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The Observer Sunday | June 7 | 2009


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F**LIGAN Sunday | June 7 | 2009

It was pointless, purposeless and brainless. Three words that have become almost synonymous with the concept of football hooliganism.


F**LIGAN Sunday | June 7 | 2009

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Football is a passionate game. That is like saying cliff-walking is a dangerous one. Plenty of sports have their passion, but to me, football remains the most tribalist. How many people do you know who can transform from runof-the-mill Mr. Average to vein-through-the-head Mr. Angry, and all because of a contentious penalty decision. The game brings to the surface emotions that don’t usually appear in everyday life, the anger, the venom, the vitriol, the bitterness, the greed, the elation, the relief. They are all extremities too. If a ref disallows a perfectly good goal, it’s as if he has burgled your shed. If your side secures a late winner, you act like it’s the birth of your first child. All conventional logic goes out the window when football is involved. It’s a primal game. Perhaps un-surprisingly then, it is also a game which has an undeniable link to violence. When emotion and passion runs so close to the surface, and when people devote so much of their time to their chosen hobby, it is pretty obvious that somewhere along the line, lines will be crossed.

ELECTRIFIED FENCES TO PEN IN THE ‘ANIMALS’. THE HEYSEL STADIUM DISASTER OF 1985 LED TO SOME SERIOUS QUESTIONS BEING ASKED OF THIS ‘PLAGUE’ ON FOOTBALL.

In England, football hooliganism has been a major talking point since the 1970s. In the 1980s it reached new levels of hysteria, with the Prime Minister wading into a debate over Identity Cards for fans, and Ken Bates

calling for electrified fences to pen in the “animals”. The Heysel stadium disaster of 1985 led to some serious questions being asked of this “plague” on football. English clubs were banned from Europe for five years, and told to clean up their act. Still the problems persisted. A lot of people claim that the “feel-good factor” which returned to English football following successful campaigns at Italia 90 and Euro 96 has led to the emergence of a new, more laid-back fan, but cynics (or realists) claim that violence at football is still very much an issue, it is just reported less as it tends to happen well away from the stadiums themselves. This is a topical issue at the moment in England. A few week-ends ago during the FA Cup clash between Hull City & Millwall at the KC Stadium, trouble emerged in the stands amongst the visiting supporters. Seats were ripped up, toilets and refreshment stalls were destroyed, and twelve arrests were made, with many more anticipated once police study CCTV footage from the stadium. It was a nasty reminder that whilst policing at English football grounds is undoubtedly more efficient these days, the undercurrent of “trouble” still lurks close by. It is hard to pinpoint exactly when the culture of football violence began to emerge into English football. As far back as

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the 1880s and 90s, gangs of football supporters termed as “roughs” are thought to have caused trouble, usually at local derby matches. Understandable really given that transport restrictions made travelling to away games pretty much a no-go area. In 1885, one of the first ever reported instances of football violence came when Preston North End’s “Invincibles” team defeated Aston Villa in a friendly match. After the game, both sides were pelted with stones, sticks and fists as they left the pitch. It was pointless, purposeless, and brainless. Three words that have become almost synonymous with the concept of the football hooliganism. Despite these early instances of violence at football, plus stories of visiting football fans looting shops and terrorising neighbourhoods on their visits to away games, it was not until the 1960s that the term football hooliganism really hit the mainstream headlines. The first instances involved visiting fans destroying the trains that were ferrying them to away games. This led to one of the earliest Government initiatives to combat fan violence:


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F**LIGAN Sunday | June 7 | 2009

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The Football Special. Three words that resonate with any English football fan over the age of 30 I’m sure. Basically, the Football Special was a chartered train service which was used specifically to transport away fans to football matches. The idea of the Football Special was to keep football fans away from ordinary travellers, minimising the risk to the general public, as well as ensuring that police at the away ground would be aware where and when the visiting fans would be arriving. The trains usually consisted of redundant stock and spare carriages, and as such were very minimal. Most fans’ memories of Football Specials consist of being herded like cattle, and treated like animals. Bars across the windows penned fans in, and with no toilets on board (but alcohol on sale), conditions were always going to be pretty grubby to say the least. If the 1960s sowed the seeds for football hooliganism, the 1970s saw the “firms” make it into the big-time, with barely a


F**LIGAN Sunday | June 7 | 2009

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Bars across the windows penned fans in, and with no toilets on board (but alcohol on sale), conditions were always going to be pretty grubby to say the least. weekend passing without graphic images of terrace fighting. At the 1974 UEFA Cup final between Feyenoord & Tottenham, scores of Spurs fans ripped seats and threw them at police and home supporters, before rampaging through the streets of Rotterdam. Their legendary manager Bill Nicholson was believed to be deeply affected by this growing culture in football, and the Rotterdam violence was cited as a major factor in his decision to walk out of White Hart Lane a few months later. The following year at the European Cup final in Paris, Leeds United fans responded to some questionable refereeing decisions by raining down missiles on the pitch and destroying cars and businesses outside. Of course the increased publicity and scrutiny given to football violence since the rarely reported days of the 1960s has had an effect in terms of violence within the stadiums, but many experts believe that whilst violence at matches in England is undoubtedly on the

