BCFC: Fan Protests
At the moment Blues supporter groups are working together under the ‘Sell The Club’ banner and a campaign of action has been agreed. The purpose of the campaign is to encourage a change of ownership at the club.
The campaign is expected to be lengthy and to take many forms. Already a petition has been launched and future activities will include other forms of protest including, on occasions, direct action. A march is planned for Friday night’s home game against West Bromwich Albion for example, with a demonstration of card waving inside the ground at kick off to follow.
But what is acceptable and what are the potential consequences of taking direct action?
Read on………….select a subject
- 1. Displaying Banners And Posters
- 2. Throwing Items On To The Pitch
- 3. Physical Protests
- 4. Football Banning Orders
Much of the legislation that applies to behaviour and spoken words also applies to printed material. Banners can be an effective of way of reaching the club and the players, but care should be taken to avoid language that may fall foul of public order legislation.
What counts as threatening (or abusive) words or behaviour is, to a degree, open to interpretation but you can assume threats towards the owner, swearing at players or club staff or displaying an offensive message will do the trick. Police tolerances do fluctuate dependant on the situation so the use of industrial language and degree of hostility may be deemed acceptable during a game but the same words or behaviour outside the ground after the fixture where the message becomes a lot more direct and personal, may result in further action.
Fan protests have previously involved throwing items onto the pitch. Tennis balls and a live chicken, two well known examples, were clearly not intended to cause harm. There is no doubt that deliberately throwing coins, bottles , flares and the like will be considered violent conduct and will see the individual punished in law. But items thrown to make a point as part of a protest will also be subject to action against the individual. Regardless of the intent, throwing anything is an offence under the Football (Offences) Act 1991.
Equally, venturing onto the playing area for any reason other than an emergency in the stands will invoke the Football Act and is also an offence. And at St Andrew’s as things currently stand, venturing into the closed lower tiers would also be an offence and risk injury.
Protesting outside the ground, particularly where obstruction of roads is involved, will fall under the Highways Act and whilst police are likely to simply clear the carriageway failure to move when directed to do so would be an offence.
A fan protest involving the road network, a march for example, is achievable and under the Human Rights Act (freedom of expression and assembly) may even be supported if not explicitly sanctioned by police as would an assembly and stationary protest at or close to the ground providing criminal offences are not committed. Negotiation with and notification of match commanders is a requirement. If a fan group felt such action was necessary it is recommended that the organisers consult the Public Order Act to ensure they are acting lawfully and fulfilling their responsibilities.
It should be noted that any criminal offence committed at the ground or even in the locality on match days (and even at other times) are likely to invoke Section 14 of the Football Spectators Act 1989 and will almost certainly result in either a blanket ban from future matches (and limitations on international travel) or a ban from the club. A conviction for a criminal offence is not necessary. An application for a banning order can be made via the Civil Court even when the individual is not ultimately prosecuted for an offence.
Blues Trust recognises the importance of fan protest and is supportive of fan activism. But only under the right circumstances, and in the right manner. Protests must be responsible, safe and lawful at all times. And without exception. Whilst the results of fan activism may not be immediately tangible, it is vital that fans who care deeply for their club are able to express themselves.
Click here to view the open letter
SUPPORT THE CAMPAIGN. JOIN THE TRUST
The petition reads as follows:
To: BSHL & BCFC
From: Birmingham City Supporter Groups
Purpose: Ownership change at BCFC
Birmingham City supporters are calling on the club’s owners BSHL to put the club up for sale. Over many years of decline and decay our once proud club is now failing both on and off the pitch. There is no longer trust in this ownership, and we demand change, the clubs very existence is at risk. Therefore, we say no more uncertainty and delay. The time for change is now. Our stated AIMS and actions are:
- We want a clear exit strategy provided by the owners to include specific timelines
- We want open and honest communication provided on a regular basis
- We want a Fan Advisory board set up with immediate effect.
IN SHORT � Sell The Club � Speak to us � Give us a voice
Send the message:
Enough is enough it’s time for change!
Keep Right On!
Over to you BSHL.
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What’s the point in damaging your own club’s prospects by arranging an illegal protest when the owners aren’t even in the UK and certainly won’t be at the match. If, as has been reported, fans encroach on to the field of play it will just give the EFL more ammunition against us, aren’t we already suffering enough?
By all means march to the ground with banners and noise, then turn round and go home, don’t go in the ground at all, though with the ground still in the state it is in then the owners probably wouldn’t notice the lack of support anyway.
It would seem that as well as our owners, the EFL are also out to ruin our once proud club, don’t help them!
Thank you for your comment John. To be absolutely clear, the protest that has been planned and arranged by the supporter groups is not illegal as you indicate. To be equally clear, the protest does not involve, encourage or support unlawful and criminal activity in any shape or form. And that includes encroachment on to the field of play and, given current circumstances at St Andrew’s, the closed lower tiers that are under repair.
If individuals take it upon themselves to do otherwise, then you are right. That is likely to carry serious consequences for the club. Surely nobody wants that? Such actions will also carry severe consequences for the individuals themselves.
As the Trust made clear yesterday, protests must be responsible, safe and lawful at all times. And without exception.
Turning to your other point about the absence of the owners, the supporter groups are dealing with what is in front of them although the campaign that has started will be lengthy and take many forms. The petition launched recently now has more than 3000 signatures, and rising, and Ian Dutton confirmed last night that the open letter delivered on Wednesday has already been handed to the club’s Chairman.
I didn’t mean to imply that the organised protest that the trust is involved in will be illegal, but if people read accounts on social media then there are possible plans afoot to encroach on to the field of play during the game by certain elements. This is what I meant to point towards.
Though I agree that protests can only be made to those who are present, that will have no bearing on the present ownership as they have proved over and over again that they simply don’t care.