Football Spectatorship: Are the Home Office Statistics a Reliable Indicator for Measuring Football-Related Violence & Disorder?

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Despite the best efforts of successive governments and the police, football-related violence and disorder still exist. The extent of the problem is not clear due to the unreliability of the data used to monitor this behaviour. The behaviour of football spectators has received significant attention in areas of psychology, criminology, and law, yet there is no single documented piece of research that measures the reliability of the evidence used to monitor spectator behaviour. This means that data of uncertain provenance is being used to evaluate methods of controlling football spectators and to inform government policy and policing strategies. This article will highlight issues with the reliability of the dataset and caution that such information should not be used without better contextualisation as the basis for policing, prosecution, and legislative strategies. The context of this article does not easily fit into the existing classification of primary or secondary and qualitative or quantitative research. As such, this article provides a novel approach to understanding the Home Office statistics by obtaining the data used to monitor football-related arrests through the use of Freedom of Information requests. In doing so, the article is the first to assess the methodology underpinning the government's data, making a significant and original contribution to the existing literature and policing practices in this area. As a result of this analysis, the article recommends that a standardised system for logging the data is needed to provide more reliable evidence of the scale of football violence and disorder in England and Wales. More comprehensive and reliable data can then counter prevailing media narratives regarding the behaviour of football supporters and provide a solid evidence base for police and governmental action.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)386-406
Number of pages21
JournalThe Journal of Criminal Law
Issue number5-6
Early online date20 Nov 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2023

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