[Andrew Rosindell in the Chair]
I beg to move,
That this House has considered football hooliganism.
It is a pleasure, as normal, Mr Rosindell, to serve under chairmanship. I bring this debate to Westminster Hall not claiming in any way to be a football expert—a lot of people in England might be claiming that right now, but I do in particular. In many respects, I am not a huge football fan, but I am proud to be English, and over the past few weeks I have been sickened, frankly, at the all-too-familiar sight of English football hooliganism on the television. It is not something new, unfortunately; it is something we have had to endure over a long time.
I wanted to secure this debate simply because I am sick and tired of watching scenes of disorder and violence following the English football team around, in particular during the recent Euro football finals. The scenes were depressingly familiar and, frankly, embarrassing for anyone English. Time and again, England has witnessed its name dragged through the mud by a group of people who want to use football as a vehicle for their love of violence. We do not tolerate drunken behaviour on the high street or anywhere around the rest of the country, so we should not tolerate it when it follows football either.
The strange thing about football hooliganism is that a mob mentality often seems to take over. The crowd encourages intolerance of, and turns on, anyone not in their group, whether a member of another fan club, a local resident or someone in some way different from them. Such disorder simply puts decent people off attending games.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the converse is the impeccable behaviour we witnessed at the Euro 2016 championships of, for example, the Welsh and Northern Ireland fans? Their behaviour was exemplary and outstanding. I assume he will go on to say that we need to encourage the vast majority of fans throughout the United Kingdom who are decent and well behaved to ensure that such behaviour is the standard by which everyone else is judged. Those who fall short of that standard ought to be penalised very heavily indeed.
I am happy to congratulate the fans from Ulster and Wales on their behaviour, generally speaking. Some incidents were reported that involved those groups of fans, but it is right to say that, generally, they were a credit to Northern Ireland and to Wales. The majority of English fans were also well behaved— I do not think anyone disputes that—but there were those actions by a tiny, selfish group of people.
Northern Ireland can be very proud of reaching those finals. It is a shame in many ways that England did not face Northern Ireland, because it would have ensured one further UK team—[Interruption.] I am not claiming that England would have won the game; if we could not beat a team from a country with 300,000 people, we might have struggled to beat Northern Ireland. Nevertheless, that might have enabled another UK team to go further forward.
Northern Ireland can hold its head high and be proud of the fans who followed its team and who, without doubt, helped the team. Another aspect of the problem is that the hooliganism cannot help the England team to play well. Wayne Rooney being forced to condemn the behaviour of some of his own fans on television must have an effect on the team’s morale and performance. I am not for one minute claiming that football hooliganism caused England to play as badly as they did, but it cannot have helped the overall atmosphere in the England camp if they had to deal with hooliganism issues.
People see the incidents that we all witness on the television and simply will not risk getting involved in the inevitable problems. There is no way that I would take my wife and children to follow England in a football tournament, because I would not want to run the risk of my family getting caught up in those problems. It is incredibly sad that a proud English person who takes an interest in football might not be willing to take the family abroad to follow the England team. Some families, of course, do so without any problem, but I would not run the risk with my family, and that is sad.
Many of the hardened football hooligans have been kept away from international tournaments by banning orders. A drunken yobbishness, however, has taken over from that hard-core hooliganism, with some people still being generally aggressive and unpleasant, leading, inevitably, to antisocial behaviour. We saw many such instances in France in the recent tournament. It is right to say that other fans also behaved badly in Marseille, with problems emanating from various different countries, and the irresponsible comments by Vladimir Putin certainly did not help the situation in France.
I am conscious that I am interrupting a detailed and passionate speech, but we must not imply that the whole of Russia supported the violence we saw by so-called Russian fans, particularly in Marseille. Incidentally, following that situation, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport spoke to the Russian Sports Minister, who then made statements that we would respect. I will speak later about how some of the England fans were not England fans; they had stolen England paraphernalia and merchandise on them, but were Russian. Also, not all Russians agreed with President Putin.
That is welcome news. I concur that most Russian people would be as appalled as most English people at the behaviour of some of the so-called fans who had followed their team to France.
Notwithstanding the fact that there are problems from other countries, it is probably fair to say that England has a worse reputation than any other country. The problem is self-perpetuating: we get the bad reputation, and hooligans from other countries, such as Russia, want to take on the England fans, and some England fans get caught up in that. We saw some entirely innocent England football fans in the stadium in France getting involved in problems that they were simply not there to get involved with. It is fair to say that some England fans were easily provoked, but, without doubt, completely innocent England football fans were caught up in some of the behaviour. However, it is not necessary for England fans to become easily provoked or to deal with a situation by responding with disorder as well or by ending up throwing bottles at the police or making racist chants at local residents.