fall, organised gangs still operate regularly away from the CCTVstained grounds. Indeed, in 1985 five fans were stabbed on a cross-channel ferry to France after a three-way fight involving fans of West Ham, Manchester Utd & Everton, whilst in March 1998 a Fulham fan was kicked to death outside Gillingham’s Priestfield Stadium when fighting broke out in a nearby alleyway. However these incidents, whilst tragic and unacceptable, are a lot fewer and further between than in the Hooligan Heyday of the 1970s and 80s, when it seemed that every weekend there were new tales of woe from clubs, fans, police and players. It will probably never be stamped out, in any society there will be an element of idiocy and violence will always follow football, as long as the game remains as fiercely passionate as it is. They say the money in the game is driving out “oldschool/real fans”… what I say is: if those fans are anything like this lot, then… good. Neil Jones 2009


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F**LIGAN Sunday | June 7 | 2009

A TRUE LAD FIGHTS HATES WHAT’S IN FR HE LOVE’S WHAT IS


F**LIGAN Sunday | June 7 | 2009

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TS NOT BECAUSE HE FRONT OF HIM, BUT IS BEHIND HIM


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F**LIGAN Sunday | June 7 | 2009

Patrolling The Thirty-Thousand ‘I had thirty thousand fans and it felt like it could kick off at any time’ I Interviewed Nick Lawsom. A Fan and resigned steward at Leeds United, Elland Road. Lawson talks about the compromising positions he was faced with, both professional and public.

What position did you work at Elland Road? Steward, mostly within the North and West stand. That’s where most Leeds United fans with season tickets are. The away fans would go to the South stand. When did you work there? I was there from 2003 till 2006, they were in the Championship then the first division. What sort of crowd could you expect? We expected about twenty five to thirty thousand a week, mainly Leeds fans. You get your irate games like your category A, that was Millwall, category B was like Sheffield United, Sheff’ Wednesday, ones like that. High profile games they were. Where the crowds vocal? They were very hostile, I was scared because I had thirty thousand fans and it felt like it could kick off at any time, you know bad challenge, bad goal, referee decision, it was pretty tense, one hundred percent tense. You had to have your wits about you. There was a lot of ‘f-ing’ and blinding between fans, within their chants. Which teams would have the most rivalry towards Leeds? Millwall, thats the top rivalry, thats one hundred percent rivalry. Then you have your teams like Cardiff City, Sheffield and Bradford city. The high risk games were the Millwall and the Cardiff City because the chairman of Cardiff got us into the thirty nine million in debt which grew over the 7 months. Would the vocal abuse increase at these games? It would grow into violence. Say when Leeds were playing Millwall, they use to get the buses from Leeds Train Station to the ground and the Leeds fans would be waiting for them on street corners. They would shout abuse to ‘egg them on’, encourage a response, the usual stuff like ‘come and have a go if you think your hard enough’, things like that. It triggered from 9 o’clock in the morning till 7 o’clock at night. They would use anything they could get their hands on to fight with, I saw a lad get bottled right between the eyes. You would get gangs of lads beating down another 2 lads, the two teams just clash. So mainly the violence was limited to the city centre? Not strictly, it would happen near the ground mainly. You were asked to go undercover then, was there anything that prompted this? It was part of ‘A Day In The Life Of A Fan’ scheme, during the Leeds, Millwall game. The head steward came to me and said ‘would I go undercover’. I had to go in my casual clothes, but put my Leeds top on. I walked from the city centre to the ground, mingling with the fans, posing as one of them. That was scary, very scary. I would try take photos on my phone but was put off by what was going on around me. What did you see? It was outside the ground when I saw gangs of lads


F**LIGAN Sunday | June 7 | 2009 kicking peoples heads in, smashing windows, smashing bus windows, getting very violent. You would see grown men fighting, not kids. Getting closer to the ground I saw someone getting kicked in the head and someone smashing a bottle over someone’s head. It was then whilst approaching the ground I was chased by a gang of Millwall, I took cover in the supporters shop. I’m not a coward but you don’t want to get into that shit, no way. What made you leave Ellend Road then, anything particular? I was working as a steward at Leeds, Millwall on Saturday a couple of seasons ago. I had been picked for the South stand, the away stand. It was 1 all, about 5 minutes to go and we got a penalty. Millwall were shouting ‘you dirty bastards’, you could see it was going to kick off. The penalty inside felt great but because I was in the away end I obviously couldn’t respond. Three Millwall fans spilled onto the pitch and I had to go get them off. But as was doing my job I was getting pushed and pushed and pushed forward by other fans. More peopled spilled onto the pitch. As I was trying to do my job I was threatened by 4 Millwall fans, saying they would find me outside the ground, it was too intense, it was a riot. That’s what put me off doing the job. I just thought why should I have to go through that. Do you think football violence is still happening today?It is, yes, abroad especially. The Italy Leagues. The games are getting played behind closed doors because the fans are so ‘passionate’ about their team and fighting. They will even deduct points. Leeds are now in the play-offs and they’re saying now if Leeds play Millwall then no away fans will be allowed to the matches, their own fans in their own game. I think that’s a good idea myself. I remember in 1994-5 Leeds were playing a Champions League game in Turkey which resulted in 2 Leeds fans being murdered. One being a pub mate of mine, Kevin Speight. I was talking to him on the Saturday and on Monday he didn’t come back. So yes it is still a problem which I have learnt through being a steward and a fan. Do you think the UK fans are interested in the game, or is it just a chance for a fight? A lot of fans nowadays just go looking for fights regardless of the game. When we played Man’ U’ away we were chased by a gang of lads screaming ‘get the bastards’, ‘I shit, myself’.

