Football fans could be banned from games if they mock tragedies such as the Hillsborough disaster, the Munich air crash or the Bradford City fire.
Updated Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) guidance is seeking to tackle tragedy-related abuse, which is when fans chant or gesture offensive messages about disasters or accidents involving players or fans.
The guidance, which helps prosecutors as they make legal decisions on cases, restates that tragedy-related abuse can be seen as a public order offence.
The move has been backed by the chief executives of the Football Association, Premier League and English Football League.
The guidance also sets out how lawyers can apply for Football Banning Orders, which can apply to both domestic and international games.
These can stop fans attending matches and impose other restrictions such as on travel to certain areas during tournaments or being allowed in pubs at game time.
Douglas Mackay, of the CPS, said: “A small minority of so-called fans are both damaging the reputation of the sport and more importantly this offending has a devastating impact on the families of victims of tragedies and the communities connected closely to these events.”
As the new season kicks off, the CPS, police, clubs, player bodies and the Premier League, English Football League, Women’s Super League, Women’s Championship, National Football League and the national referee organisation are aiming to explain the impact of this behaviour and the punishment fans could face if they commit a crime.
Chief Constable Mark Roberts, of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said the organisation is working closely with the CPS and welcomed the effort to tackle the “mindless and vicious chanting that unfortunately a minority of supporters engage in”.
FA chief executive Mark Bullingham described tragedy-related abuse as “completely unacceptable”, adding: “This behaviour is highly offensive and can have a lasting effect on the families, friends and communities who have been devastatingly impacted by these events.”
Premier League chief executive Richard Masters and Trevor Birch, English Football League chief executive both echoed these sentiments
Recent months have seen several successful prosecutions.
In June, Zakir Hussain, 28, of Ilford, was given a 14-week jail sentence that was suspended for a year after posting numerous hateful tweets, including one saying he wanted to defecate on a Hillsborough victim’s grave, on a social media site in April 2020.
The same month saw Manchester United fan James White, 33, receive a four-year football ban having admitted to wearing a football shirt at Wembley Stadium which made an offensive reference to the Hillsborough disaster.
He had pleaded guilty to displaying threatening or abusive writing likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress at Willesden Magistrates’ Court in northwest London.
Tottenham fan Kieron Darlow, 25, was also banned from attending football matches for three years after being found guilty of mocking the Hillsborough disaster during a match at Anfield between Liverpool and Spurs.
Ninety-seven football fans died as a result of a crush at an FA Cup semi-final match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield on April 15 1989.
Seven Manchester United footballers were among 21 people killed when their plane crashed in Munich in February 1958.
In May 1985, 56 football fans died after fire destroyed the main grandstand during a football match between Bradford City and Lincoln City.