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ISSN 1740-5580

A Beautiful Law for the Beautiful Game? Revisiting the Football Offences Act 1991

Periódico / Revista

The Journal of Criminal Law


n. 5




v. 85


p. 335-412



This article revisits the operation of the Football (Offences) Act (FOA) 1991 30 years after its enactment. FOA was introduced following recommendations of the Taylor Report 1990 as part of a raft of measures looking to balance spectator safety against the threat of football crowd disorder. Providing targeted and largely uncontroversial restrictions on football spectators, and seemingly popular with police and clubs, FOA criminalises throwing missiles, encroaching onto the pitch and engaging in indecent or ‘racialist’ chanting. It is argued here that FOA has struggled to keep pace with developments in football spectator behaviour and management, that it is increasingly used in a manner unanticipated by the legislators and that it faces new challenges in enforcement as a result of developing human rights law. The FOA may still provide a useful tool for football spectator management, but it needs substantial amendment to remain relevant to the contemporary legal and football landscape.

Keywords: Football, hooliganism, Taylor report, human rights, hate crime


PEARSON, Geoff. A Beautiful Law for the Beautiful Game? Revisiting the Football Offences Act 1991. The Journal of Criminal Law. London, v. 85, n. 5, p. 335-412, 2021.

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