HC Deb 04 April 1985 vol 76 cc752-3W
Mr. Pendry

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment when he last met the officials of the Football Association and Football League on the question of football hooliganism; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Patchett

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a progress report with regard to steps being taken by his Department to reduce violence at football and other sporting events.

Mr. Macfarlane

[pursuant to his reply, 3 April 1985]: I met representatives of the Football Association on 19 September 1984 and of the Football League on 25 September to discuss my Department's consultation document "Football Spectator Violence." Since then the Football Association has been represented at my meetings with 16 other interested bodies on that report.

I was present on 1 April when my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, together with my right hon. Friends the Home Secretary and Secretary of State for the Environment and other Ministerial colleagues, met representatives of the Football Association and Football League to discuss soccer spectator violence.

It is clear from that meeting that the football authorities share the Government's commitment vigorously to combat violence at football matches. They agreed to: re-examine urgently the FA rules governing discipline and the responsibilities of clubs, with a view to changing and strengthening them; accelerate the introduction of CCTV especially at grounds where problem matches may be played; ensure that perimeter fencing is in place and effective in those grounds; investigate a practical scheme of membership cards for Football League, FA and European/international matches, in discussion with UEFA as necessary, reporting back within six weeks; introduce more restrictions on the issue of tickets for problem matches (which should be ticket only); encourage more and better family enclosures at League grounds; deal severely with any bad example set to supporters by players' behaviour on the pitch; in advance of the legislation we propose, to take action under existing powers to deal with the problem of alcohol at matches.

The Government hope that significant progress can be made before the start of the season.

The Government will support the football authorities.

We are prepared to take action in the following ways: legislation will be introduced in England and Wales to control the sale of alcohol at grounds, and on transport to grounds along lines that have been successful in Scotland. The powers would be used selectively; under the Safety of Sports Grounds Act, designation will be extended to clubs in divisions 3 and 4 of the Football League, initially to grounds with a record of violence, and the guidelines in the green code will be reviewed; the White Paper is to be published shortly on our conclusions following our public order review and our proposals for legislation in the autumn. Some of the new provisions will assist in preventing and controlling football hooliganism; my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary will be discussing with the police what improvements can be made to their effectiveness in dealing with football violence, particularly in obtaining evidence to bring more serious charges, where appropriate; my right hon. and learned Friend is encouraging magistrates to make full use of their powers, including detention and attendance centre sentences and bail conditions forbidding attendance at matches; and is drawing attention to the Court of Appeal guidelines on sentencing violent offenders; for matches abroad, we will consult other Governments about publicising better and perhaps strengthening last years Council of Europe Recommendation on Football violence. We will review how the Diplomatic Service can help in identifying troublemakers. We are considering arrangements for people convicted for offences overseas to serve their sentences in this country. We will seek to discourage travel agents setting up special schemes for problem matches.

I believe this represents a substantial package of new measures from the Government to support the new tough line the Football Association and the Football League have agreed to take.