We now have an opportunity to do something. It is essential that we act to prevent violent scenes at the World Cup in Russia, should England qualify for that tournament. Football banning orders can be an effective tool to prevent hooligans from travelling abroad to England games, only to take part in violent activities that drag this country’s name through the mud.
There is a lot of video evidence of the fans who took part in disorder and of the violence in Marseilles and Lille, and that should be used widely to identify those responsible, so that banning orders can be imposed on them. Banning orders should be imposed on anyone who took part in or encouraged disorderly behaviour, whether or not they were apprehended or arrested in France.
The UK football policing unit published pictures initially of 20 fans it wanted to identify and then of 73 additional fans. That has happened since I secured this debate, and it is a very welcome step. We need that kind of proactive response from that policing unit to ensure that the problem is tackled, but I would like to see it go far further and act on a far wider scale. Hundreds of people took part in that disorderly behaviour, and we should therefore be aiming to identify hundreds of people who should be given banning orders.
Although those numbers are correct, the police often will not release video evidence while investigations are ongoing, because that sometimes alerts the culprits. In many cases, we have passed on video evidence to the French authorities to assist them in their prosecutions, which we are still awaiting in some cases.
That is good news. I pay tribute to that unit, which is working its socks off at the moment to try to tackle this problem. Many of its officers were out in France assisting their French colleagues in dealing with the problem, and they worked hard for months, but this is frankly a problem that the police cannot solve on their own.
In many ways, we should not be surprised that there were problems in Marseille. A depressing amount of football hooliganism has taken place in the domestic English football leagues this season. Arrests are down, but I think it is fair to say that significant problems endure. A culture seems to have grown up that allows antisocial behaviour to occur at football matches. We saw last month the pictures of the Manchester United coach being attacked by some West Ham fans. It is correct to say that only a few dozen people took part in smashing the windows of that coach, yet there were hundreds of people present who supported and did not condemn that action. Many people there actually encouraged it. That culture enables problems to build and build.
Football hooliganism will never be stopped until football fans themselves universally condemn and turn their backs on it. The police can do only so much to prevent such activities from taking place. Banning orders in themselves cannot change the culture among football hooligans, but football fans can. Those who take part in violent behaviour or encourage others to take part should expect to be banned from following England abroad. It is entirely proportionate to restrict someone’s movements abroad if they have behaved in a violent or disorderly manner when following the England football team. Millions of people in this country love sport, which enriches society and helps to bring us all together, but we should do more to stop those who seek to undermine that and spoil it for everyone else.
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this important debate and to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Rosindell. I congratulate the hon. Member for Dartford (Gareth Johnson) on securing the debate.
It is appropriate that we are having this debate now given the recent incidents of football hooliganism, which raise fears that an ugly stain on our game that was definitely on the down is now on the rise. We must make sure that that is not the case. The police, legislators and society at large must work together to stand up to this scourge. If we are realistically to challenge unacceptable behaviour, we must take a dispassionate view and look at what will make a positive difference.
The hon. Gentleman is talking about football in general having to take a stand. Does he agree that that is all the more important looking ahead to the World cup in two years’ time, given that there will be more countries and that, as the Minister has pointed out, a minority of Russian and English fans have already indicated that they are involved in violence? We must prepare for that tournament in Russia to ensure that a very serious situation does not occur.
That is an important point. The world of football must take a collective view that such behaviour is not acceptable, and it must work together. It is undoubtedly true that the recent headlines have been predominantly about Russian and English fans, but those are not the only incidents. Incredibly, flares have been set off during many games at the current tournament, and that is just not acceptable. Some of the things we have seen during the tournament in the media and on social media, particularly from fans of England and Russia but from others too, are violent and unacceptable, and we must stand together and oppose them.
Closer to home, we have recently seen hooliganism in my country, Scotland. There were unsavoury and unacceptable scenes at the Scottish cup final at Hampden Park. I do not stand here to say that we do not have any problems in Scotland, because we do. We share this problem, and we must stamp it out.
My wish to take part in the debate was based on my experience of following Scotland abroad since the 1990s. I have been to the majority of European countries and capitals. The team has not always been successful on the pitch, I must admit, but the supporters’ behaviour off the pitch has been impeccable. One point that I want to make, based on my observations across Europe and as far afield as Japan, is about effective policing and organisation—or the lack of it. That is a huge determinant of whether events are peaceful and successful. If the policing and organisation are found wanting when it comes to dealing with well-behaved supporters on the international scene, such as the Scottish, that flags up the possibility that real problems may arise with supporters among whom there is trouble and a more unacceptable side.
