Football violence and disorder in England: top 10 worst affected clubs for banning orders and arrests

Pitch invasions, missile-throwing and other football-related criminality all saw a sharp rise last season, new Home Office data reveals.

More than half of football matches last season were marred by violence, disorder or anti-social behaviour, official figures show.

They reveal an alarming escalation of pitch invasions, missile-throwing and other football-related criminality compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Football-related arrests reached an eight-year high of 2,198 in the 2021/22 season across England and Wales, up 59% compared with 2018/19.

Last season saw a number of high-profile pitch invasions, attacks on players and other instances of disorder.

In February, a Leicester fan was sentenced to four months in youth custody after he jumped over advertising boards and “swung punches” at three Nottingham Forest players during an FA Cup fourth-round game at Forest’s City Ground.

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The same ground saw more unsavoury scenes in May, when a Forest fan head-butted Sheffield United captain Billy Sharp at the play-off semi-final. The striker needed four stitches to his lip and the fan was later jailed.

And Aston Villa goalkeeper Robin Olsen was assaulted during a pitch invasion at Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium on the last day of the 2021/2022 Premier League campaign.

What is being done to curb violence at football matches?

The Crown Prosecution Service said law enforcement agencies and clubs were now working to “stamp out this blight on football”.

On Wednesday, Premier League clubs agreed to impose automatic minimum one-year bans in a bid to clamp down on anti-social and criminal behaviour at football grounds.

The Football Association (FA) has also brought in tougher sanctions from this season onwards, with automatic club bans for pitch invaders or those caught with pyrotechnics or smoke bombs.

A pitch invader is apprehended by a steward during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on March 20, 2022. (Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images)

And the Home Office plans to crack down on drug-taking, by adding class A drugs crimes to the list of offences for which a football banning order can be imposed.

Which clubs were worst affected?

The club with the highest number of supporters arrested in the 2021/22 season was West Ham United, with 95 arrests.

This was followed by Manchester City, with 76 arrests, and Manchester United, with 72.

West Ham pointed out that it began playing in European football last season, resulting in an increased number of fixtures, adding that it took a zero-tolerance approach to discrimination.

In terms of football banning orders handed out last season, Millwall topped the charts with 33 new banning orders, followed by Leicester City with 28 and Everton with 26.

When looking at all football banning orders in force, including those issued in previous seasons, Birmingham City supporters had the highest number, at 57, followed by Millwall with 52 and Bolton Wanderers with 46.

What else does the data tell us?

The most common reports of trouble involved pyrotechnics, seen at 729 matches, followed by missile-throwing, at 561 matches.

Hate crime incidents were reported at one in every eight matches (13%) - 384 in total. Of these, 283 related to race and 106 related to sexual orientation.

There were also 52 recorded incidents of online hate crime connected to football, figures released for the first time this year show.

The most common reason for arrest was public disorder, at 786 arrests. A further 446 arrests were made for violent disorder and 313 for pitch incursions.

Football grounds were increasingly the scene of disorder. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of the 2,198 arrests in the 2021/22 season took place inside a football ground, up from 59% in 2018/19.

A pitch invader is arrested by police after tying himself to the net during the Premier League match between Everton and Newcastle United at Goodison Park on March 17, 2022 in Liverpool, England. (Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images)

National matches have seen increased trouble - there were 38 football-related arrests at England and Wales national team matches, including 10 outside England and Wales. This compares with 18 arrests in 2018/19.

In general, the figures don’t include the women’s game - something that will change from this season onwards. But the figures do cover the Women’s Euros, and reveal that disorder was reported at four England matches and six other matches. Three people were arrested.

Unlike with football-related arrests, there hasn’t been an increase in football banning orders, compared to pre-pandemic levels. The number dished out across England and Wales last season was slightly lower than in 2018/19.

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Of the 516 people hit with banning orders last season, all but one were male. The one woman given a banning order was an Everton supporter aged 35 to 49.

What are fans saying?

The Football Supporters’ Association, which represents fans, said the figures represented just one arrest for every 20,000 supporters.

Chief executive Kevin Miles said: “Football arrest figures have been falling for decades and were at an all time low in 2019, so an increase was possible at some point, and this post-Covid dataset shows a rise back towards 2013/14 levels.

“While we’d always like to see falling arrest rates, it’s important to put these figures into context - one arrest for every 20,000 supporters. Across the Premier League and the EFL this equates to less than one arrest per match and compares favourably to many other large public events.

“A very small minority of people cause issues and this matters to our members, match-going supporters more than anyone. But it’s also worth saying that football is a safe environment with hundreds of thousands of law-abiding fans and their families attending week in, week out.”

What are the authorities saying?

Law enforcement agencies were now working with clubs to “stamp out this blight on football”, sports lead prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), Douglas Mackay, said.

“Over the past football season, we have seen a significant rise in football-related criminality compared to pre-pandemic levels, he said.

“There is no place for violent and hateful criminal acts in football, and incidents such as these have a significant negative impact on victims.”

The National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for football policing, Chief Constable Mark Roberts, said: “Disorder is a problem that has not gone away, and throughout the whole of last season we saw an increase in crime at football matches across the country - from the Premier League right down to the National League.”

He said the increase in arrests showed the police were taking action.

He added: “We collectively need to make football a safe environment for the overwhelming majority of supporters who just want to enjoy the game.”

The Home Office said it had already committed to adding class A drugs crimes to the list of offences for which a football banning order can be imposed upon conviction.

Home Office Minster Jeremy Quin said: “Our football clubs are at the heart of our communities, and it is unacceptable that the game we all love is tarnished by a minority of selfish troublemakers. The increase in football-related arrests shows that police are taking firm action to stop this disorder and preserve the enjoyment of the game for fans and families which I wholeheartedly support.”