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F**LIGAN Sunday | June 7 | 2009

Hooligans video seen in court showing sickening footage of football violence was shown in a court today after four thugs admitted beating up terrified rival supporters on a train. The Middlesbrough yobs picked on Chelsea supporters wearing replica tops, including a man and wife, a middleaged fan who had one eye, and a teenager, after watching their team lose 2-0 at home to the London side on October 20 last year. Judge Peter Bowers handed out suspended sentences to the four men at Teesside crown court after they admitted affray at an earlier hearing. The hooligans did not seek out fellow soccer yobs, but picked on members of the York Chelsea supporters club after light-hearted banter turned ugly, the court heard. One threw 24 punches in a flurry of violence, a woman was struck in the face and watched her husband get beaten up. Even after a guard bravely intervened and tried to keep the peace, the female victim


F**LIGAN Sunday | June 7 | 2009

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grazes and bruises and were helped by St. John Ambulance volunteers when the train was stopped and police called, but none were seriously hurt. The defendants, who are fathers with mortgages, all expressed their revulsion at what they had done.

Nicola Welch had her glasses stamped on and then thrown in her husband Alan’s face. The trouble was started by John James, 29, from Tingley, Wakefield, West Yorkshire, who was snapped after one of the Chelsea fans pointed out Middlesbrough had recently been named as the worst place in the country to live on channel 4. He leapt on Derek Hagyard, an industrial worker who lost an eye in a workplace accident, as the 18.07 From Middlesbrough to York approached Thornaby, Teesside.

Her glasses stamped on then thrown in her husband’s face. His burly uncle Kevin Walker, 47, seen on CCTV in a striped jumper, then waded in, throwing 24 punches at three different people directly in front of the camera.

James was spotted by police associating with known Middlesbrough hooligans in the past, the court heard.

The £40,000-a-year construction team leader, from Welland Crescent, Stockton, Teesside, appeared to play the largest role in the fighting, but was joined by Jamie Dea, 28, and Jamie Westwood, 31, both from Stockton. Mr. Hagyard had his jacket pulled over his head as blows continued to rain down on him, and he was seen on CCTV to be bleeding from the eye when the attack finally stopped. He told police: “the women were crying hysterically, the Middlesbrough lot were gloating.” As Mr. Welch scrabbled on the floor to find his wife’s glasses, they appeared in the middle of the Boro’ yobs’ group, and James stamped on them, before flinging them in her husband’s face. The defendants admitted affray and James pleaded guilty to criminal damage. Their victims were left with

The women were crying hysterically, the Middlesbrough lot were gloating A police source said the Middlesbrough hooligan gang wanted it to be known they had nothing to do with the cowardly attack on regular fans. Judge Bowers said the four came very close to being jailed. James was given a 15-month sentence, suspended for two years. Walker was handed a 12-month suspended sentence while Dea and Westwood were handed eight-month suspended sentences. The Sun, Aug 2008

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F**LIGAN Sunday | June 7 | 2009

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Typical police to fan ratio at high-risk football game

OOO - Fans

OOO - Police


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F**LIGAN Sunday | June 7 | 2009

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Typical police to fan ratio at high-risk football game

OOO - Fans

OOO - Police


F**LIGAN Sunday | June 7 | 2009

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F**LIGAN Sunday | June 7 | 2009

Shall We Sing A Song For You? It is a curious noise, an elongated “eeeeeeeeee”, as if the Old Trafford crowd are singing a mighty tuning note, harmonising like an orchestra before a performance. Actually, it is just the first word of a song – “Weeeeeeeeee’ll drink, a drink, a drink, to Eric the king, the king, the king” – Manchester United’s long ode to Eric Cantona, traditionally rattled out before matches start.

It is sung today with particular gusto: these United fans are awaiting a crucial home game against Aston Villa, one that will determine whether they replace hated rivals Liverpool at the top of the Premier League, one that must undo the damage of two consecutive defeats, and maximum volume needs to be mustered. Not everyone in the 76,000-capacity stadium is singing - some are fumbling with food and programmes; others are halfheartedly clapping along to music on the PA system - but what chanting there is from the home fans is led from the NorthWest corner, in the vocal J and K stands. Cantona acknowledged, kick-off approaching, the pack direct their attention towards current heroes: a reworked church hymn in praise of Paul Scholes, a few twisted Andrew Lloyd Webber lyrics to eulogise Dimitar Berbatov, and a longstanding song, originally about Gary Neville and brother Phil, that borrows the tune of David Bowie’s Rebel Rebel, one so droll it has achieved a kind

