Upper House passes bill tightening approach to football-related violence

The Dutch Upper House has passed a bill submitted by Minister Ard van der Steur (Security and Justice) which will allow mayors to impose an area access restriction, a registration requirement or a group ban, all for a more extended period, on persons who, for the first time, are caught in the act of causing a serious disturbance of public order. Hooligans throwing stones to the police during football matches, for instance. The new legislation will enter into force on 1 July 2015.

Currently, mayors can only ban a first offender from the area of the football stadium for one or two matches, even after serious misconduct, without being able to impose a duty to report. This makes it difficult to prevent football-related nuisance and the possible consequential damage.

The measure is part of a tightened approach to preventing football-related abuses. Research has revealed that the current law is adequate in practice, except for a few bottlenecks. The Minister's proposed legislation will remove these bottlenecks.

A new element is that an area access restriction, a registration requirement or a group ban for a home match can be expanded to an away match. Mayors whose municipality is home to a professional football organisation can mutually make agreements in that regard, provided that there is a serious concern that the hooligan will visit the away match and misbehave.

The mayors will also be given the opportunity to 'enhance' a stadium ban of the KNVB or a football club with a registration requirement or an area access restriction. This does, however, require a serious concern about a potential disturbance of public order. That may be the case if a hooligan was involved in a grandstand fight or threw fireworks to a section with fans of the other team.

In the future, a mayor will also be able to impose an area access restriction, a registration requirement or a group ban for a duration of 90 separate days, spread over two years. This allows for a more effective approach to a hooligan. Such a sanction better fits in with the professional football match schedule. The current period of three consecutive months only keeps hooligans away from the risk area for a couple of matches.

Another new element is an area access restriction imposed by the criminal court. This is a kind of house arrest that prevents hooligans from committing offences in various locations.