Love Football Protect the Game

By Ray Simpson

Love Football Protect the Game

FA initiative to tackle antisocial behaviour in football backed by Darlington FC

Darlington Football Club is supporting an all-football approach to ensure that every football fan feels safe attending matches.

As we continue the new season, we’re backing the introduction of strong measures across football to tackle antisocial and criminal behaviours within football grounds. This includes entering the pitch without permission, carrying or using smoke bombs or pyros and throwing objects onto the pitch, as well as discriminatory behaviour and taking drugs.

All of these actions are illegal, dangerous and have no place in our game. For everyone’s safety, all clubs will report anyone carrying out these offences to the police. Prosecution by the police can result in a permanent criminal record, which could affect your employment and education, and in some cases, result in a prison sentence. Anyone who enters the pitch without permission or uses smoke bombs or pyros will now receive an automatic club ban. This could also now apply to the parents or guardians of children involved in these activities.

These measures reflect the seriousness of the risks to fans, volunteers and staff – pyros can burn at 2000 degrees Celsius and can cause life-changing injuries, burns and potentially fatal asthma attacks. Entering the pitch endangers everyone because it’s impossible to tell the difference between a celebrating fan and a violent attacker. That is why the pitch must remain a safe space for players, and the stands for supporters.

Darlington chief executive officer David Johnston said; “While the vast majority of our fans are very well-behaved, we have experienced incidents in games in recent seasons which have resulted in the club banning fans and having to provide explanations to the FA and the League. We therefore appeal to all of our fans to be on their best behaviour at our games, home and away, and to remember that they also play a key part in representing our club. We therefore urge them to report any anti-social behaviour to the club, and following investigation should it be necessary, we will take the strongest possible action. We should be mindful that there is also the risk of having points deducted should the club suffer any poor behavioural incidents – and we are sure that all our fans agree that this scenario must never happen.”

Manager Alun Armstrong said; “As a manager, the last thing I want are interruptions in play caused by misbehaviour, because they can affect the flow of the game and affect our players’ concentration. We want all our fans to be on their best behaviour at all times.”

Laurence Jones, Head of National League System at The FA, said; “Anti-social fan behaviour has no place in football and we stand united across the NLS and the rest of the game to send a strong message that such incidents will not be tolerated.

“The FA and the NLS Leagues are taking an all-football approach to tackling these behaviours to ensure all participants, including our loyal volunteers and spectators, are free to watch matches in a family friendly, inclusive and safe environment for all.”

This season, Darlington FC is supporting the FA, National League System Clubs and Leagues and the Football Supporters Association to make football a safer and more welcoming environment, by cracking down on dangerous behaviour that can put fans, players, staff and match officials at risk. We ask our supporters to come together to show that those who commit these illegal acts do not represent the majority of supporters.