Football has been back in the news recently, with the publication of a review into the crowd disorder at the final of the Euro 2020 tournament, held in London in 2021. One of the most common responses for any club or national team caught up in poor behaviour by fans is to issue a football banning order, preventing people convicted of football-related offences from attending matches. A new proposal involves extending these banning orders to online abuse.


What is a Football Banning Order?

A football banning order, or FBO, is a formal civil offence which was first used in 2000 and refers to arrests under the 1989 Football Spectators Act. The idea is that rather than simply just issuing fines or community service orders, the courts, local police, or Transport Police can use a tool to prevent people from being in or around football matches in the future. The order will specify the duration of the ban, which can be anything between 3 and 10 years. If an individual is caught breaching the terms of their FBO, this is a criminal matter and the maximum sentence is 6 months in jail, an unlimited fine, or both.


DBS and Banning Orders

As a FBO is classed a an “offence”, it will appear on any Disclosure certificate. The same rules apply as for other types of offences, including the length of time it takes for an offence to be spent, and to no longer appear on a basic check. Once an offence is spent, it may still appear on a standard or enhanced disclosure check, depending on the position under consideration and the length of time since the conviction. Even if an FBO doesn’t appear on a DBS certificate, that doesn’t mean that an employer won’t find out about it. It’s fairly standard now for employers to conduct searches on social media for people they are thinking of employing, and to run their names through a search engine. As these matters are widely reported in the local press, it’s likely to be found by anyone looking.


Changes to Football Banning Orders

The online racist abuse directed at England players after the Euro 2020 finals has led the government to look at changing the rules about FBOs, as the current legislation doesn’t cover online abuse. Many supporters are also calling for the maximum length of football banning orders to be extended from 10 years to life. If this goes through, then people issued with the maximum length of ban could have an unspent conviction for the rest of their lives.


What Should Employers Do?

It’s important to keep the issue of football banning orders in mind when drafting policies about disclosure checks. There is no law which says that people who have a football banning order should not be employed, but the information should be kept in mind along with other factors such as references and work history. Staff responsible for doing social media screening or other background checks should be aware of what a FBO is, and how the system works.