Well planned matches, where fans are told clearly where they should go and there is ample room for ticket checks and searches of bags—or sporrans—are the successful ones that go without a hitch. It beggars belief that so many fans have managed to get fireworks into the grounds during the tournament that is going on in France. That can only represent a serious failure on the part of the organisers and the police, and we should say so.
Colleagues are being generous in giving way. I would like to raise two points. First, everyone seems to think that flares are fun, but they are enormously dangerous. They burn at some 2,000° C, and as a former firefighter I have seen the damage that flares can cause to human flesh. That is why they are banned across Europe, and particularly in our stadiums. We saw some flares at Glastonbury, and I hope that they will soon be banned at music festivals as well.
Secondly, I refer the hon. Member for East Londonderry (Mr Campbell) to the fact that although arrests have been predominantly of English fans, of the 65 UK supporters who have been arrested, 11 are from Northern Ireland. Two have been arrested for criminal damage, two for public order offences, one for drunkenness, four for assault, one for ticket touting and one for pitch invasion. That is probably nowhere near representative of what actually went on, but I thought that it should be put on the record that although some English fans were really bad, there was sadly Northern Irish involvement as well.
On fireworks, I am sure that we all remember the Croatia game, when a flare came on to the pitch and nearly exploded in the face of a steward—it could have blinded that gentleman. That is unacceptable. Flares are not fun, they are not toys, and we must clamp down on them. The Minister’s second point goes back to my overriding point that this is not a problem that one country has and another does not; it is a problem that football has, and we must work together to be rid of it.
I have had good and bad experiences of organisation at Scotland games. I remember trying to get into a game at Kaunas in Lithuania and being shouted at by a policeman with a machine gun for being in the wrong place when I was actually in the place that another policeman with a machine gun had sent me to. That demonstrates a lack of organisation—it is simple stuff that we take for granted, but it can cause real problems, as it nearly did that night. Doing the right thing and attempting to get into a ground with a ticket can be problematic, and it goes back to the issue of searches and how fireworks get into grounds.
In certain stadiums, including in my last experience in France, people cannot even get into the stadium with a bottle of water, which is as it should be. That means the job is being done properly, so I cannot understand how fireworks are getting in. The last time I was in Macedonia, the police seemed overwhelmed by a few thousand Scottish fans coming to the stadium with 20 minutes to go to get in. There was one turnstile and no plan whatever. I actually had to balance my way along a ledge and under a railing to get into that game, which I had a ticket for. It was just not well organised, which can cause real problems.
I move on to the more serious and insidious problem that we are talking about today: those who follow a football team in order to wilfully engage in hooliganism and violence. In the modern age, the internet and social media make that much easier to organise than ever before, including when hooliganism was at its height a few decades ago. We face a different challenge now, because hooliganism can be organised differently and much more effectively. We have to take that seriously. My understanding is that banning orders are currently used for those convicted of football-related offences, as the hon. Member for Dartford said. That happens under legislation in Scotland, England and elsewhere. I certainly support that as far as it goes, but I wonder whether it is adequate to deal with what we have seen in recent weeks.
Many incidents take place abroad, which, as has been said, poses different challenges. It is perhaps unfortunate that we are talking about the issue after last week’s referendum result, but surely we should work on a pan-European basis to deal with it by sharing police expertise, information and intelligence and by making sure that what we know about the thugs is shared so that action can be taken.
We should think about the problem in a similar way to how we consider gang culture, because it is not all that different. After all, we are talking about violence and disorder that is clearly well organised, territorial and tribal, so maybe we should deal with it in a similar way. I also want careful consideration to be given to how, as has been mentioned, evidence from social media can be used to identify and prosecute thugs for offences committed abroad and to ensure that lifetime bans can be implemented.
It seems to me there is a widespread feeling that loutish and criminal offensive behaviour committed abroad somehow does not count—that it is okay for someone to do it abroad, because it does not come back to bite them. That may explain why so many of these imbeciles seem happy to be filmed on mobile phones and have their appalling and offensive behaviour put up on social media for the world to see. For our measures to be effective in stamping out that type of behaviour across Europe, we need the co-operation of our colleagues across Europe and other in football-loving nations of the world, backed up by effective sanctions for anyone who engages in hooligan behaviour associated with football. Otherwise, I fear that we will see regular repeats of the wanton thuggery that has been in the news and all over social media. That would be to the serious detriment of the beautiful game and to the real supporters, who want to see games, enjoy them and see the best team win.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Rosindell, and to speak in this interesting and timely debate on football hooliganism. I congratulate the hon. Member for Dartford (Gareth Johnson) on securing it. Had the debate been at another time and had there not been a lot of other things going on within parties and so on, I think we would have had a better attendance.