of infamy in chanting lore. “Neville Neville, your future’s immense,
Nevile Neville, you play in defence,
Neville Neville, like Jacko you’re bad,
Neville Neville, is the name of your dad.” Who on earth comes up with these chants? How are they taught? Do they spontaneously erupt one day, like-minded wags hitting upon something that catches? Do they develop over time, added to line by line, as events on the pitch dictate? Or is there some terrace elder who sits down before matches, sucking his pencil and thinking up rhymes for players like Tomasz Kuszczak, for phrases that will embalm the moment Wigan were overcome one-nil? The idea was once fodder for comedian Paul Kaye, who crafted a sketch about “bespoke football chant composer” Labian Quest (“What’s the general sentiment you’d like the piece to convey?” Kaye’s character asks a customer. “General poverty, bad housing, a focus on poor diet?”). But such characters do exist. Here at Old


F**LIGAN Sunday | June 7 | 2009 Trafford, the near-continuous song in J and K stand is led by a silver-haired, iron-lunged fanatic called Pete Boyle, a man who has had his words sung from the stands for decades. “I’ve written hundreds over the years,” says Boyle, who teaches his creations to the masses in local pub The Bishop Blaize. “Some that are only ever going to be pub songs, some to sing on the coach, and catchier ones for the terraces.” Boyle was blooded early in the business of football song, riding away-game coaches on his own as a seven-year-old; by the Cantona era in the 1990s, he was indulged as a sort of mascot by the players, friendly with first-teamers who would sometimes request new chants. (Cantona was particularly pleased with “Eric the King”, saying of Boyle in an interview: “He is a creator.”) Now 39, a little breathless from his years of bellowing, Boyle has settled in to a hybrid role as MUTV correspondent, fanzine contributor, and choirmaster of Old Trafford’s noisiest stands.

He can never tell which chants will be successful. “Sometimes I’ll put a lot of preparation into a song, but it won’t take off. There’s no set rule. I tried to start Ole, Ole (Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot) about Solskjaer in 1999, but the crowd wasn’t having it. Then I sung, ‘Who put the ball in the Scousers’ net? Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.’ Didn’t even think about it. That went massive.” Today, the match 10 minutes old, the home team starting sluggishly, there is little invention from the stands. All the crowd manage are desultory bursts of “United!” “Songs take on a life of their own at away games, because you’ve got all your hardcore fans gathered together all day,” explains Boyle. “Generally away fans out-sing home fans.” He is right - it is the Villa supporters who catch the ear today, with a reference to United’s far-drawn fanbase (“See you on the motorway!”) and a rendition of Kumbaya about Paul McGrath, a former player for both today’s teams, that begins “On the piss,

my lord, on the piss ...” Everything changes when United score from a Cristiano Ronaldo free-kick in the 14th minute. Suddenly, songs break out all around the stadium. A few hopefuls even try to get a round started about Park JiSung, even though he’s on the bench, singing an adaptation of Lord of the Dance that is catchy, offensive and really quite funny. “Park, Park, wherever you may be,
You eat dogs in your home country,
Could be worse, could be Scouse,
Eating rats in your council house.” “It’s a bit like when there’s a prosperous vibe in a city, you see lots of cranes,” says Kaye. “When a team’s doing well, there’s loads of great songs.” An Arsenal fan, Kaye knows the pain of having a creation rejected. “I had a moment of inspiration once, when Sylvain Wiltord was playing, and got up on my chair and started singing, ‘You’re Syl-vain, I bet you think this song is about you.’ The response was: ‘Fuck off, Dennis Pennis.’ “It would be nice to think that all chants were spontaneous,” says Jonny Hurst, a 42-yearold solicitor from London who was named Britain’s first (and, to date, only) chant laureate in 2004, a role he won in a nationwide competition. “But

an appointment in the style of the poet laureate, there to reflect changes in public life.” He ponders a moment. “You’ve also got to appreciate that this was an appointment made by the marketing wing of Barclays.” As chant laureate, Hurst was paid a £10,000 wage, appeared on Blue Peter, and was profiled in a rather baffling 1,200-word piece in the New York Times. But the job wasn’t easy. “Some of the response wasn’t massively favourable,” he says. “People took umbrage at the fact that they pay good money to go and see their teams and sing chants every week, and there’s some middle-class solicitor who gets 10 grand to make stuff up.” On the pitch, John Carew has headed an equaliser. “John Carew, Carew,” sing the exultant Villa fans, to the tune of Que Sera Sera, before segueing into “Carew, Carew, Carew is on fire”, which steals the chorus line from Rock Master Scott’s The Roof is on Fire. It’s magpielike, this borrowing of tunes for chants, the strangest example of which has to be Guantanamera, a Cuban song originally written about a man’s love for a woman who made him a steak sandwich, now ubiquitous at football grounds as “You only sing when you’re winning”, as “You’re getting sacked in the morning”,

