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Football: Illegal Entry to Matches

Volume 827: debated on Wednesday 1 February 2023


Asked by

To ask His Majesty’s Government what consideration they have given to introducing new criminal sanctions in England and Wales for those tailgating to gain illegal entry at football matches; and what other measures they are planning to take further to The Baroness Casey Review: An independent Review of events surrounding the UEFA Euro 2020 Final ‘Euro Sunday’ at Wembley, published in December 2021.

My Lords, the Government keep tailgating under review. Any disorder associated with attempting to gain unauthorised entry may be a criminal offence, with a football banning order imposed following conviction. The safety of spectators at sporting events is of the highest importance. We continue to work closely with all the relevant authorities to ensure that football fans can continue to enjoy the sport safely. The review by the noble Baroness, Lady Casey of Blackstock, was commissioned by and reported to the English Football Association. The Government were referred to in four of the recommendations. Our approach to these is outlined in evidence to the DCMS Select Committee, a copy of which can be found in the Library.

My Lords, I am conscious that I have asked this Question before and also that the Minister has responded before. Would it not be of value to consider making this an offence, to deal with the issue of tailgating, as the review from the noble Baroness, Lady Casey, suggested? This is against the background of a worrying increase in disorder at football grounds this season, evidenced by the recent increase in pitch invasions. We can never be complacent about disorder at football games, and we should never be complacent about crowd safety.

Absolutely—and we are not. As I have explained to the noble Lord before, we have taken action to implement a series of changes to the football banning order legislation with which he was associated when he was in government to help ensure safety at football matches. That included adding football related online hate crime to the list of offences, amending the threshold for the imposition of a banning order, extending the legislation to the women’s domestic game and adding football-related class A drug crimes to the list of offences. We continue to work with the police and football bodies to review disorder and consider whether any further action is necessary.

My Lords, in relation to tailgating, could my noble friend the Minister outline whether the Government are considering making this an offence and making it slightly broader? This happens a lot on the Tube. Particularly as a woman, being tailgated through a barrier by somebody trying to come in behind you means you virtually are assaulted. TfL’s policy is not to do anything, probably because it is not an offence. Could the Minister review this to see whether it should be made an offence not just in football but on the Tube?

My noble friend is right to point to the impact on people being followed through ticket barriers. Fare evasion is a criminal offence and Transport for London publishes its revenue enforcement and prosecutions policy. If convicted, people face a criminal record and a fine of up to £1,000, as well as compensation for the fares they have avoided, a victim surcharge and prosecution costs—so this is something that should not be done.

My Lords, one of the most shocking parts of the review from the noble Baroness, Lady Casey, was, yet again, the lack of information sharing and joined-up working between key bodies. That has been an issue at a number of serious and tragic events, including the Manchester Arena bombing. What are the Government doing to ensure that all relevant responsible bodies—whether statutory, voluntary or, as in the case of football, business—including the police, share information before, during and after events to keep people safe and to learn lessons after each event?

The noble Baroness is right that the report from the noble Baroness, Lady Casey, had recommendations for a number of parties, and the Government have indeed spoken to the other parties for whom the recommendations were made. We will not respond on behalf of others, but we are working with them, not least the Sports Grounds Safety Authority, which we commissioned to conduct, and act on, research related to stewarding capacity in the events sector.

My Lords, given that we know that there are increasing problems at football matches, what are the Government going to do to make sure that they address those issues now? We have an outstanding review of football governance, et cetera—to which the Government have not responded and on which they have not come out with their proposals—as well as the review from the noble Baroness, Lady Casey, on safety and security. We also know, if nothing else from yesterday’s mind-boggling figures for money spent in the transfer market, that there is a lot of money awash in the Premier League. In their response to the report of the Minister’s honourable friend in the other House, Tracey Crouch, perhaps they can look at how football itself improves stewardship, which was also one of the recommendations in the noble Baroness’s report. Will they make sure that they properly look after fans on a Saturday, on a Tuesday, on a Wednesday or whenever they go, by spending their money properly?

The noble Baroness is right that there is action for everybody throughout football to ensure that people can enjoy the game safely. We should not overstate it; the vast majority of people who go to matches do so in a law-abiding way and help people do that. There is a minority of people who want to spoil that. As I have said, we have taken action to toughen football banning orders. The football authorities themselves have taken action, with the FA, the Premier League and the English Football League announcing tougher sanctions, including automatic reporting to the police of anyone participating in anti-social or criminal behaviour. On the fan-led review commissioned by my honourable friend Tracey Crouch, we will be coming forward in the coming weeks with our response.

My Lords, it was an absolute miracle that there was no major loss of life at last year’s Champions League final at the Stade de France. It was a terrifying experience for many Liverpool fans who attended, of whom I was one. Four English teams have now reached the last 16 in this year’s Champions League, so one or more may very well reach the final. It is a matter of regret that UEFA’s own inquiry into last year’s events has yet to report. None the less, will the Minister undertake to approach UEFA to seek reassurance that all the many glaring operational failures seen in Paris will not be repeated at this year’s final in Istanbul?

I am grateful to the noble Lord, who has provided some insights from his own experience of attending that match. We were all appalled to see the terrifying and potentially dangerous scenes that occurred there. The French Senate published its report on the final, which rejected the initial response from French Ministers to blame Liverpool FC fans. UEFA’s inquiry is ongoing, but a full report is due to be published soon. We are in close contact, at ministerial and official levels, with both the French Government and UEFA to ensure that their investigations align with experience and point to future matches, as the noble Lord suggested.

My Lords, a lot of support was given to the report from my honourable friend Tracey Crouch in moving her suggestions, and the overall governance of football, further forward. What progress are the Government making and when can we expect an announcement?

The Government published their response to the recommendations made by the fan-led review in April last year. We remain committed to publishing a White Paper following up on that, which we will do in the coming weeks.

My Lords, to return to the original Question, tailgating here or anywhere else is presumably already an offence. What briefing is given to both stewards, who should now be better trained as a result of this, and police, who are there to take action when it takes place? Also, are we looking at one of the other major areas in the Casey report—interference in the disabled access entrances, which were stormed at this event?

The noble Lord is right: disorder associated with attempting to gain unauthorised entry may indeed be a criminal offence, and criminal punishment can follow. The Sports Grounds Safety Authority commissioned a review of stewarding, following the noble Baroness’s report, which looked at these issues. It is now working with football’s governing bodies to follow up on the points that were identified there. The noble Lord is right to draw attention to the way that disabled fans were particularly affected by people trying to follow them into matches—that is deplorable.

My Lords, I declare an interest as one of over 8,000 members of the Foundation of Hearts, which owns the largest fan-owned club in the whole of the United Kingdom. I have also had the great responsibility of writing a report for the Council of Europe on all the aspects of football that were raised by my noble friend Lady Armstrong. I know that, with his many responsibilities, the Minister may not have had an opportunity yet to read my report. Can I ask him to do so and write to me with responses from the Government—or I can table another Question to allow him to answer?

I suspect the noble Lord might table another Question even when I have. But I will gladly read his report and ensure that my honourable friend the sports Minister, Stuart Andrew, does so as well, and one of us will write to him.