CONCERNS have been raised about the attempted use of a little-known yet “draconian” form of football banning order (FBO) by North East police.

Most UK sports fans will be aware of the existence of FBOs, commonly employed to try and keep thugs and other offenders out of stadiums.

In most cases, forces seek to impose orders after a person has been convicted of a “football-related offence”, which can cover anything from violence at a match, to being caught drink driving to or from a game.

But a subsection of the legislation also allows police to seek a banning order even where no crime has been proven, simply if they suspect an individual may pose a risk.

In the North East, since 2017, Northumbria Police made seven attempts to bar spectators under such rules – all of which were rejected by the courts.

“Because of the history around football hooliganism and the ‘English disease’, some quite draconian and punitive legislation was rushed through with no scrutiny,” said Amanda Jacks, a case worker with the Football Supporters’ Association.

“There’s a long list of ‘football-related offences’ which apply to FBOs, [which] shows how far removed from their original purpose some of these are.

“While we’re in a better place than we were, we still see applications for people not previously known to the police and for people convicted of offences which don’t include violence or disorder.”

The vast majority of FBO’s are issued under section 14A of the Football Spectators Act, relating to fans convicted of an offence.

Since 2017, Northumbria Police has made banning applications under these powers 126 times, of which 115 were granted.

Powers under section 14B of the same act allow bans “on complaint”, where no previous offence has been proven.

Speculating why Northumbria Police had been unsuccessful in its 14B applications, Jacks suggested it could have been down to successful argument by a lawyer, or that the intended subject of the ban “might have got lucky with a judge or magistrate who knew what they were doing”.

She added: “With 14B, the police can provide evidence up to 10 years old which suggests banning an individual will prevent future violence or disorder, which could include information the subject is unaware of.

“And the first  thing a person will know about it will be either receiving it through the post, or when the police knock on their door.”

Across England and Wales, 1,577 FBOs were issued, from the start of the 2017/18 season to the end of the 2020/21 term, according to Home Office figures.

However, these numbers do not differentiate between those approved under 14A or 14B powers.

The 14B powers have also worried civil liberties groups, with Jodie Beck, policy and campaigns officer at Liberty, a campaign organisation, warning similar restrictions could be extended to protest rights, “threatening everyone’s ability to speak out and stand up for what they believe in.”

Responding to the concerns, a spokesman for Northumbria Police said: “Football fans in the North East are among the most knowledgeable and passionate in the entire country, and we are proud of the relationship we have with supporter groups and clubs across Northumbria.

“While the overwhelming majority of supporters do behave responsibly when attending fixtures both at home and away, a minority of individuals can look to cause trouble or disorder.

“We have a zero-tolerance approach towards these individuals and are committed to using all tactics at our disposal – including the application of football banning orders – in order to ensure the safety of fans and the wider community.”