Before I discuss the topic at hand, as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on Scottish sport, I add my congratulations to the home nations that managed to qualify for this year’s European championship. It was a sore point to see Scotland left out of another major championship again, but, thankfully, there are Wales, England, Northern Ireland and Iceland—sorry, that was a Freudian slip; of course I meant Ireland—to support at this year’s tournament.
Some 18 years ago, I sat in a pub in Paisley four months after turning 18—I know that is hard to believe—where I watched Scotland open the World cup against Brazil in Paris, and my friend and I made a pact that we would go to the next tournament that Scotland qualified for, regardless of where it was. Little did I know that I would be creeping up on middle age without Scotland having qualified for a tournament since. That is something I am sure Gordon Strachan can turn around in the upcoming World cup qualifying campaign, in which we have a slightly easier qualifying group than we have had in recent years, as the top seed is England. I digress.
When we debate hooliganism we must be careful that we do not speak in sweeping generalisations that, in effect, tar every football supporter of whatever club or country with the same brush. The vast majority of football fans support and follow their team week in, week out, without contemplating violence of any sort. Most football fans, whether supporting their club or national team, just want to go along and support their team in a peaceful manner. Many fans, like myself, treat going to the football as a family day out, though I am not entirely sure that my daughters agree that being dragged to a St Johnstone game constitutes a family day out. Many fans enjoy relaxing at the football after a long week at work and other fans will go to the football to catch up with friends and fellow supporters.
Before I develop my arguments further, it is only fair to reiterate what others have said thus far. The hon. Member for Dartford admitted to not being a big football fan when opening the debate. He spoke of his embarrassment for his country and said that its good name had been dragged through the mud. He mentioned some England fans being intolerant of anyone else and the possible effect that that behaviour may have had on the performance of his team, or on any team that suffers from such behaviour. He also spoke of the powerful role of sport in bringing people together being undermined by those violent thugs. I could not agree more with those sentiments.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stirling (Steven Paterson) said that everyone must stand together to address this scourge. He spoke of the large incidence of flares at the tournament and that poor or intimidating policing can cause or exacerbate situations. He also spoke of using evidence from social media to secure prosecutions of the “imbeciles”—I think that was the word he used—involved. Crucially, he spoke of his own experience as a regular tartan army conscript at away matches.
I had forgotten this memory, but back in 1986, I went to a Scotland-England game at Hampden Park with my father. I think that it was the Rous cup and I believe that England won 2-0 that day; we will gloss over that. On my way to the game, we were walking up a fairly famous hill with burger vans on either side. We were halfway up the hill when we heard a commotion from the bottom. It was a group of England fans who were chanting and all of a sudden they charged up the hill towards us. I was six years old, so I only vaguely remember it, though I remember being frightened. My dad was extremely worried, given that his six-year-old son was with him, and a policeman had to usher us behind a burger van and keep guard over us as the England fans went past, so I have had a small brush with this myself, albeit 30 or so years ago.
The violent and thuggish scenes we have witnessed on our TV screens have brought the Euro 2016 tournament, and football itself, into disrepute. Those thugs—they are thugs, not football supporters—have attempted to shame their team and their nation by engaging in reckless and violent acts. We must ask ourselves why those people would be willing to spend significant sums of money to travel to the European championships to engage in hooliganism, rather than to watch and support their team. Let us be clear: those hooligans do not represent their fellow supporters; they shame football and they disgrace their nation.
Thankfully, that violence seems to have largely dissolved, but it is only right to mention the trouble before and after the Russia-England match in Marseille, which has already been mentioned. The scenes were sickening and the most disturbing element of all was that innocent people were being attacked purely because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. There were a significant number of arrests following the match between England and Russia, and it is only right that the UK Government and Parliament support the respective authorities in taking action against those who were arrested. The Scottish National party strongly supports efforts by the French and UK authorities to hold those responsible to account and welcomes the efforts of the police and the French authorities.
