spiked proposals: Football
Kick politics out of football; kick football out of politics.
If political leaders really want to be fans of the people’s game, they should:
- Kick politics out of football.
Over the past decade football has become the most regulated leisure activity in Britain. Football fans can now be ejected from grounds, convicted, banned, and even placed on a hooligan register for drinking alcohol in view of the pitch, singing the wrong type of song, making obscene gestures, persistent standing, and running on to the playing area. Little wonder that the atmosphere at football matches has suffered.
The government should repeal all legislation that criminalises football fans for expressing their passion. Football fans should be free to shout what they want, drink where they want, and stand if they want.
New Labour is keen to be associated with the people’s game, but continues the Tory policy of vilifying the people who follow football. Through stoking up fears about football hooliganism, Labour uses the regulation of football fans as a laboratory for new attacks on our civil liberties.
Mass outbreaks of football hooliganism in Britain are a thing of the past. In 1999 there were 3341 arrests for football-related offences in England and Wales – an arrest rate of 13.2 spectators in every 100,000, which is hardly an epidemic. Even the recent outbreaks of trouble at England games abroad were hugely exaggerated by the media, and were caused by a very specific set of circumstances – not least, the policing tactics used.
The new curbs on fans’ freedom of movement are a disproportionate response to the minor drunken skirmishes at Euro 2000. This week 454 fans – including 50 who have never been convicted of a football-related offence – were ordered to surrender their passports.
The government should stop talking up the problem of hooliganism in order to justify eroding our civil liberties. The Football (Disorder) Act 2000, and other legislation that prevents fans travelling abroad, should be scrapped. Football fans should only be punished for criminal acts, not for what they might do.
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