession of weapons, and intoxication.


Secondly, it depends if the person is convicted or put on complaint for the relevant offence.


I. On Conviction


When a person is convicted of a relevant football-related offence the Prosecution must (unless there are exceptional reasons for not doing so) apply for an FBO. This is governed by Section 14A of the Football Spectators Act 1989. The presumption is in favour of the FBO being made. This is expressed in Crown Prosecution Service guidance and also by case law (R v Hughes [2005] EWCA Crim 2537). If the Court can be convinced to not impose an FBO, there must be good grounds for the same which are noted in full and kept on a court file. The Prosecution are also expected to urgently consider lodging an appeal for the FBO.


II. On Complaint


If the person is put on complaint for the relevant offence then the Prosecution can apply for a civil FBO. This is governed by Section 14B of the Football Spectators Act 1989. The court will make the FBO if it is satisfied that the person subject to the complaint has, at any time, “caused or contributed to any violence or disorder in the UK or elsewhere and that there are reasonable grounds to believe that it would help to prevent violence or disorder at or in connection with any regulated football matches”.


The court is able to consider a variety of sources to determine whether an FBO should be imposed. For example, decisions of foreign courts.


How is Violence and/or Disorder identified?


The majority of the relevant offences require violence or disorder to have been committed. It is not the case that the violence or disorder must have taken place at a football ground or in connection with football. Section 14 (c) of the Football Spectators Act 1989 defines violence and disorder as follows:


I. Violence


“violence means violence against persons or property and includes threatening violence and doing anything which endangers the life of any person”.


II. Disorder


“disorder” includes—

(a) stirring up hatred against a group of persons defined by reference to colour, race, nationality (including citizenship) or ethnic or national origins, or against an individual as a member of such a group,

(b) using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour or disorderly behaviour,

(c) displaying any writing or other thing which is threatening, abusive or insulting.


How long do Football Banning Orders last?


A FBO lasts a minimum of three years and a maximum of 10 years. The maximum term will be imposed if the related offence results in immediate imprisonment of at least six years. Otherwise, the maximum term is five years. If the FBO is made after a person is put on complaint, then it will last a minimum of three years and a maximum of five years. A breach of an FBO is a criminal offence and is punishable by a maximum sentence of six months in prison and/or an unlimited fine.




When a FBO is imposed it can carry a very severe consequence of a complete ban up to 10 years. A FBO can take away a hobby, a lifelong passion and part of a person’s identity.
If you are accused of a related football offence, it is essential that you obtain experienced legal advice. 

Quentin Hunt is an award-winning Criminal Barrister who has over 22 years’ experience in dealing with Criminal cases and is a keen football fan. He accepts instructions either through solicitors or directly from members of the public. If you find yourself facing a football banning order you may contact Quentin for a free, no obligation conversation about your case.