How crowd disorder will be governed and policed at Euro 2016

Published 20 April 2016 By: Grahame Anderson, Chimi Shakohoxha


As football fans around the World will be well aware, this summer sees the UEFA European Football Championship 2016 (Euro 2016) taking place in France between 10 June and 10 July.

With crowd disorder at football games across Europe, both domestically1 and internationally,2 unfortunately being an issue again this season, it seems relevant to examine the laws and regulations governing the behaviour of crowds attending the tournament, and explain how the laws will be policed and enforced.

This analysis requires an examination of two strata of control, (i.e. laws and policing responses) that will govern and enforce any crowd disorder at Euro 2016:

  1. The control of the footballing authorities (which is to say UEFA) over UEFA members; and,
  2. The control of domestic French law over disorderly supporters.



Euro 2016 is convened under the auspices of UEFA. UEFA itself and its members (the national football associations) are bound to comply with the various sets of rules of the Union (see below). In determining disciplinary issues, UEFA’s organs are also bound by the FIFA Laws of the Game and Swiss Law as a supplement (see UEFA Disciplinary Regulations 2014, art. 5).


Main UEFA provisions for Euro 2016

In the context of crowd control, the relevant sets of rules for Euro 2016 are as follows:


Types of disorder

Unfortunately, the footballing authorities have already had cause to test the application of these provisions in the context of the qualifiers for Euro 2016. On 14 October 2014, a heated match between Albania and Serbia in Belgrade descended into violent chaos once an unmanned drone trailing a nationalistic banner exhorting the “Greater Albania” entered the stadium. The game was abandoned and the fallout finally dealt with in a CAS Award 2015/A/3874 Football Association of Albania v UEFA & Football Association of Serbia (“Albania v Serbia”).3

The sub-paragraphs of Article 16, paragraph 2 of the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations 2014 lists the following as unlawful disorder:

  1. the invasion or attempted invasion of the field of play;4
  2. the throwing of objects;5
  3. the lighting of fireworks or any other objects;6
  4. the use of laser pointers or similar electronic devices;7
  5. the use of gestures, words, objects or any other means to transmit any message that is not fit for a sports event, particularly messages that are of a political, ideological, religious, offensive or provocative nature;8
  6. acts of damage;9
  7. the disruption of national or competition anthems;10
  8. any other lack of order or discipline observed inside or around the stadium.

Further, the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations 2014 carve out, at article 14, special provision for discriminatory behaviour:

"(1) Any person … who insults the human dignity of a person or group of persons on whatever grounds, including skin colour, race, religion or ethnic origin, incurs a suspension lasting at least ten matches or a specified period of time, or any other appropriate sanction."11

Clearly, these are broad definitions of relevant “inappropriate behaviour”, broadened by the catchall provision at Art. 16 para. 2(h). It is a definition borne of bitter experience and the footnotes below list UEFA sanctions imposed under each of the sub-paragraphs.


Responsibility for disorder

The sub-paragraphs to Article 16 are preceded by the following passage:

"all associations and clubs are liable for the following inappropriate behaviour on the part of their supporters and may be subject to disciplinary measures and directives even if they can prove the absence of any negligence in relation to the organisation of the match."

It follows that national associations are strictly liable for the disorder of their “supporters” irrespective of efforts they may take to prevent it. CAS has already determined the lawfulness of this form of attributed liability.12 Conceptually this raises problems of fairness: why should one person be responsible (and potentially suffer serious penalties) for the behaviour of another? But in the context of serious disorder, principled niceties fall by the wayside: according to CAS in Albania v Serbia,13 ‘strict liability for the behaviour of supporters is a fundamental element of the current football regulatory framework. It is also one of the few legal tools available to football authorities to deter hooliganism and other improper conduct on the part of supporters.’

The definition of “supporters” is widely defined. In Feyenoord Rotterdam v UEFA,14 CAS held that:

"The term ‘supporter’ is not defined. In particular, the Panel notes that it is not linked to race, nationality or the place of residence of the individual, nor is it linked to a contract which an individual has concluded with a national association or a club in purchasing a match ticket. The Panel has no doubt that it is UEFA’s deliberate, and wise, policy not to attempt to provide a definition for ‘supporter’. … There is no UEFA provision that makes distinction between an ‘official’ or ‘unofficial’ supporters of a team. Nor could such a provision easily be drafted."

This of course chimes with the mischief that UEFA aims to prevent with this form of strict liability. Detailed analysis of the personal circumstances of large groups of hooligans is not likely to be workable.15 What is interesting about Albania v Serbia is that no one was ever prosecuted (albeit a person has been identified since the CAS hearing) as being the pilot of the drone that was flown into the stadium. Nevertheless, whichever abstract person did control it, the CAS was satisfied that it must have been an Albanian because of the Greater Albania banner it was dragging.16 The CAS panel comments that:

"This presumptive approach is based on a twofold rationale: (i) that most persons supporting a football team would consider it to be inappropriate (and even shameful and unbearable) to display in public the symbols of, or to show in any other manner support for and allegiance to, the opposing team (all the more so if there is animosity between the supporters of the two teams); and (ii) that practical reasons require that unruly supporters’ behaviour at football matches is to be attributed on the basis of reasonable and objective criteria to a given team, without the need to individually identify the perpetrators."17

The standard of proof when assessing whether or not a person is a supporter of a team is “comfortably satisfied”,18 lower than the criminal standard but higher than the ordinary civil standard of balance of probabilities.


