TROUBLE by football fans is falling in Bolton for the first time in four years.
Kit Vickery reports

DISORDER at football matches is increasingly a thing of the past — statistics released by the Home Office last week showed a national drop in football banning orders (FBOs) and arrests made at matches.

The good news is that figures for Bolton Wanderers fans have plummeted by even more.

Just 12 Bolton Wanderers fans were slapped with a FBO in the 2018/19 season, compared with 17 who were banned from attending in the season before that.

It accounts for just a fraction — 0.7 per cent of all orders in effect across the whole country. 

All orders have been made against men and boys, mostly to those aged 18 to 34. Two of the orders were made against men aged 35 to 49.

Police believe the fall is a reflection on the increasing amount of work they are doing with clubs to prevent trouble before it flares. 

Chief Inspector Nicholas Hill, from the Specialist Operations Planning Unit at GMP, said that at the start of every season every match is ranked in order of the risk of trouble.

He explained: “Looking at that risk we can decide whether we need to station officers at particular places, change the patrol route for officers, or even put more police on the streets.

“The club might also request police services if a particularly high-risk match is coming up, or when it comes to rivalries between clubs.” 

The police also work closely with Bolton Wanderers to identify people who are likely to cause disorder. 

Ch Insp Hill said: “We try to steer people from that pathway by going to speak to them. We warn them that if they continue this behaviour then they could end up with a club ban or being arrested.

“They may not be aware of the impact that their behaviour is having and we will speak to them to explain the consequences they might face.”

Fans who do cause trouble at matches can receive a criminal conviction, a criminal banning order, or a civil banning order. 

Football banning orders are court orders given to someone who has been accused of a football-related offence. They were introduced by the Football Spectators Act 1989 and bar someone from attending matches for between two and 10 years. 

The orders can also mean people are barred from using public transport on match days, barred from visiting certain pubs or town centres at times around matches, or even demand a culprit’s passport is handed in to the police around the time of international tournaments. 

Two Bolton Wanderers fans were given FBOs after being arrested on August 17 this year. 

Geoffrey Ramsden, 47, was banned from matches for three years for a pitch encroachment. 

Kai Holmes, 21, was banned for five years for an assault on a club steward and being drunk and disorderly. 

A spokesperson for the club said: “Bolton Wanderers Football Club has been working continuously and tirelessly alongside Greater Manchester Police to ensure the reduction of arrests and banning orders. 

“One of our objectives is to ensure a safe matchday experience for all who attend the University of Bolton Stadium. 

“The general improvement of the behaviour of supporters inside the stadium is something we are pleased about but we will work hard to ensure that this continues to improve.” 

Alongside the fall in FBOs there has also been a fall in the number of football-related arrests for local teams. 

Last season, only nine Wanderers were arrested on match days, and six of those were for carrying flares in the ground. 

Thirteen fans were arrested in the 2017/18 season, for offences such as ticket touting, alcohol offences, and criminal damage. 

Bolton’s figures match the national decline in FBOs and football-related arrests. 
Over 2,000 orders were in force in 2015, dropping to just over 1,700 in place now, and arrest rates have fallen by 25 per cent since the 2014/15 season. 

Despite a 47 per cent rise in hate crimes reported at matches, Bolton fans haven’t been arrested for this offence since 2015/16,when one fan was caught by police.

Two arrests were made for the same offence in 14/15. 

Kick it Out, the English football equality and inclusion organisation, said: “The Home Office’s latest arrest figures are a serious concern, but it’s encouraging to see that more people are comfortable reporting discrimination. 

“These figures should serve as a reminder to any fan who discriminates at a match: you will be identified, arrested and face a football banning order.”