Liberty fight for football fans’ rights

Liberty is launching a campaign to protect the rights of football fans following a spate of detentions and forced removals by police.

Police have been using section 27 of the Violent Crime Reduction Act to prevent fans attending matches.

“This is a football-loving country and it’s not only wrong, but also seriously counter-productive to treat all fans as hooligans,” said Anna Fairclough, Liberty’s legal officer.

The particular case being adopted by Liberty involves the rounding up of 80 Stoke City fans who had stopped at a pub on the way to a match at Old Trafford on November 15th.

Although the fans were well-behaved and the pub landlord had no complaints, supporters were detained for up to four hours and transported by the police back to Stoke-on-Trent on coaches, missing the game.

Deprived of toilet facilities on the coach, the supporters were instructed to urinate into cups, which spilled over the floor of the bus so that they had to sit with urine sloshing around their feet for the 40 mile journey back.

“Liberty is proud to take on this case and intends to use the Human Rights Act to prevent abuses of this kind happening again,” Ms Fairclough said.

The Football Supporters Federation (FSF) said it had received many firsthand accounts of football fans being handed a section 27 order and is working with Liberty to challenge the police on their use of the law.

“This legislation was clearly designed to allow the moving on of individuals or small groups misbehaving under the influence of alcohol,” said Malcolm Clarke, chair of the FSF.

“It was not designed to enable police to impose football banning orders at will across entire counties.

“Section 27 gives police instant power to walk all over the civil rights of supporters if they happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

No crime, or evidence of a crime, needs to be present to activate section 27 powers.

The police can initiate section 27 simply by believing there is an alcohol-related risk of disorder.