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The Guardian - UK

Football fans taking cocaine at matches face five-year bans

Thousands of fans without tickets tried to storm the Euro 2020 final between England and Italy at Wembley last year.
Thousands of fans without tickets tried to storm the Euro 2020 final between England and Italy at Wembley last year. Photograph: Lee Smith/Action Images/Reuters

Football fans convicted of selling or taking class A drugs such as cocaine at matches could face five-year bans, the government has announced, in a bid to tackle rising violence and disruption.

The new rules, announced on Thursday by the policing minister, Kit Malthouse, could also see anyone convicted ordered to surrender their passports when their team is playing abroad.

Boris Johnson claimed the drug habits of “middle-class cokeheads” are driving crime across the UK, adding: “Their habit is feeding a war on our streets driving misery and crime across our country and beyond.

“That’s why we are stepping up our efforts to make sure those who break the law face the full consequences – because taking illegal drugs is never a victimless crime.”

The move is backed by the National Police Chiefs’ Council amid concerns that drug abuse is fuelling the rise in violence and disorder at matches.

Statistics released by the UK football policing unit (UKFPU) in January reported an increase in arrests of 47% on the same period in the 2019-20 season, and a 36% increase in reports of disorder at matches.

Almost a year ago, thousands of people without tickets tried to storm Wembley Stadium to watch England play Italy in the Euro 2020 final, and tens of thousands more created scenes of anarchic disorder on Olympic Way. According to bystanders, copious consumption of alcohol and cocaine was readily apparent.

Malthouse said some football games have seen shocking “ugly violence”. “It’s been a thrilling football season, but at some games we’ve seen ugly violence that that has shocked all the leagues,” he said.

“More and more the police are finding class A drugs at the heart of that disorder, and so we must act. The football family wants every ground to be a safe space for fans, especially children, and so do we.”

He added that such bans have been successful in the past. “Football banning orders have been a gamechanger in rooting out racism and violence at football, and now we want them to do the same for drug-related disorder,” he said.

“The government is determined to drive down drug use and bring home to all who take them that drugs bring consequences.”