During an urgent question following that violence, I was troubled by the language used by some English Members—only some—in describing the Russian fans as “thugs” and the English fans as “supporters”. We have to be honest with ourselves; we have been honest in the debate so far. Yes, the charge by Russian thugs after the game was horrific and many genuine English fans were caught up in that incident. However, some English thugs had disgraced their country before the Russians had turned up, so let us not hide behind the Russians and fail to address the issues that elements of the travelling England national team supporters have had for a long time, just as we have to be honest and learn the lessons and take action after trouble following the Scottish cup final, which has already been mentioned.
As well as considering why people choose to use football as an excuse to engage in violence, we must discuss what kind of punishment we can mete out that might discourage football hooliganism. The trouble caused in Marseille led to England and Russia receiving warnings from UEFA that they faced disqualification from the tournament if there was any repeat of violence inside a stadium. UEFA is right to say that it has no jurisdiction over violence in city streets, but that is where we have witnessed the majority of incidents; that must be addressed, or fewer fans will want to travel to tournaments and there will be less appetite to host the tournaments. The football governing bodies, UEFA and FIFA, must now look at disqualifying teams if their supporters engage in violence inside or outside stadiums. I can appreciate the difficulties of implementing such a policy, but we must consider all options and have zero tolerance on football violence.
Scotland fans—the tartan army—have a fantastic reputation all over the world and are welcomed with open arms by the cities and countries they visit. However, the cup final aftermath shows that we cannot be complacent in Scotland about fan behaviour. The Scottish Government will continue to work with a range of bodies, including the Scottish Football Association, to tackle violence and offensive behaviour in general.
I am aware that those who engage in football-related violence are now using technology to plan and organise the violence. An Independent article mentions the online tool Hooligan 2.0 as a means of co-ordinating violence. I mentioned working in partnership with a range of bodies to help tackle this problem; with that in mind, the Government should engage in conversation with internet service providers to ensure we can take action to prevent access to tools like Hooligan 2.0. I would like the Minister to confirm, in his summing up, whether that is something they have done or will consider in the future.
Following the match between Russia and England, I was heartened to see Roy Hodgson and Wayne Rooney appear on television urging England fans to walk the other way if they saw violence. We must underline how important football figures are in helping to shape and influence the behaviour of supporters. Footballers are role models—whether we like it or not sometimes—and we should use their influence to tackle the problem of football-related violence.
We also need action from central Government on this matter, as there is a strong chance that someone who engages in violence at football may also engage in some other form of violent and criminal behaviour when away from a football ground. As such, it is important that we do not view this as just a football problem. We need to take action against this violence in whatever form it takes and wherever it is committed.
I would like to see more action on the domestic violence that is committed after football games. In 2014, the University of Lancaster reported that cases of domestic abuse in the Lancashire area increased by 38% when the English national side exited the World cup. This is not only a problem that affects England; similar research has been conducted in Scotland that suggests cases of domestic violence almost double after old firm games.
The point that I am trying to make is that we need to take action against those who engage in violent behaviour inside and outside football stadiums. By working with a range of bodies, we need to eliminate the thought process that so many people have: that they can use football as a means of engaging in violent behaviour. In doing so, we also want to take action against those who extend their violent behaviour from the football stadium to their homes and communities. We cannot allow hooligans to use football as an excuse to lift their hands to others. Despite the chaos and disunity among Government and main Opposition Members, I trust that tackling and eliminating this behaviour will unite all parts of the House.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Rosindell. I congratulate the hon. Member for Dartford (Gareth Johnson) on securing such an interesting debate. I concur that under normal circumstances this would have been a much better attended debate, but everybody’s contributions have made it very interesting and thought provoking.
It has been a mixed few months for football. We finally received justice for the 96 Liverpool fans killed in the Hillsborough tragedy. The record finally states, once and for all, what we all knew: that on that fateful day football fans were the victims of unlawful killing and were let down by a catalogue of failings by the police that undoubtedly contributed to their deaths. It was a verdict that was long overdue.
At the European football championships in France, Northern Ireland fans have, on the whole, been a credit to themselves and to the United Kingdom. The green and white army, like their neighbouring fans from the Republic of Ireland, have carried themselves with charm and dignity, making a lot of friends along the way. Unfortunately for Northern Ireland, their fire was finally extinguished on Saturday night by the mighty Welsh—of which I am one.
The Welsh fans, like the majority of English fans, have also behaved wonderfully and have brought colour and joy to a festival of football in France. England have now sadly left the tournament, which has caused heartbreak right across the nation and right across the House. I feel your pain; however, Wales are carrying the torch for the United Kingdom now. I am sure all colleagues will join me in congratulating Wales on that and in offering their full support, in the hope that Wales will carry the flag through to the final.
