The shocking extent of criminal and anti-social behaviour at matches in England and Wales has been set out in data released by the Home Office on Thursday.
A total of 2,198 football-related arrests were made last season – the highest figure for a single campaign in the last eight years.
That number is a 59% increase on 2018-19 (1,381 arrests), which was the last full campaign with supporters in stadiums before the Covid-19 pandemic.
The data paints a depressing picture for the domestic game, with incidents reported at 1,609 of the 3,019 matches played in England and Wales over the course of last season – equating to 53%.
In 2018-19, there were reported incidents at 1,007 matches, equivalent to one-third of the games played.
There were 441 pitch invasions reported last season – up by a staggering 127% on the 2018-19 campaign – and 384 hate crime incidents, an increase of 99%.
The most reported types of incidents were pyrotechnics (729 matches where incidents were reported), throwing missiles (561) and public order or anti-social behaviour incidents involving youth supporters (444).
A total of 2,198 football-related arrests were made in England and Wales last season
Since 2015, football-related arrests have been on a downward curve, but the figures have now worryingly surged upwards.
95 West Ham supporters were arrested last season, making them the worst offending club. That is followed by Manchester City (76 arrests), Manchester United (72), Leicester (59) and Everton (58).
In May, a Nottingham Forest season ticket was jailed for 24 weeks after pleading guilty to assault occasioning actual bodily harm for headbutting Sheffield United captain Billy Sharp after the two club’s play-off semi-final second leg.
There was also an increase in arrests at international fixtures from pre-Covid levels. 38 were made at England and Wales national team matches in 2021-22, three of which occurred at the Women’s European Championships.
This is an 111% increase compares with the 18 arrests at national team matches in 2018-19, but down from the 92 made in 2020-2021 – although this figure was overwhelmingly influenced by the 90 that occurred at Euro 2020.
The number of banning orders in England and Wales has continued to decrease, with 1,308 in place at the end of the last season – compared to 1,359 last year and 2,731 a decade ago. The number of new banning orders issued (516) is down 6% from 549 in 2018-19.
95 West Ham supporters were arrested last season, making them the worst offending club
There were 441 pitch invasions reported last season – up by a staggering 127% on 2018-19
Statistics on online hate crime connected to football have also been released for the first time, with 52 recorded incidents in the first seven months of this year.
The Home Office defines online hate crime connected to football as ‘any electronic communication that appears to breach the law on protected characteristics that is directed towards a player, club, football authority, match official or football personality, where there is a clear link to football, or where the text used is more generic and aimed at a more general group within this criteria’.
Earlier this week, Tottenham and England defender Eric Dier voiced concerns about how fan behaviour has got worse in recent years.
‘I had some family and friends at the Chelsea away game with Tottenham recently and they had problems and stuff,’ Dier said.
‘Not nice ones either. It is a huge, huge problem. It was verbal, not physical – but, like, bad stuff. I am not saying it is just Chelsea fans or Tottenham fans, it is football fans in general.
Eric Dier believes that footballers are receiving increased levels of abuse from supporters
‘I never complain about this stuff and I don’t really mind. I am not dramatic about this and I don’t think anybody should be. It is really not that big a deal for me. If it is in the right way, I love that side of things.
‘But there are some things I find very strange. It is not nice. [Some of] my family would never go to an away game nowadays because of it. I feel too uncomfortable for them to go. This has been for years.
‘My mum has not been to an away game. She would love to, but I would be worried about it – and that’s crazy, isn’t it?’
Dier famously jumped in to the crowd at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in 2020 to confront a fan who was abusing his brother.