The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the Association of Chief Police Officers have today published a joint policy for dealing with abuse in and around football matches this season...
The guidelines remind supporters that Football Banning Orders (FBOs) carry a minimum duration of three years, meaning hooligans face a ban from travelling to a range of important upcoming football matches should they commit football related crime this season.
Nick Hawkins, lead sports prosecutor at the CPS, said:"There is no place for criminal behaviour in football grounds and the CPS is clear about how those engaging in violent, abusive or dangerous behaviour at football matches will be dealt with; where there is sufficient evidence to bring offenders before a court on appropriate criminal charges and a an FBO is necessary, a prosecution is likely.
Today's announcement also lays out CPS powers for tackling all forms of abuse in football, be it in the stands, or on our computer screens.
Hawkins continued: "In years gone by, racist and homophobic chanting in the stands was an ugly feature of football matches across the country, but I believe we are beginning to see a shift in culture. Organisations such as 'Kick It Out' and Stonewall have done much to tackle the root causes of hate crime in football, but hate crime legislation has a large part to play in this ongoing culture change; there is no room in the eyes of the law for racist or homophobic abuse on the pitch or in the stands.
"But it's not just criminality in the stands that will be taken on. Our legal guidance on communications sent by social media clearly sets out how we will approach the abuse of players or fellow supporters online and I'm glad to say we have the full support of the FA and the PFA in this field.
"There is obviously a place for appropriate humour in football, and we mustn't lose sight of that. Decent, law-abiding football fans deserve to be reassured that the criminal justice system is better equipped than ever before to protect their right to follow their teams in safety, whilst players, referees and supporters should know that harassment and abuse against them will not be tolerated. Let's make this season one to be proud of in all possible ways."