Children as young as 12 banned from football matches for disorder
Official statistics have revealed how more than 100 under 18s - including a boy of just 12 - have been banned from football matches in the past three years.
The figures, obtained by the Press Association, have been published after dozens of England fans - including a 16-year-old - were arrested in the first week of Euro 2016 in France.
The figures suggest football hooliganism still holds an appeal for teenagers, with stories emerging of youngsters getting “casual” clothing labels sewn into their school uniforms, while others pose on social media trying to look hard.
The statistics reveal more than 100 under 18s received an FBO in the three years up to March although not every police force responded to the Freedom of Information request.
The 12-year-old was banned for throwing missiles and abusing other fans following disorder in Newcastle city centre after the Magpies were beaten 3-0 at home by rivals Sunderland in April 2013.
Northumbria Police has reported that it has since visited schools to warn pupils that even being verbally abusive at matches could get them banned from following their teams.
There has been a similar approach in Bury, where a small number of young fans of the League One club have been causing trouble.
However, Greater Manchester Police, which looks after Manchester United and City as well as rivals in lower leagues such as Bolton, Oldham, Rochdale and Wigan, has no under 18s on a ban.
Dr Geoff Pearson, a senior law lecturer at Manchester University, said there were “huge discrepancies” between forces about how they used the Football Banning Order legislation.
Amanda Jacks, with the Football Supporters’ Federation, said young people should be steered away from trouble before banning orders and the criminal justice system were considered.
She said young fans behaving in an anti-social manner were targetted by the police, in a way other gangs of youngsters were not.
Speaking about the “schooligan” phenomenon, she said: “There’s no doubt there is a glamorisation of football disorder and kids are attracted to it for the wrong reason.
“There does need to be some consistency - if 14, 15, 16-year-olds are getting banning orders, that should be the last resort, not the first.”
The figures also showed a there were more than 120 banning orders on the over 50s, including a 60-year-old Arsenal fan and a man of 64 in the Lancashire Police area, who have been banned from attending games in the last three years.