Football Related Public Order Offences

The majority of Football Related arrests relate to conduct prohibited under the Public Order Act 1986 and have sentences that range from a fine up to 10 years custody. Some of these offences require a group action whilst others can occur when someone is alone.

All of the offences below will normally attract an application for a football banning order by the prosecution:


A riot occurs when at least 12 people are threatening violence or are acting with a  ‘common purpose’ to use violence. The behaviour of those involved must make the average person feel afraid by the conduct of those involved.

This offence has to be dealt with at the Crown Court and carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. 

Violent Disorder

Violent Disorder involves the same prohibited behaviour as required to commit a riot except it can occur when there are 3 or more people acting in the same manner, as opposed to 12.

Violent Disorder cases can be heard in either the Magistrates or Crown Court.   They are generally heard at the Crown Court.  The maximum sentence is 5 years in custody.   


An Affray occurs if a person uses, or threatens to use, unlawful violence which causes others to fear for their personal safety. The offence must include more than a verbal threat.

This offence can be dealt with in either the Magistrates or Crown Court and carries a maximum sentence of 3 years custody.

Threatening Behaviour

This offence is caused by using threatening or abusive words or behaviour towards another person so that person fears immediate unlawful violence may be used against them.

The maximum sentence for this offence is 6 months in prison. As a result these cases can only be heard in the Magistrates’ Court.

If, however, the charge is aggravated by being racially or religiously motivated the maximum sentence is increased to 2 years unless the offence is racially or religiously aggravated which increases the sentence to a maximum of 2 years custody. Such a case is more likely to be dealt with at the Crown Court.

Causing Intentional Harassment, alarm or distress

A person is guilty of this offence if, with intent to cause a person harassment, alarm or distress they use threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour. Importantly the person who witnesses the behaviour must be caused harassment, alarm or distress.

The maximum sentence for this offence is a 6 month prison sentence.

Threatening, Abusive or Disorderly Behaviour

This offence occurs when a person uses abusive, insulting words or behaviour with intent to cause another harassment alarm or distress.

The maximum penalty for this offence is a fine.

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