FOOTBALL fans who break the law abroad when following their teams should face lifetime bans at home, Scotland’s police union has said.

Scottish supporters have been involved in a series of incidents during European games this season, including what local press described as a violent “attack on police” when Rangers played in Slovenia in August.

However, Scottish police and procurator fiscals have lost their powers to investigate and prosecute those involved in overseas trouble after the repeal of the controversial Offensive Behaviour at Football Act (OBFA) this year.

David Hamilton, vice chair of the Scottish Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, said the law change meant it was now up to clubs to act against those who brought Scotland and the Scottish game in to disrepute.

Mr Hamilton said: “Clubs have to take ownership of this issue. If somebody has been caught up in trouble in Europe why would you not ban them for life?”

Mr Hamilton last week warned that some supporters had been “emboldened” by the repeal of the act, which they saw as a “win”.

Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins had previously said he was concealed dropping the OBFA would give a feeling of empowerment to those misbehaving.

However, last week he told The Herald he had yet to see evidence that this was the case. Mr Higgins stressed many of the offences caught under the old act could be investigated or prosecuted under other laws.

This, however, is not the case with crimes committed abroad. He said: “There used to be extraterritorial powers.

“So if a Scottish supporter of any club committed an offence. which would be an offence in Scotland. we cold investigate them.

“Now we can act as a liaison. Our ability to investigate crimes on foreign soil has now gone.”

Such extraterritorial powers are rare in Scotland and restricted to a small group of offences, such as sex crimes against children overseas.

Scottish police and prosecutors dealt with very few extraterritorial cases under the Act.

This was partly because Scottish clubs failed to make much progress in Europe over the four seasons it was in force. So there was, say football insiders, few opportunities to test the scheme.

The courts did have to look at extraterritorial powers, when four Rangers fans were prosecuted under the OBFA for trouble just over the border in England, at a Rangers versus Berwick Rangers game in February 2013.

One fan challenged why he was being taken to court in Scotland for offences alleged to have taken place in England. A sheriff ruled that this aspect of the act was constitutional.

There was also a conviction under the OBFA for a man who threatened people online while he himself was overseas.

Mr Hamilton acknowledged that there may have to be some kind of independent review process for deciding whether overseas offences should result in lifetime bans.

Scotland, as a legal jurisdiction, accepts the validity of law enforcement and court systems in the rest of the EU.

This does not always apply to fans  groups, who sometimes question the legitimacy of European forces.

Such attitudes may be contributing to problems, say some sources. Some Rangers groups, for exampled, complained about Slovenian police after clashes in Maribor.

“Rangers fans came to Maribor to fight,” declared Slovenia’s Reporter magazine after the game. “They attacked and insulted the police.”

Slovenian police told both Scottish and Slovenian media that they had detained six “foreigners” after they were attacked. Several others, including Slovenes, were fined.

Ten years ago Aberdeen fans clashed with police in Madrid. 
And, like some Rangers supporters in Slovenia, some of those not responsible for trouble in Spain felt resulting policing was heavy-handed and indiscriminate. 
In 2016 Celtic fan threw a burger at a police horse in Manchester. He was arrested under English law.

Police Scotland reckons there are risk groups of fans at half of Scotland’s senior clubs. They do not give details of which clubs, but said the biggest such group numbers around 150, according to their intelligence reports.Police sources openly refer to a re-emergence of pre=arranged fights.

They also liaise with overseas colleagues to look at risks. They were concerned, for example, when Rangers met Spartak in Glasgow last month.

Labour MSPs were key to overthrowing the OBFA Act. Asked if the party supported extraterritorial powers, a spokesman said: "If a public order offence was committed by a fan of a Scottish football club in another country that they should be tried within that jurisdiction. 

“If fans are found guilty and placed on an overseas travel restriction order, it is essential that the club takes appropriate action. 

“Good relations between clubs, fans and the police can help in dealing with any potential trouble.”

Rangers striker Alfredo Morelos this weekend was the latest footballer to be hit by a coin, at a St Mirren game. The Paisley club vowed to find and ban the supporter responsible.