The other side of the story is that we have seen scenes of violence and disorder from mostly Russian, but some English, fans in Marseille and Lille. Although it appears that the vast majority of the violence was instigated by Russian ultras who travelled to France with the sole intent of causing violence, it would be remiss of us to pretend that there was not a very small minority of English fans who were complicit in that disorder.
Domestically, over recent years, there has been disorder in Tyne and Wear in 2013, and there were ugly scenes in May this year at the Scottish FA cup final involving Hibernian fans. The violence both abroad and at home evoked images that I had hoped were long gone from our screens in connection with football. Unfortunately, whether we like it or not, football hooliganism is back in the news. It is our responsibility to make sure that we do not return to the culture of football hooliganism that characterised British football throughout the ’80s and ’90s. There was a five-year ban from European club tournaments for English teams, and 584 arrests of British citizens at Euro 2000 after trouble in Brussels and Charleroi. Going to a football match became a risky endeavour.
Tackling football hooliganism has always required both an effective legislative approach—to target stopping those guilty of participating in hooliganism from attending games—and working with fans and fan groups to create a positive culture in football. I pay tribute to the work of the Football Supporters Federation; through its England football fans embassy, it has provided travel advice and an emergency contact to fans travelling to watch England games across the world. That important resource helps to create a safe environment when our national teams travel to major overseas international tournaments.
Does the hon. Lady agree that the important thing to think about when we go to watch international teams, in terms of the culture of the support, is that the competition is on the park? It should be a privilege to visit countries, get to meet the people there and celebrate our different countries, rather than having the attitude, which seems to prevail in some quarters, that people must go to other countries to show that they are better than them. The competition should remain on the pitch.
I totally agree. When we have visitors to this country we expect them to show us courtesy, and I think it is our duty to show the same courtesy when we travel abroad.
Football hooliganism at home is far less common than it was 30 years ago. Incidents such as those at Hampden Park in May, or at the Tyne-Wear derby in 2013, hit the headlines precisely because they are now uncommon, but we must not be complacent. We must not take the successes that we have had for granted. Initiatives such as Kick It Out and Show Racism the Red Card have been influential in making football and football stadiums in the UK more inclusive environments for people wishing to attend games. By going into schools and spreading a message of anti-racism and anti-homophobia, those campaigns have played a tremendous role in encouraging young people to get involved in sport. Sadly, however, as a result of Government cuts, funding for those schemes has been cut both by local authorities and by the Department for Communities and Local Government. I urge the Minister to consider restoring that funding. Educating our children is the best way to make lasting changes to football culture.
The Labour Government introduced legislation to tackle football hooliganism. Football banning orders were introduced to help ensure that those convicted of football-related violence could not attend football games. In 2010, 3,174 football banning orders were in place; currently, there are 2,181 banning orders. There is an unclear picture about why that number has reduced and about how the banning orders are being implemented across the country.
Figures on football banning orders obtained through a freedom of information request show that 43 FBOs were issued to under-18s in Tyne and Wear, while Greater Manchester and more than a dozen other forces had not issued any to under-18-year-olds. In the light of the incidents in France, I urge the Minister to commit to publishing more clear information about how banning orders are being implemented. The Football (Disorder) Act 2000 introduced the power to introduce an FBO based on a complaint made by the relevant chief officer of police. An FBO can be imposed if the court is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to believe that making a banning order would help to prevent violence or disorder at football matches. It is important to ensure chief officers know that they have that power and that they use it to help prevent football-related violence both at home and abroad. I urge the Minister to make it clear how extensively this power has been used by chief officers, and will he tell us what funding is provided to investigate potential FBOs?
Labour’s Football (Disorder) Act allows courts to impose FBOs, placing domestic restrictions on football-related activity among those arrested for football-related violence while abroad. Will the Government update us on the current situation and on the small number of football fans who were arrested while at the Euros in France?
The bans apply only to domestic matches. I understand that is where the jurisdiction is, but I look forward to some clarification from the Minister on how we can internationalise that and stop these people going to matches abroad as well as here in the UK.
I am sure the Minister will enlighten us when he gets the opportunity.
In conclusion, we have come a long way. The vast majority of our football fans have behaved fantastically at the Euros. We have made considerable changes in the culture of football right across the country. Premier League and Football League grounds have become inclusive places where men, women and children, ethnic and religious minorities and people of different sexual orientations can all come together and enjoy world-class sport. This is profoundly different from the culture that prevailed for much of the past 40 years, so we can be very proud of what we have achieved. However, as I have said, we cannot become complacent. I urge the Government to restore funding for educational programmes in our schools and to provide clear information to make sure that football banning orders are used properly as steps towards ensuring that the rare scenes of violence that we have seen recently do not start to become a trend.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Rosindell. Although we might have had more Members here this afternoon, the debate has been well mannered and factual. My hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Gareth Johnson) secured this debate because of what we have seen at the Euros and because of what has been happening in the UK and Northern Ireland.