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Robinho, she said no”, shortly after the Brazilian’s arrest on suspicion of rape – no charges were brought), mental problems (“Two Andy Gorams”, after the goalkeeper was reported to have schizophrenia, “there’s only two Andy Gorams”), or global conflict (at Liverpool’s Israeli player Yossi Benayoun in recent months: “The Gaza’s not yours! The Gaza’s not yours!”). “Football chanting is a kind of animal, impulsive instinct,” explains Andrew Motion, the outgoing poet laureate. He has always been fascinated by it - describing terrace song as “a natural upswelling of rhythmical thinking and feeling” - and believes the chants can have literary merit. “They can be bracingly vulgar, but they can often be very funny, and sometimes quite ingenious. Poetry is a simple, primitive thing and, although it’s unusual to find football chants being elaborated to the point at which they’ll make anything that resembles a poem as we ordinarily understand it, they are an aspect of poetry.” Motion sees them as a modern folk poetry, and believes they should be collected and preserved. Boyle says they already are. “We sing about George Best, Willie Morgan, Paul Parker, David

Park, Park, wherever you may be, You eat dogs in your home country, Could be worse, could be scouse, Eating rats in your council house. I think there’s quite a lot of preparation involved. An opposing player is coming along this afternoon, he’s just been caught in bed with so-and-so, what can we sing about that? “Being chant laureate was a cerebral role. When something important happened in football during my tenure - for example, when Brian Clough died - I would write a chant to be published in the paper. It was

as “You’re just a fat Eddie Murphy”, as just about every footballing insult imaginable. And – wow – are the insults imaginative, the United fans at one point singing a manyversed epic called ‘In Your Liverpool Slums’ that is mostly unprintable. Football fans have never been afraid to be tasteless, and there aren’t many topics they shy from, be it run-ins with the law (“Robinho, she said no,

Beckham, Brian Kidd. There are songs about Blackburn from 1994, about Newcastle from 1996. It’s all about recording a club’s history.” It is the second half at Old Trafford, and the home fans are silent. Aston Villa have just scored again. “Gabby, Gabby, Gabby Agbonlahor,” sing the bouncing away fans of their goalscorer, to the tune of Karma Chameleon. It is a miserable

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F**LIGAN Sunday | June 7 | 2009

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thing when the away team are in ascendance at a football stadium - the grim silence of a majority, terribly exposed by the noisy glee of a minority - and it is all too much for one redfaced United fan in the south stand. “Get up!” he screams, swivelling to berate the seated masses behind him. “Wear the shirt! Wear it with pride!” It is a moving performance, hardly spoiled when he pulls off his jumper to reveal the blue and white stripes of an Argentina kit underneath. His choice of shirt is either a homage to United’s tireless striker Carlos Tevez, or an example of Old Trafford’s curious, decade-long practice of singing songs in praise of Argentina, which dates back to the abuse David Beckham suffered after his red card in the 1998 World Cup. But it is fitting that this angry man with his back to the pitch should be wearing such a shirt, because it recalls the way fans in South America and Europe really are conducted by just such figures. “You could call them ultras cheerleaders,” says Italian football pundit and journalist Gabriele Marcotti. “Fans who stand with their backs to the games, banging drums, leading the chants and deciding which players are going to get songs.” Chanting in Italy, in particular, has always appeared rather cultured when compared to our own. Refrains are lifted from Verdi operas Aida and Rigoletto, and in an instance of almost operatic nobility, a chant among Napoli fans about Maradona (“I saw him, and now

I can die”) was once officially retired, the fans vowing never to sing it unless the Argentinian somehow returned, Messiahlike, to play for them again. But Marcotti argues that British chants have one key ingredient over their Italian counterpart: humour. “As an outlet for witticism or anger or support, Italian football culture has evolved towards the making of banners,” he says. “And in many ways that’s a more effective medium, because once they’re displayed you don’t have to strain to understand them.”Not withstanding a few witty lyrics there’s a song about striker Toto Schillaci stealing the hubcaps from Alfa Romeos - Italian fans tend to keep it simple: roaring a player’s name to the tune of the White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army, for example, a riff massively popular at Serie A grounds since it became Italy’s unofficial anthem at the 2006 World Cup. “The banners have probably stunted the growth of song,” concludes Marcotti. Is the funny football chant, then, a peculiarly British institution? In Spain, excepting the spirited work of fans from Cádiz, who sing “referee you’re gorgeous” for the sheer hell of subverting the conventional abuse of officials, chanting for laughs is rare. In Greece and Turkey chants tend to be angry and political; in Brazil and Argentina they are impassioned and often rude; but few are ironic. Germany might come close one team is known for berating its substitutes for only being substitutes - but nowhere does humour and mischief seem

as important in chanting as it does to us. “I can’t imagine any other country coming up with all six or seven verses of In Your Liverpool Slums,” says Marcotti. “I really can’t.” At Old Trafford, frustration builds to an almost unbearable point before the relief: Ronaldo scores again, this time with a missile from outside the penalty box, and the score is 2-2 with 10 minutes to go. The grumbles become roars of encouragement, and the crowd start singing once more: “Viva Ronaldo, running down the wing, hear

