LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, May 3, 2023: HSA (Hillsborough Survivors Support Alliance) flag during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Fulham FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 1-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Premier League clubs agree criminal proceedings for tragedy-chanting

Premier League clubs have agreed measures for tackling the rise in tragedy-related chanting at football matches, with criminal prosecution of offenders a principal aim.

It comes in response to a rise in the number of incidents of chants and other behaviour taunting victims and survivors of football-related tragedies, often between rival clubs.

A Manchester United supporter was arrested following the FA Cup final at Wembley earlier this month after he was seen wearing a football shirt which appeared to make an offensive reference to the Hillsborough disaster, which claimed the lives of 97 Liverpool fans.

Manchester City and Chelsea have both apologised to Liverpool in recent months for Hillsborough-related chants sung by their fans, and appealed for supporters to stop.

Anfield, Kop, Justice Hillsborough flag (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

United supporters have themselves been targeted repeatedly with chants that reference the Munich air disaster of 1958 in which 23 people died, eight of them players.

The measures, which were agreed unanimously on Wednesday at the league’s AGM, come after a working group of stakeholders from across the game was established six months ago, and will also look at issues surrounding regulation and enforcement, online abuse and education.

A Premier League statement said the measures would seek to “address the unacceptable rise in anti-social behaviour involving football tragedy-related chanting, gesturing, graffiti, online abuse and other behaviours last season.

“(These) issues have continued to cause significant distress to the victims’ families, survivors and affected-club supporters, in addition to damaging the reputation of the clubs involved and football in England and Wales.

“The action will focus on criminal prosecution, the regulatory environment, enforcement, online abuse, education and communications.

“Following further football partner sign off, full details will be publicly announced ahead of the season as part of the Love Football, Protect the Game campaign which was launched last year.”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, April 22, 2023: A giant Liverpool supporters' banner of the Hillsborough memorial's eternal flame during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Nottingham Forest FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The league also confirmed that it had agreed unanimously to amend its owners’ and directors’ test to prohibit fully-leveraged buyouts, in which prospective owners borrow all of the required funds thus loading the club with debt and interest charges.

The Glazer family’s £970million purchase of United in 2005 was largely propped up by loans, with the owners strongly criticised in the years since for taking money out of the club to service the debt.

Attendance figures for the 2022/23 season were also published with the average crowd for Premier League games hitting a record 40,267, up from 39,950 the previous campaign.

Stadiums were on average at 98.7 per cent capacity last season compared with 97.7 per cent the year before.