I am an ardent Tottenham Hotspur fan who was born in Edmonton. I have no choice about the matter. I must say how disappointed I was with the five Tottenham players in the England side that played—I think they played—not particularly well against Iceland. I wish Wales well in their next game. I hope that they will go further and do better than they did against New Zealand in the rugby tour.
It is fair to put the record straight for the hon. Member for Swansea East (Carolyn Harris). Perhaps she never thought she would be standing opposite me as a shadow spokesman talking about this, but she has done really well. We are good friends and I wish her well in whatever role she takes on. She stepped into the breach today and she has done really well.
On the Euros, 65 UK supporters were arrested: 45 English, and 11 from Northern Ireland and nine from Wales. The offences by England supporters were six for assault, 14 for public order, 13 for drunkenness, nine for criminal damage, two for drugs and one for ticket touting. For Northern Ireland, the figures are two for criminal damage, two for public order, one for drunkenness, four for assault, one for ticket touting and one for pitch encroachment, which used to be called an invasion. For Wales, the number is limited to the nine who let the country down: five for drunkenness, two for assault and two for possession of a flare. How on earth did they get flares through the grounds? Flares come in large and small sizes; some are actually pyrotechnics and have explosive content and some are very small.
I want to talk about what happened in the Euros and how let down I felt as the Policing Minister, but our officers did brilliantly in liaising with the French, who police events slightly differently. I will talk about the preventive measures that we took and about what is happening here in the United Kingdom, without dwelling too much on individual sad events around the country.
In the run-up to the Euros, we had extensive liaison with the excellent football police unit, which I have the honour of funding from my budget, and with the French authorities and other countries in Europe to try to prevent what we saw outside the grounds and, sadly, inside the grounds. We gave the French whatever assistance they asked for and proactively offered more, particularly with spotters. We tend to know some of the characters that were involved. In fact, we prevented an awful lot of them from travelling; 99% of the passports that were requested to be submitted under the banning orders were submitted, so those people could not travel. Subsequently, we arrested or stopped at the borders a further 35 individuals who were attempting to travel. They were known to us and should have submitted their passports. Although that was a significant success, we saw on our TV screens some serious disorder.
In Marseille, we had officers helping the French authorities. We traditionally police football matches by keeping the fans apart, but the French police did not make much of an attempt to do that. They police in a different way because they are armed and do not like getting too close up when they have their weapons with them in case things start to happen. They police very differently. We would have been much closer to the fans. We said to the French in no uncertain terms, “If you arrest and prosecute them, we will keep them out,” and to a large extent that has been done. We continued to send officers to games, including the Wales and Northern Ireland games as well.
It is enormously disappointing that the vast majority of football fans who went to support their country, no matter which part of the United Kingdom they came from, were tarnished by a small minority of people whose behaviour ended up in the most abhorrent violence we have seen for many years. There is no condoning that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford said, and we must come down on them with the full force of the law. Those who were arrested do not have to be prosecuted for a banning order to be imposed. I will write to the hon. Member for Stirling (Steven Paterson) with full details to clarify the position.
Will the Minister consider one step further than the banning orders? Will he consider prosecutions in the UK for offences connected to football hooliganism that are committed abroad? There are offences already that are tried in this country when they are committed abroad. Will he consider bringing football hooliganism offences within the scope of current legislation?
I have spoken to my hon. Friend outside the debate and I will look at that matter. It opens up a really difficult area of other types of prosecution. At the moment, we prosecute people for committing very serious offences abroad. I will look into it, but it might have consequences way beyond what we are trying to do.
I noticed that the shadow Minister—for today, but I hope she gets the job full-time, as we get on so well—alluded in her speech to young people. However, the video footage and the banning orders that are in place suggest that the people in question tend not to be young. Sadly, many of them are my age. They came up through the ranks of a violent, gang-type culture many years ago. Inside the grounds, UEFA has a policy that the police do not carry out segregation. It is a UEFA rule, and it is necessary to apply to move from that. I think that there was a request for that for the subsequent games, but certainly after the Russia-England game. Hon. Members will have noticed that there were very few police in the ground, and the French police were criticised for that, but it is a UEFA rule. It is completely different here in the UK, where we use stewarding extensively to keep people apart, as well as outside the game, and we also use traffic management orders; but in the ground, police are available to carry out segregation, and they often do so.