United sing.” And the players do seem to hear them sing, visibly playing with more energy. It is a precious idea to fans, that chanting and singing can affect a match. Stoke City manager Tony Pulis has gushed for seasons in his praise of home support at the Britannia Stadium (the Premier League’s noisiest ground, according to a recent survey). Players at Middlesbrough, in contrast, have complained at the lack of chanting at the Riverside, with Jérémie Aliadière pleading in October: “We need the

CONDUCTING THE ORCHESTRA

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F**LIGAN Sunday | June 7 | 2009 fans with us, we need to make other teams come to the ground scared.” The situation was hardly helped when the club sent a letter to fans in February, asking that they be quieter in certain sections of the ground so as not to disturb the tender-eared majority. Few examples are as overt as Middlesbrough’s unfortunate letter, but any decline in crowd volume is often a club’s own fault, argues football sociologist and historian Dr Gary Armstrong. “The game sanitised in the 1990s, and football was caught in a cleft stick,” he says. “It wanted to sell itself on atmosphere, but an atmosphere that would appeal to the corporate middle class. They wanted ‘atmosphere lite’, which meant they didn’t want songs that were rude, transgressive or offensive.” One of the most extreme examples of this, he points out, was at Highbury, in 2004, when Arsenal handed out an officially approved songbook to fans. “It had no swear words in it, and it wasn’t offensive to Tottenham,” says Armstrong. “It didn’t work.” The chant has long been something football authorities have sought to control; as long ago as 1907, Sheffield United produced match programmes asking fans to desist from calling out advice. But this season saw a giant leap in restrictive effort; 11 Tottenham supporters being charged with “indecent chanting” at Portsmouth defender Sol Campbell at Fratton Park. Campbell once left the north London club for rivals Arsenal, becoming a target of Spurs fans’ abuse ever since, and the feeling that once prevailed among fans and pundits was: what else did he expect after such a highprofile move between rivals? But opinion has shifted,

hardened, perhaps, by the abuse of England’s black players on visits to Spain in 2004 and Croatia in 2008, or the allegations of Islamophobia against Newcastle fans in 2007 for chants about Egypt striker Mido. The same year there was a debate as to whether Tottenham fans, traditionally predominantly Jewish, were being antisemitic by calling themselves “yids”. Football spectators, once able to blare whatever they liked from the stands, are being held to account for the content of their chants. “Often people just want to join in with something celebratory or carnivalesque, and it could almost be said that what’s being chanted doesn’t really matter to them,” says Professor Mike Weed, of the faculty of sport at Canterbury Christ Church University. “So you will get people at England games singing ‘No surrender to the IRA’ or ‘If it wasn’t for the English you’d be Krauts’ without fully realising that that’s being racist. They think that’s just what you do at football.”

admitted homophobic chanting at their preliminary hearing; seven others pleaded not guilty and will stand trial this month. The football chant is under greater scrutiny; it may also be under great threat. The match at Old Trafford has ended spectacularly, United somehow winning after an impossible curling goal from unknown 17-year-old substitute Federico Macheda. In the press box, journalists are rapidly typing up reports; in the stands, other scribes are hard at work. “There was no song for the kid,” Boyle explains later. “Nobody had heard of him!” So after the winning goal, the crowd do what they do best - they appropriate. “Viva Macheda,” they bellow, replacing Ronaldo in his own song with merciless haste, “only 17, he’s a goal machine...”

Armstrong explains that this is because the football ground is a “liminal zone”, a place where “all bets are off” and people behave in uncommon ways. “It’s a bit like going to the seaside,” he says. “You might dress up in stuff you wouldn’t normally wear, a fluorescent nylon shirt advertising some corporate entity, then consume lots of alcohol and shout advice to a bunch of men about how to do their job properly. Football offers a good old-fashioned excuse to hate people, to hate the opposition. But for most people, it’s contextual.”

“Chanting is a reminder of a basic pleasure from childhood,” says Andrew Motion, “that of rhyme and repeating words in the corner of a playground. But there’s also a sense that chants can make you powerful, can make you sort of neuter the opposition.” And how have Aston Villa’s fans been neutered. It is impossible not to feel sorry for them, roaring away for most of the second half, delighting in the quietness of the home fans with ditties like “Shall we sing a song for you?”, and now receiving the inevitable wrath in response. The song directed their way is not an Old Trafford original, it is not as inventive as one of Pete Boyle’s epics, it isn’t even funny. But it is the chant that hurts the most. “You’re not singing,” comes the awful truth, “you’re not singing, you’re not singing any more.”

That’s not the opinion at Portsmouth magistrates court. Four of the men accused of harassing Sol Campbell

Tom Lamont | May 2009 The Observer

Football offers a good old-fashioned excuse to hate people, to hate the opposition, but for most people it’s contextual.

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CASS PENNANT

He’s been attacked with a sword, hit with an axe, shot at, served two prison spells and has a reputation as one of Britain’s hardest men. But Cass Pennant is a bad man turned good. At 6’4 and 17 stone, the former football hooligan is a towering menace who still bears the scars from decades of violence he fought in the name of his beloved team West Ham.


