Supporting Supporters’ Safety: Outlawing Unauthorised Entries to Football Matches

On Sunday 11 July 2021, the final of the men’s Euros at Wembley could have resulted in a tragic loss of life. That was the finding of the independent review conducted by Baroness Louise Casey into the events of that day.

The mere thought that such a catastrophe is still possible in this country at a football match in the 21st century, after the tragedies of the latter part of the last century, is profoundly unsettling.

When the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee undertook an inquiry into safety at sporting events I was surprised to learn that entering or attempting to enter a football match without a ticket is not a specific criminal offence. In the subsequent “Safety at Major Sporting Events” report, published in December 2023, the Committee supported the need for my new Bill to rectify that gap in the law.

At the Euro 2020 final between 3,000 and 5,000 people were able to gain entry without a ticket . As a result there was disorder and overcrowding which compromised the safety and security of stewards, police officers, spectators, players and officials, and tarnished the reputation of this country’s ability to hold major sporting events. With the Euros returning in 2028, we cannot afford a replay of those events on the international stage.

Under the current law those caught entering a stadium without authorisation face no legal repercussions. Those attempting to enter are simply moved on, and often try to gain entry multiple times.

My Unauthorised Entry to Football Matches Bill creates a specific offence aimed at deterring people from attempting to enter stadiums without a valid ticket. A fine of up to £1,000 could be levied, but even more importantly, a conviction for this offence could lead to a court-imposed football banning order. This would prevent a person from attending football matches for between 3 and 10 years.

The Bill covers the Premier League, the Championship, Leagues One and Two, the National League, the Women’s Super League and Championship, and the Cymru Premier, as well as international matches in England and Wales.

The Cardiff City stadium, which is in my constituency, hosts the home games not just of the Bluebirds, but also of the Welsh national teams. It would be remiss of me not to praise the impeccable behaviour of Welsh fans attending matches there, and the cracking atmosphere they create with their passionate renditions of songs such as “Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau” and “Yma o Hyd”.

The huge majority of football fans supporting their local clubs, such as my team Cardiff City, do so in the right spirit. It is important that they feel safe and secure when doing so. The motivation for my Bill is to support those supporters and to keep them safe, while they are enjoying the pleasure (or often the pain) of passionately supporting their team.

Football is a big part of our culture in the UK. I represent a Welsh constituency. Wales is often associated with rugby, but with recent international success and the high profile Disney+ ‘This is Wrexham’ documentary series, football has grown ever more important in the national culture of Wales. So I am delighted that the Football Association of Wales supports my Bill, as does the English FA. Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own devolved football legislation.

The actions of a selfish few should not be allowed to compromise the safety and security of the majority. My Bill can help to ensure that football remains a positive and uniting force in our society.

Kevin Brennan MP

Kevin Brennan is the Labour MP for Cardiff West, and was elected in 2001. He currently undertakes the role of Shadow Minister (Victims and Sentencing).