EU - Italian Presidency wants to make national football bans EU-wide

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EU: Italian Presidency wants to make national football bans EU-wide

The Italian Presidency of the EU has put forward a draft Council Decision on extending national bans placed on football "hooligans" across the EU with the national ban effectively becoming EU-wide without any further processes being involved. As a "Council Decision" the European Parliament will have to be "consulted" on the measure.

The draft Decision has six brief main Articles. Article 1 says that those EU member states who no do have laws to ban individuals "previously guilty of violent conduct" from football stadiums should do so. Article 2 says that where stadium bans are currently available "domestically" these should "also [be] applicable to football matches held in other Member States". Article 3 says penalties for non-compliance or "special preventative action" should be provided. Articles 4 and 5 say details of national national bans against individuals should be "supplied to countries staging football matches with an international dimension". Article 6 says the details supplied should be used "solely in order to deny them access to stadiums staging matches" or to "take other preventative measures to maintain law and order" (ie: preventative detention).

On the face of it this seems a simple proposal but the powers used and the statistics suggest otherwise. An examination of the latest annual "Situation report" on international matches (July 2001- July 2002) suggests it is a little more complicated. Six EU states use the civil law to impose exclusion orders/bans, while four use the criminal law (three use "Other" means) - UK and the Netherlands use both civil and criminal laws. A number of EU states have no law on bans - Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, Luxembourg and Portugal. The figures show that only four EU states use ban on a regular basis at national level: top of the list is Italy with 2,011 bans in place under the criminal law, next is the UK with 1,440 bans in force (the great majority under civil law), followed by Germany 1,368 (all under civil law) and then the Netherlands with 1,008 bans in place (99% under civil law). These four states account for all but 68 of the 5,895 bans in force at the end of the period.

Travelling supporters are classified as: A = peaceful, B = some potential for confrontation or disorder, especially alcohol related and C = "violent organisers of violence". Twelve states provided estimated numbers in the "C" category which total between 40 and 1,313 supporting the national teams (excluding England for whom it is apparently a percentage, 0.2%) and between 50 and 2,107 for club teams playing in Europe (again 0.1% for English teams).

The report from the German police says that the differences between categories "B" and "C" are "academic" and that supporters in the "C" category wear: "inconspicuous, fashionable and sometimes expensive sportswear, eg: "Lonsdale", "Chevignon", "Blue System", "Umbro", "Chiemsse", "Deisel"... [and] shoes by "Reebok", "Nike", Adidas" and other well known brands".

Only Germany (405), Greece (184) and Sweden (19) use "preventative custody".

Whether an issue which appears to affect on four out of 15 EU states - Italy, UK, Germany and Netherlands - is appropriate for a Council Decision is open to question as is the imposition of a ban under national civil law to the whole of the EU.

1. Draft Council Decision on the use by Member States of bans on access to venues of football matches with an international dimension, 30 June 2003: 10966/03 (pdf)

2. Situation report on football hooliganism in the Member States of the European Union (July 2001 - July 2002), 30 June 2003: 8877/03 (link)

3. Coverage in the "Independent" newspaper: Story (link)

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