Punishment for disorder


The Regulations of the UEFA European Football Championship 2014-2016 incorporate at article 47.01 the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations 2014 for the purposes of Euro 2016. The UEFA enforcement procedure is set out in Chapter 1 (Organisation and Competence) of Title II (Procedural Law) of the Disciplinary Regulations.

Article 17 provides that ‘The competent disciplinary body determines the type and extent of the disciplinary measures to be imposed in accordance with the objective and subjective elements of the offence, taking account of both aggravating and mitigating circumstances.’

Article 22 defines the disciplinary bodies as ‘a) the Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body [“CEDB”] and b) the Appeals Body’. UEFA is represented in hearings before these bodies by “Ethics and disciplinary investigators” (Article 25). There are detailed procedural provisions at Articles 22-58. Article 47 is the arbitration clause that provides for CAS to have jurisdiction in UEFA disputes.

Equally, appeal to CAS is provided for in Article 62(1) of the UEFA Statutes 2014: ‘[a]ny decision taken by a UEFA organ may be disputed exclusively before the CAS in its capacity as an appeals arbitration body, to the exclusion of any ordinary court or any other court of arbitration.’


The wide variety of penalties that a UEFA CEDB may impose on a national association is set out in UEFA Disciplinary Regulations 2014, Article 6:

  1. warning;
  2. reprimand;
  3. fine (which may be between EUR 100 and EUR 1,000,000);
  4. annulment of the result of a match;
  5. order that a match be replayed;
  6. deduction of points (for the current and/or a future competition);
  7. order that a match be forfeited;
  8. playing of a match behind closed doors;
  9. full or partial stadium closure;
  10. playing of a match in a third country;
  11. withholding of revenues from a UEFA competition;
  12. prohibition on registering new players in UEFA competitions;
  13. restriction on the number of players that a club may register for participation in UEFA competitions;
  14. disqualification from competitions in progress and/or exclusion from future competitions;
  15. withdrawal of a title or award;
  16. withdrawal of a licence;
  17. community football service.

Clearly, there is a broad spectrum of penalty that may be imposed, though some are manifestly not suited to the Euro 2016 finals (such as ordering that a match be played in a third country).

Pursuant to article 17, the penalty is imposed ‘in accordance with the objective and subjective elements of the offence, taking account of both aggravating and mitigating circumstances’.

The cases show, however, that CEDBs may legitimately have regard to a broad range of circumstances that go beyond the specific circumstances of the offence, including the fact that disorder takes place at prestigious events.19 It will also be legitimate to impose a penalty as a deterrent.20

CAS Panels are unlikely to interference with the penalty fixed by a disciplining body unless it is evidently and grossly disproportionate to the offence (see 2013/A/3139 Fenerbahce SK v UEFA21).



Naturally, UEFA does not have a monopoly of jurisdiction when it comes to crowd disorder that may take place on French territory: the French authorities might have something to say too.

Helpfully for non-French lawyers, France has in force a Code du Sport22 that sets out sports-specific disorder offences and penalties. Relevant in the context of disorder at Euro 2016 are:23

  • Article L. 332-6 creates an offence, punishable by one year of imprisonment or a fine of EUR 15,000, of “during a sporting event or the public broadcasting of a sporting event, inciting spectators, by any means, to violence toward the referee, match officials, players or any other person or group of persons.
  • Article L. 322-7 creates an offence, punishable by one year of imprisonment or a fine of EUR 15,000, of “bringing onto or carrying, wearing exhibiting on sporting premises during a sporting event or the public broadcasting of a sporting event any banners, signs or symbols that demonstrate a racist or xenophobic ideology”.
  • Article L. 322-8 creates an offence, punishable by three years of imprisonment or a fine of EUR 15,000, of “bringing onto, possessing or using on sporting premises during a sporting event or broadcast and without good reason, flares or fireworks of any nature or any item capable of being used as a weapon (a concept defined elsewhere in French law)”.
  • Article L. 322-9 creates an offence, punishable by three years of imprisonment or a fine of EUR 15,000, of throwing projectiles.
  • A pitch invasion that disturbs a match or poses a threat to the security of people or property is punished with a year in prison or a fine of EUR 15,000 pursuant to Article L. 322-10.

The criminal penalties are complemented further by stadium bans set out in Article. L. 322-11. Article L. 332-14 provides that “if the person found guilty of an offence is of foreign nationality and is domiciled outside of France, the court may, if the seriousness of the offence justifies it, impose a ban on entering French territory.



The principle of liability for the actions of supporters is a sound one and the primary tool footballing authorities have to deter and deal with disorder at international tournaments.

Equally, the authors are sympathetic to the CAS’s point that anything other than a presumptive attribution of liability would in practice be unworkable. That said, we need not settle for that in all cases. It is not beyond the realms of imagination that the “supporters” of country A could cause disruption in the guise of supporters of country B. If that was unlikely before Albania v Serbia, they will have the idea now. As technology improves and associations and UEFA become more alive to its potential, associations should be alive to the possibility that they might actively demonstrate that their so-called supporters are not as they appear.

Moreover, it is to be hoped that the French authorities will be astute and aggressive in identifying and punishing offenders to the full extent of their sport-specific criminal law. Equipping marshals and match-side police with recording equipment may be a good first step.


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Grahame Anderson

Grahame Anderson

Grahame is a barrister at Littleton Chambers and a member of Littleton’s Sports Law Group.  In addition to sports law, he specialises in employment and commercial work.

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Chimi Shakohoxha

Chimi Shakohoxha

Chimi is a Partner and Head of Development in Clarke Willmott’s. Chimi qualified in 2002 and joined Clarke Willmott LLP in March 2011. He is noted in Legal 500 and is a member of the Law Society and the Albanian Bar Association (non practising).

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