F**LIGAN Sunday | June 7 | 2009

‘I’ve been shot and hit with an

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His terrifying story resonates with the knife epidemic that haunts our streets today. Cass attributes his unconventional childhood with laying the foundations for an aggressive descent into gang culture. He caused havoc in the 80s and 90s as the leader of the Inter City Firm (ICF), running riot at home and away matches up and down the country. Parading wounds like medals, their fearless assaults gave them something to live for every Saturday under Margaret Thatcher’s rule. Battering rival supporters took away the monotony of poverty and earned them adoration within their circle allowing them to climb the gangster ranks.

Cass said: “I realised my childhood wasn’t quite right. I was bullied by a whole town rather than bullies.” After his Jamaican mother handed him over to Dr. Barnardo’s children’s home, he was fostered by an elderly white couple in Slade Green, Kent. But in the smallminded 70s town, he stood out like a sore thumb because of his new inter-racial family. He said: “when my foster parents - who only ever gave me love - passed away, that town died and there was nothing there to go back to.” Cass was christened Carol - a common boy’s name in parts of the West Indies - by his biological mother, which fuelled further taunts at school. But after he saw boxer Cassius Clay beat Henry Cooper he adopted the name cass - and a new bravado. His stoic stature helped him toughen up, but the anger channelled into hostility and the violence escalated. Cass said: “there is a power in the gun, when you go down that road it can overtake your soul. It’s not just the mind thinking it wants to do a bad thing, it is such a powerful thing. When someone is pointing a gun at you and you’re close enough to see that person’s eyes and he’s got more fear than you, that’s frightening.”


F**LIGAN Sunday | June 7 | 2009

Cass is adamant there is good in everyone, believing people simply lose sight of their own self-destructive paths. He said: “gang culture is the same the world over. It doesn’t matter if it was the 50s, 60s, my time or today. “There is a family unit thing within it that keeps people coming back for more. You all look out for each other.” The first non-gang member to challenge Cass was filmmaker Ian Studdard, who made the controversial documentary hooligans that Mary Whitehouse tried to ban. He tried to befriend Cass and his crew, telling them there are two paths in life to choose from. Cass said: “Ian told me, ‘you’re the leader, in the real world you could be a director of a company, your lieutenants and right hand men would be the managers and the gang lookouts would be the messenger boy in the office. “He said this in the

80s and when I later interviewed my friends for my book in 2001 there were at least five directors in high management level and a couple of self-made millionaires, through business not drugs. As a successful author, Cass has turned his life around but still maintains violence does not stem solely from football. “Think back to the 50s, with the bike chain and flip knifes. “There has always been violent culture. It meant pure violence as well as rock ‘n’ roll but we’ll go to see Buddy Holly at the theatre and no one has an issue with it. “There’s such hysteria over the hooligans, but people ignore things like Sid and Nancy and the punk scene. Fashion owes itself to punk, even Vivienne Westwood. “It outraged the country when the Sex Pistols spat on Bill Grundy’s show, but we celebrate it on the catwalk. Even the new Batman film The Dark Knight had killings all over the place and only has a fifteen rating.” But Cass is hopeful the country can beat the current epidemic of street violence. “Violence is powerful. It’s a buzz. A lot of footballers say it’s more powerful than sex, if you try and walk away, you can’t. A boxer can’t just quit if he’s spent that long mastering the art and rising through the ranks. It’s in him.” “It’s hard to say this but the reality is, that part of me I left behind can never leave me. It’s got to be in me somewhere and that’s where you get into trouble if you think you can just switch like that because it gets too difficult “I actually passed this onto Frank Bruno, who is a very good friend, and I said, ‘don’t let it go, accept it is always in you, just tuck it away and keep it buried.”

‘It is the act that is criminal, not the person.’

“Do I have regrets?” He said. “It’s a question that doesn’t sit comfortably. Of course, I let a lot of people down, I’ve lost jobs, homes. And in the violence, there’s always innocent people. “What really matters is not regrets, but how you come out of your past. You can’t put right what happened as it’s history. “Today I’m a family guy, I’m a businessman. That Cass is not me anymore.”

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Section from Bloody Casuals | Diary of a Football Hooligan

Another swung a wire shopping basket into my face, and I felt my face tear Another memorable battle with Hibs was staged in 1985. The match was in Edinborough again, and we had a good firm of about 400 with us. There had been no opposition all the way to London Road and by the time we turned into Easter Road I was quite far back in the mob. The leaders of the mob were about 50 yards in front, and not long after Easter Road, the action started. Hibs Casuals, now totaling 250 or 300 at most had been waiting for us, and were now making their move. I saw a few bottles and traffic cones in the air and, as everyone did, I tore down the road towards them. When I got down to the action there was a bit of a stalemate, a sort of no-man’s-land where bottles, cones and the odd punches flew. Me and Glennie and Gory made a definite run right into the middle of their mob and started whacking everything. Aberdeen surged forward and that was it. I didn’t see it, but one of the Hibs mob threw a bottle just before running, but he was tripped up trying to escape. He was severely kicked on the ground and had to be

taken to intensive care. He was in a critical condition-thank god he didn’t die. Nobody, at least nobody I know, want to kill… it’s just a game. A few stitches, a few scars, fair enough, but death that’s a different story. I know if someone was killed, most would stop immediately. Just a few minutes on Easter Road, and a few side roads as well. I was well back with a few other lads, knackered and fed up of running. Suddenly a bar diagonally across the road emptied and about 200-odd big scarfers ran out at us. There were only about seven or eight of us at the time, but we went onto the road and met them. This was a really violent clash, heads were getting thumped, butted and booted. I never saw it coming, but as I was fighting off a couple of Hibbs, another swung a wire shopping basket into my face, and I felt my face tear. Ray ran into a man and I backed off into a pavement, knowing my face was in a mess. There must have been a wire sticking out which tore my face – I got a deep gouge just below my left eye and a gouge out of the top of my nose.


