testOn January 23rd, 2006, the French Parliament passed a comprehensive anti-terror bill which included an amendment specifically aimed at football supporters.

Article 31 of the bill gave prefectures the power to issue administrative stadium bans. The ostensible purpose of these interdictions administratives de stade (IAS) was to provide local authorities with the ability to combat hooliganism without waiting for the judgement of a court.

In practice, this gives prefectures the same power as criminal courts, allowing them to issue bans of up to two years (three years in cases of repeat offences) without the need for a trial. Supporters who have been issued with an IAS are expected to report to their local police station every time their club or the national team are playing.

Now, the prime minister, Édouard Phillipe, has proposed using IAS as a model to clamp down on violence at public demonstrations. Legislation to that effect was passed by the Senate in October 2018 and is currently awaiting approval by the National Assembly, which is expected to pass judgement in February.

Football Supporters Europe (FSE) and our partners Association Nationale des Supporters (ANS) believe that this is a deeply flawed move.
The IAS scheme has never been subject to a formal public assessment by the Ministry of Interior, Parliament, or individual departments. Not only does this mean that the government lacks the hard evidence to substantiate its claims, but also that it is likely ignorant of legitimate concerns that have been raised by supporters and supporters’ groups.
These concerns are serious, numerous, and well-documented.

First, IAS are legally dubious. The definition of offences that can lead to a ban are incredibly broad, encompassing a person’s “overall behaviour during the occasion of a sporting event or his/her participation in the commission of serious acts that constitute a threat to public order.” This has allowed the police and prefectures to issue bans for offences that have nothing to do with hooliganism.
As the ANS have observed, the scheme has, over the past decade, deviated from its original purpose. Established to root out violence on the terraces, “it now mainly serves to punish the possession and use of smoke and pyrotechnic devices, as well as the sale of non-licensed commercial products.”

This has left the system wide open to abuse. Many supporters with administrative bans have suffered indignities that seem perverse given the nature of their alleged offences, including lengthy waits for a hearing, suspension of employment, and the withholding of important official documents (i.e. passports).

Sadly, incidences of such bureaucratic overreach are all too common—but that should come as no surprise. After all, they stem directly from the lack of transparency and accountability that define the banning process.
Pierre Barthélemy, FSE Board member and a lawyer representing the ANS, made this point during a recent interview with France Info: “If we bypass the courts, we bypass the independence of the judiciary, the rights of the defence, and the right to a fair trial, and by extension, we renounce the presumption of innocence.”

The fact that most IAS end up being overturned on appeal demonstrates these shortcomings. Indeed, according to Barthélemy, of the hundred or so cases he has dealt with, “between 90% and 95%” have been quashed.
For all these reasons, FSE urges the powers that be to reconsider their approach towards administrative stadium bans in general and their potential extension to public demonstrations more specifically.

The freedom to attend sporting events and the freedom to demonstrate are two sides of the same coin—a reality recognised by the Conseil d’Etat, the highest administrative jurisdiction in France. Any restrictions placed on them should be based on clear, publicly available evidence. They should also be fair and effective. This is patently not the case when it comes to IAS.

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You can read the ANS’s statement on this issue here.

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