Let us not say that it is all doom and gloom. More than a third of a million people go to watch premiership games every weekend, and football is still a safe environment where people can go to support their clubs, whether at a Spurs-Arsenal match or a Celtic-Rangers match, which will happen this year for the first time in many years—or Hemel Hempstead Town versus St. Albans, which is where I end up most weekends. We are not in the territory of the way things were, and we are not going to get back there. We will use the full force of the law to make sure that people can go with their young children to enjoy a football game in the same way as many of us enjoy a rugby or basketball match, or a match of any other type.
To return to the point about youth, we must of course educate young people. I will not make a spending commitment, such as the shadow Minister has possibly just made on behalf of Her Majesty’s Opposition, but I understand where she is coming from. When I went, two or three months ago, to the Spurs-Arsenal game at White Hart Lane, I was with the Metropolitan police throughout the game and for nearly two hours before and well over two hours afterwards. It was obvious while we were outside, waiting for the Arsenal fans to be escorted, with a significant police escort, towards the ground, that there were people—predominantly middle-aged men, but not only men—who did not have tickets and had no intention of going to the football match. They were waiting at a corner close to the ground to antagonise the fans and create a serious situation. There was disorder; but those people were not kids. They were grown men and some women who should know better. Arrests were made. There were horses, and the mounted police did a fantastic job of keeping apart people who frankly wanted a punch-up. Although the vast majority of what goes on is perfectly okay, there are still difficult situations, as we saw in the cup final.
The point has been made that the police can do more. We will help them in doing that, and perhaps even, if we need to, give them more powers; but actually, the football fans need to say that enough is enough. There is so much money in football today; the clubs themselves have a responsibility as well. There is an issue—it comes up with the police football unit—about getting clubs to pay the police bills after matches, although the sums involved would probably be just loose change to one of the forwards or defenders who let my country down by the way they played in the Euros. It is a question of trying to get clubs to pay their bills and to take responsibility. I have had numerous meetings in the past couple of months with the premiership to say, “Come around the table and try to talk to us about this.” Initially they say, “Of course you want more money from us”—but actually it is their event that we are policing. It is sometimes enormously difficult to get the limited amount of money from them that they are responsible for paying back.
I want to talk about where things are going. There is some evidence—I have asked the unit to come back to me on this—that violence is to some extent moving down to the lower leagues, where not many police are expected to be around and there is not as much stewarding. There is always stewarding, but the question is whether there will be enough stewards and whether they are professionally trained. Violence happens because people think they can get away with it. The people responsible are not fans. They are just out to cause other people harm, and they get some kind of kick from that. As soon as the relevant information becomes available I will share it. It is important to look not just at the top—England fans abroad—but at what appears to be happening much further down.
We will do all we can to make sure that people can go abroad. We will, in particular, support other countries when they have events. The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport spoke to the Russian Sports Minister and has offered help in the context of the World cup, as we go forward with that. UEFA and FIFA need to take a careful look at how policing is carried out in their grounds; they do not have to wait for an event. Different countries police differently, but it is crucial that we come down with all the force of the law on those who create disturbances, ruin football matches for everyone else and assault people. At the same time, everyone in the football family needs to take responsibility.
I made a point in my speech about governing bodies perhaps punishing the teams for fans’ behaviour. Does the Minister agree that for the forthcoming World cup FIFA should consider disqualifying teams for fans’ behaviour inside or outside grounds, if investigations prove that they have taken part?
There is much to consider in what the hon. Gentleman says. This is not the debate or place at which to make such a commitment, although I have never sat on a fence in my life, on any issue. The principle of those in the football family taking responsibility for their club and their country is crucial, whether in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales or England.
This has been a useful debate. We do not want to treat all football fans as bad people, but they must put their hands up and say, “Enough is enough; we want to go to football in peace.” In our case, together with my Scottish friends, we may also need to enjoy losing occasionally, although we will cheer Wales on. I wish them every success.
We would all agree that football, at its best, unites communities, people and countries. It can be thrilling and is undoubtedly entertaining, and it should not be undermined by the selfish actions of relatively few people. We have an opportunity now, and should do all that we can to prevent a repetition in Russia of the scenes that happened in France, should the home nations qualify, as we all hope they will. The Minister and I agree, as I am sure the rest of the House does, that we want the police to do their work, but that they can do only so much. Ultimately, it will be down to football fans themselves to help to change the culture to bring an end to the problems.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House has considered football hooliganism.