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>>

T h e

f i g h t

t h e

a r r i v e d . p o l i c e m e n

a m b u l a n c e ,

w a s

c a l m e d

d o w n

b y

p o l i c e

w h e n

t h e y

eventually

I

o n e

o f

t h e

a s k e d

i f b u t

I

c o u l d

t h e

g e t

a n s w e r

a n

w a s :

‘no fucking chance, lad’.

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Getting Tough On ‘Folk Devils’ A look at how modern policing, tackles football violence. What legislations have been put in place? Most Premier League matches these days require between 25-100 police officers to control crowds and limit hooligan outbreaks, but ‘high risk’ matches demand more. But this figure is down almost three-fold down on the average numbers used in the 1980s as stewards and private security firms are taking on more and more responsibility for dealing with the management of crowds at football and as trouble inside and around grounds seems to be on the decline. In 2002 hooligan outbreaks inside stadia, once again put the authorities on the alert. Many smaller Football League clubs and increasing numbers of FA Premier League clubs now stage ‘police-free’ matches. This really means that police are not required to show a presence inside the stadium Most police forces grade matches in terms of the likelihood of trouble occurring and decide their manning levels accordingly. In doing so, they take into account:

numbers and reputation of travelling supporters; past meetings between the clubs; the importance of the match; and intelligence from other police forces about the visitors. The police have now established a complex intelligence network for exchanging information about ‘troublesome’ fans, under the auspices of the National Criminal Intelligence Services (NCIS) Football Intelligence Unit. The Football Unit was established in 1989 as a centre for the collation of evidence and intelligence on ‘serious and persistent hooligans’. The use of Football Trust-funded closed circuit TV equipment (CCTV) by the police in and around grounds has also contributed to limiting problems in these areas and to the successful prosecution of offenders. In fact, it is now an offence to trespass onto the pitch or its surrounds, following the Football Offences Act of 1991, and anyone who does so is likely to be traced from CCTV coverage of their activities. Recent legislation has

helped the police deal with hooliganism, though some of it is also controversial. The Public Disorder Act of 1986 allowed courts to make exclusion orders banning fans from grounds. The Football Spectators Act of 1989 allowed courts to impose ‘restriction orders’ on convicted fans to prevent them attending matches abroad involving England or Wales. The Football Offences Act 1991 created three new offences of disorderly behavior: * Throwing missiles towards the pitch or spectators * Taking part in indecent or racialist chanting * Going on the pitch or its surrounds without lawful authority Under the Football (Disorder) Act of 1999 courts were for the first time required, not merely allowed, to make a banning order if the criteria were met and to explain in open court why no banning order was applied. Fans who were banned were also required to hand over their passports at a police station and

report there at a specific time and date. The Football Disorder Act 2000 abolishes the distinction between domestic and international banning orders. The court is now required to ensure that an offender’s passport is surrendered for international fixtures. More importantly, a banning order might now be secured by the police on their complaint to the court that the fan concerned has been involved in violence in the UK or elsewhere and that there are ‘reasonable’ grounds to believe


How The Police Cope The hands-on policing tactics of the 1980s have given way to a tactical and close circuit approach.

that a banning order would help prevent hooliganism. Fan groups and Liberty have complained that these changes offer police too much power in limiting the activities of supporters especially within foreign travel. The costs of policing and stewarding are a constant problem to clubs and to the local police authority. Clubs usually pay the full cost only for those officers inside grounds (usually up to one-third of all officers). Other costs are agreed locally with contributions from

the club and the local police budget. In 1996/97 costs to Premier League clubs of policing football matches totalled £2.9 Million. Stewarding costs were £4.1 million. Average costs of policing per match at the top level were at a peak in 1992/93 when they reached £9,300 per match. By 1996/97 these costs had fallen to £7,727 per match, on average. Critics of football policing tend to focus on their use of CCTV and ‘intelligence’ led initiatives

to deal with hooliganism (Armstrong, 1998). They tend to argue that the police ‘hype’ up hooliganism and that they use football as an opportunity to test out measures which might be useful to deal with other aspects of public order. It is certainly true that football hooligans have become the modern ‘folk devils’ and that the courts have been encouraged by successive administrations to ‘get tough’ with hooligans. University of Leicester 2001

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Jimmy Smith

F**ligan  

A look at football violence. Some of the words have been taken from the internet. In which case the writers have been credited. I am in no...