Examining the provisions of the Football (Offences) Act 1991 and the Football Spectators Act 1989
So last night during the Capital One cup tie between Arsenal FC and Coventry City FC, with the score at 1-0 to The Arsenal and with a penalty to be taken to possibly put the home side two goals to the good, two individuals felt the need to run onto the pitch and start removing their clothing before they were eventually apprehended by stewards. The penalty was subsequently taken by Giroud and was saved by Murphy in the Coventry goal.
Now it is easy to sit back and laugh at the events of last night as although a couple of naked chaps swinging their meat and potatoes around The Emirates might well have put off Giroud when it came to getting his second goal for the club, Arsenal still went on to win 6-1. Besides let us face it, naked people can be funny. However, I start to wonder whether or not it was all worth it for the gentlemen in question?
As I am sure many of you know (because you are bound to be an intelligent lot reading this blog) it is an offence for a person at a designated football match to go on to the playing area, or any area adjacent to the playing area to which spectators are not generally admitted, without lawful authority or lawful excuse, according to section 4 of the Football (Offences) Act 1991.
So what are the consequences of such an offence. Well since the 6th April 2007 the Crown Prosecution Service are able to apply for a ‘civil’ football banning order should a conviction or complaint be made against an individual. The court must make an order if satisfied that the respondent has at any time caused or contributed to any violence or disorder in the UK or elsewhere and that there are reasonable grounds to believe that it would help to prevent violence or disorder at or in connection with any regulated football matches.
When made following conviction under s. 14A of the Football Spectators Act 1989, a Football Banning Order may be for up to 10 years if immediate imprisonment is imposed and must be for at least 6 years. If no immediate imprisonment is ordered, the maximum is 5 years and the minimum 3 years. If a complaint is made under the section 14 (B) civil procedures, the maximum is 5 years and the minimum 3 years (as increased by the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006). Any breach of the above will result in 6 months in jail for a defendant.
Football Banning Orders can be made even more effective by the use of a schedule containing additional restrictions, such as having a restricted zone around a ground for a period of 2 hours before to 2 hours after a match that an individual cannot enter, and a restriction using the national rail network without the prior approval of the British Transport Police.
A Football Banning Order can actually be imposed against anyone for pretty much any offence you can imagine at or near a stadium when a match is on including simply being drunk, but a pitch invasion like last night is arguably the most obvious to end up getting you barred from your club and the requirements are far more onerous than simply missing matches.
It is possible that none of the above will happen to the two clowns from last night, and maybe we will see them again running free on a cold night across a green pitch practicing the old windmill technique. But I would suggest to them, and anyone else considering a quick 5 minutes of fame, that they may get more than they bargained for.
My special thanks to @Faazila for allowing me to use her picture of one of the naked muppets from last night.
Disclaimer: The views expressed are those of the writer and this article does not constitute legal advice.