Calls for cocaine users to be banned from stadiums after Euro 2020 violence

After some England supporters were filmed openly snorting white powder at Wembley and around London during the Euro 2020 final, police want the power to ban football fans who take cocaine at matches.

Cheshire Constabulary chief constable Mark Roberts, the national lead for football policing, told The Independent that cocaine use is "prevalent" amongst football fans and had been taking place at stadiums for years.

He is now seeking changes to allow police to impose Football Banning Orders for drug possession.

Mr Roberts said: "Football reflects the increased use of cocaine in wider society but it can drive some of the negative behaviour.

"Football Banning Order legislation currently specifies issues relating to alcohol misuse, and we would very much like to bring that up to date with drug usage and make that a trigger in the same way."

Offences include the "possession of alcohol or being drunk while entering/trying to enter a ground," but there is no equivalent provision for drugs.

"It is time for us to review how contemporary some of the Football Banning Order legislation is because time has moved on and it’s appropriate to review it and check it’s fit for purpose," Mr Roberts added.

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Labour is supporting the measure following reports of football fans in the crowd "brazenly taking drugs and causing mayhem" during the Euros.

The shadow home secretary, Nick Thomas-Symonds, said: "The law should be changed to keep pace with the real world – and reflect what is causing and contributing to disorder. That should include the use of all illegal drugs when it comes to Football Banning Orders."

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A behavioural expert questioned whether cocaine use may have contributed to the violent chaos which erupted at Wembley Stadium on the day of the Euro 2020 final.

Thousands of fans without tickets turned up at the stadium and an unknown number forced their way in after hours of drinking and celebrations.

Dr Martha Newson, an anthropologist at the University of Kent who specialises in football fandoms, said that "cocaine culture" was growing.

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She published research in May that found self-reported cocaine use among football fans was higher than the national average.

Just under a third of people who participated in the survey said they had seen others taking cocaine at football matches in the last year, and 6% admitted to taking it themselves.

"Football fans may be a population where the aggressive outcomes associated with cocaine use are amplified," the paper said.

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"Cocaine use among football fans has already been associated with the construction of 'hyper-masculine identities' and associated aggression.

"Indeed, cocaine has become an element of 'lad' culture and, alongside alcohol, fuels competitiveness and aggression from travel to a match, until well after it is finished."

A Home Office spokesperson said: "Football-related violence and disorder of any kind will not be tolerated, which is why around 1,400 hooligans are currently barred from attending games under Football Banning Orders.

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"The legislation is kept under constant review and this week the prime minister announced it would be extended so online abusers can be banned from stadiums for up to 10 years.

"Drugs devastate lives, ruin families and damage communities, which is why we are setting up a new cross-government drugs unit to tackle the issue."

Breaching a Football Banning Order is a criminal offence, punishable by a maximum sentence of 6 months in prison or a fine of up to £10,000, or both.

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