Case of Manchester United fan shows how far hooligans will go to skip bans

Arrest of supporter for flouting his banning order across Europe shows the game's scourge is far from eradicated

The scourge of hooliganism has been largely driven out of British football, by a combination of factors including better facilities and the determination of supporters to put those days in the past. Periodically there will be an incident – like the attack on Sheffield Wednesday's Chris Kirkland by a Leeds United fan at Hillsborough a year ago – which will prompt the latest bout of ridiculous hyperbole. Turn to the Home Office website for the real story. The data on "football-related offences" reveals there was just one arrest for every 14,000 fans who watched football last season.

The propagators of violence are the ones whom the officers of the UK Football Policing Unit are concerned about. Banning orders of between three and five years are the unit's way of keeping the ringleaders away from the games – and the case of businessman and Manchester United fan Paul Hodgson reveals the lengths to which some will go to avoid them.

The orders compel fans to demonstrate they are in the United Kingdom when their team are playing abroad, though they can seek exemptions if they need to be outside of the country for other reasons. When United played Cluj in Romania in October last year, 48-year-old Hodgson told the authorities he needed to be in Rimini, Italy – and after flying there, he made the 850-mile, 14-hour trip to get to see United. When it came to the club's Champions League round of 16 match in Madrid, he flew to Geneva "on business" and proceeded across land. For last month's tie in Donetsk, his "business" was in Milan. And for the most recent match against Real Sociedad in San Sebastian, it was Bremen. In all, he travelled 1,700 miles.

United play their part in helping to prevent the 91 supporters of their club who are currently under banning orders from travelling to Europe with them. They stipulate that those seeking tickets first apply – stating their name – for vouchers, which they must present with their passport at a ticket collection point in the designated European location.

Hodgson got lucky where this part of the process was concerned. The court on Tyneside which dealt with his original offence – throwing a coin – did not pass on his name to Manchester police, so United were none the wiser.

He was rumbled before the Sociedad game, when police and the Football Association noticed he was applying for the exemptions which allowed him to travel to Europe every time United were playing. He was supposed to be in Bremen on business but Basque police had CCTV footage of him leaving the ticket collection point in a panic, seemingly suspecting detection. When they called his mobile, he said he was in Germany "on business." Officers told him what they knew and Hodgson agreed to present himself to Salford police on his return to England.

Banning orders are deeply contentious. The Football Supporters' Federation (FSF) has profound concerns that some forces are applying them for low-level public order offences such as swearing, gesturing at opposing fans or even entering a ground drunk – which can lead to an order.

The loathed practice of videoing innocent supporters as they watch games is understandably considered by many to be an infringement of civil liberties. The case of Hodgson, who took planes and trains to get to matches, is exceptional. Few supporters would have the money or inclination to make those journeys. But the Greater Manchester force is dealing with another four cases of fans who have breached orders, demonstrating that this way of keeping the hard core away does need a police resource behind it.

Out of order: Premier League bans

Manchester United top the table for banning orders imposed on Premier League supporters in the last year:

Manchester United 17

West Ham United 14

Chelsea 12

Manchester City 11

Sunderland 10

Hull City 9

Arsenal, Liverpool, Newcastle 8

Swansea City 7

Aston Villa, West Bromwich 6

Everton, Stoke City 5

Cardiff, Crystal Palace, Spurs 4

Norwich City 1

Fulham, Southampton 0

Most Football League bans:

Bristol City 34

Scunthorpe United 27

Leeds United 24

Millwall 23

Source: Home Office statistics

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Voices
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success
voicesWhen it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Arts and Entertainment
'Deep Breath' is Peter Capaldi's first full-length adventure as the twelfth Doctor
TVFirst episode of new series has ended up on the internet
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?