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jim-halpert-blow-up-dollI was at the Arsenal v Leicester City match yesterday and couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw a blow up doll being tossed around in the away stands.

For a moment, I thought I must be hallucinating – then I heard the men sitting next to me saying that the stewards should deal with it asap.

While I have no doubt some of the Leicester City fans thought it would be hilarious to bring and throw around a blow up doll in the away stands before kick-off, I do wonder if they realised they could be liable under the Football (Offences) Act, 1991?

s2: It is an offence for a person at a designated football match to throw anything at or towards –

(b) any area in which spectators or other persons are or may be present, without lawful authority or lawful excuse (which shall be for him to prove).

The Magistrates Court fine may be the least of your worries.

If you look at the Schedule of Relevant Offences for Obtaining Banning Orders, you will see that any offence under the Football (Offences) Act, 1991 is enough for the police to apply for a Football Banning Order.

As I was on the opposite side of the pitch, there’s no way I could ever identify the individuals doing this.

But you’d think supporters would realise that the Emirates Stadium must be covered with CCTV cameras.

Even if the police failed to get a Football Banning Order, as football clubs are private entities, they can pretty much bar anyone who contravenes the club’s terms and conditions. (I do encourage fans to read their club’s Ts & Cs. You’ll see that they are, in my opinion, weighted in the club’s favour).

While there is the Independent Football Ombudsman, it is difficult to see that a barred supporter’s case would get very far if, for example, Arsenal were to say that the fan is barred because s/he participated in behaviour which could been seen as creating a climate of harassment towards female fans, and therefore contrary to the club’s commitment to equalities and respect.

It wasn’t me!

But what if it wasn’t you? What if this was passed over your head and you had no idea or control over what others were doing?

I encourage supporters who find themselves on the wrong side of the law to seriously consider getting a qualified lawyer, who knows about football law and banning orders, to represent them in court.

Magistrates Court proceedings are not a game – but you do need to do everything you can to kill the case off in the first half. If that’s not possible and the police proceed with a Football Banning Order application, it is important for supporters to have a qualified advocate ensure that their side of the story is really listened to.