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Is English Football Returning to the Bad Old Days? Disorder at Games Reaches Eight-Year High

Clenched Fist In Front of England FlagFrom 1985 to 1990, English clubs were banned from playing in continental competitions after the Heysel Disaster, which left 39 Juventus fans dead after Liverpool supporters allegedly stormed into their section of the ground at the 1985 European Cup final.

It was a shameful time for English football supporters, who also had a habit of wreaking havoc when supporting the national team overseas.

The hope was that those days were long gone, but new stats have revealed that incidences of disorder and poor behaviour at games in England and Wales have hit a near-decade high.

Some 2,198 arrests were made during the 2021/22 season, which is the highest number recorded since the 2013/14 campaign.

There was always likely to be a sense of relief as supporters were allowed back into grounds at full capacity for the first time since the global health crisis, but the number of arrests – allied to the many on-field incidents which saw players attacked during pitch invasions – suggests that too many fans went too far in their exuberance.

At least one incidence of disorder was recorded at more than half of the 3,000 games analysed, with 600 more acts of bad behaviour reported than in the pre-interruption season of 2018/19.

The number of arrests was up 59% on that campaign as well, with 516 fans issued banning orders for a period of time or even permanently.

The more worrying trends that have emerged on the terraces in recent times continued to gather pace, too. There were 441 individual or group pitch invasions last season, which is an increase of a considerable 127% when compared to the 2018/19 term.

And there were nearly 1,300 instances when a fan had thrown a missile of some kind or let off pyrotechnics within a stadium.

New Measures Introduced

Boot of Mounted Police Officer

Following a review into these shocking numbers, the Football Policing chief constable Mark Roberts has revealed that officers will be handed new powers in a bid to curb the rise in disorder in the stands.

“We are pleased that the Government is adding Class A drugs offences to the banning order legislation, he said.

“This will provide police with another option to tackle criminal and anti-social behaviour by those who are under the influence of drugs.

“[There will be an] introduction of stadium bans for people who enter the pitch, as well as those who use pyrotechnics,”

Roberts also confirmed.

“Anyone who commits a criminal offence either outside or inside a football ground can expect to face the consequences of their actions.”

A meeting of representatives from all 20 Premier League clubs on Wednesday saw them vote unanimously on banning those who let off pyro or invade the pitch for a minimum of a year.

The ban applies to both home and away games, and could see the parents and guardians of minors responsible for disorder also being hit with a banning order.

It comes as England internationals Jordan Henderson and Eric Dier revealed that their families no longer attend games for fear of their own safety. Dier said his loved ones had faced abuse at a Tottenham vs Chelsea game, while Henderson revealed his family were embroiled in ugly scenes at both the Euro 2020 and Champions League finals.

“My family and friends have had a couple of experiences which have really shocked them and probably put them off going to future games,” the Liverpool captain said.

“My dad said after the Champions League final that he was done with it. When you’ve had those experiences sometimes, you think whether it is worth risking.”