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UK police football boss wants new fan banning rules as drug taking around matches follows ‘increased cocaine use in wider society’

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The boss of UK football policing wants fans who take drugs on matchdays, including the cocaine use which is thought to have driven some of the violence around the Euro 2020 final, to face punishments that are “fit for purpose”.

A number of England fans were filmed openly snorting substances at Wembley Stadium and elsewhere around London before and after the Euro 2020 final on Sunday.

As rowdy punters barged their way into the ground to see their country’s penalties defeat against Italy, there were also several reports of fans fighting with one another, attacking Italians and vandalizing.

Cheshire Constabulary chief constable Mark Roberts, who heads football policing, told the Independent that he is pursuing the implementation of charges that allow cops the right to impose Football Banning Orders on anyone found in possession of drugs.

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Cocaine use is “prevalent” among English football fans and has already been identified as a problem by officials at grounds across the country for years, he said.

“Football reflects the increased use of cocaine in wider society but it can drive some of the negative behavior,” Roberts added.

“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.”

The law currently allow bans to be imposed if people are convicted of specific offenses, aimed at preventing violence and disorder.

While there are related crimes for possession of alcohol or being drunk while entering or trying to enter a ground, there is no drugs equivalent.

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Roberts said updating the law in such a manner “would be useful and reflect some practicalities of what we are seeing”. 

“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.”

The oppositon Labour Party is supporting the calls, with shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds saying: “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.”

While the Home Office confirmed that legislation is “kept under constant review“, it would not divulge whether it was contemplating Roberts’ call regarding drugs.

“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,” it said in a statement.

“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 issues,” it vowed.

University of Kent anthropologist Dr Martha Newson, who specializes in football fandom, has insisted that “cocaine culture” is growing.

“Alcohol was certainly a central element at Wembley on Sunday, but we also need to consider the role cocaine might have had,” she said.

“My recent research shows that cocaine use among fans is associated with more fan disorder and violence.

“To sustain a day of drinking and still have the energy and co-ordination to push through security late in the day would be unusual.

“For a decade or more, many hardcore fans have used cocaine to maintain their energy in a way that alcohol cannot. Cocaine use is yet to be addressed in football.”

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