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Last Updated: Monday, 10 May, 2004, 02:16 GMT 03:16 UK
Football firms hit the film circuit
By Steve Hawkes
BBC News Online

The Football Factory, the first of four forthcoming films dramatising soccer violence in the UK, premieres in London's Leicester Square on Monday. BBC News Online looks at the controversy the film-makers have sparked.

The promotional credits for The Football Factory feature six people who either have convictions or are the subject of banning orders preventing them from travelling to Euro 2004.

The Football Factory
The Football Factory features fans of Chelsea, Millwall and Tottenham

The film's makers have courted controversy by playing it to invited audiences of hardcore hooligans at several private screenings across the country.

Around 250 members of Cardiff City's notorious Soul Crew - many of whom are playing themselves in an eponymous film being directed by Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh - viewed The Football Factory at the invitation of its director, Nick Love.

"It was a pretty terrifying experience," he told BBC News Online.

Last week, filming ended on The Yank, a big-budget US-financed movie in which Elijah Wood (Frodo in Lord of the Rings) plays a student expelled from Harvard who starts running with West Ham's Inter City Firm (ICF).

Congratulations, You Have Just Met the ICF, the autobiography of real-life Upton Park terrace veteran Cass Pennant, is also being made into a movie.

It is unashamedly aimed at the people it is about - men who do not want to grow up
Nick Love

The Football Factory shows Chelsea's Headhunters attacking Millwall's Bushwhackers, and Love feared its cockney bias might alienate hooligan firms outside London.

So he tested it at screenings in Newcastle, Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, and Cardiff.

Love said: "We had the whole Soul Crew there. I am a Millwall fan, and I was thinking: 'They are going to hate the film'.

"But they said it was the first film they had seen that had spoken about their generation - spoken to them about them.

Elijah Wood
Elijah Wood plays a West Ham hooligan in The Yank

"I was out with them all night having a good time, and they are much more intelligent than they are given credit for - and hugely representative.

"All the firms know about the film, and love it. It is a football boy's dream."

"It is unashamedly aimed at the people it is about - men who do not want to grow up," said Love.

"For them it is about passion, heroics, the recounting of battles, and it is uniquely British and apparently endlessly fascinating to the rest of the world," he said.

There is no doubt some football hooligans will be influenced by the contents (of this film) to cause trouble in Portugal
Parliamentary Football Group chairman Alan Keen

Cardiff West MP Kevin Brennan, a Cardiff City fan whose constituency includes the Millennium Stadium, said he was disturbed by the fact the Soul Crew had been "so excited" by the film.

It had been irresponsible to invite a group of "self-proclaimed football hooligans" to a preview screening, Mr Brennan added.

The Football Factory features real-life fans from London clubs including Chelsea, Millwall, Tottenham and West Ham.

The Football Factory
The Football Factory goes on general release on Friday

Love told BBC News Online he needed people who "understand football culture" to give the film authenticity.

"You cannot just use a load of actors," he said.

But chairman of the all-party Parliamentary Football Group Labour MP Alan Keen said: "Speaking to hooligans for research is fair enough - but actually using them in the film is irresponsible."

The Football Factory goes on general release on Friday, a week before Millwall travel to Cardiff for the FA Cup final.

'History of enmity'

Security will be tight in Cardiff as the Welsh club's fans have a history of violent enmity with Millwall hooligans.

A fortnight later England go to Portugal under threat of expulsion from Euro 2004 if there is a repeat of violent scenes which have marred previous tournaments.

The first day of the 1999/2000 football season saw 14  people hurt and six arrested as Cardiff and Millwall supporters met in a pre-arranged fight in the Welsh capital's city centre
Six people were arrested when Millwall fans went to Cardiff

Mr Keen said: "It is unfortunate this film is being released just before Euro 2004.

"There is no doubt some football hooligans will be influenced by the contents to cause trouble in Portugal."

A Millwall spokesman added: "It is regrettable for a film that casts football and football supporters in a negative light to be appearing on the eve of the biggest game in Millwall's history, and shortly before England fans head off to Euro 2004."

'Encouraging wannabe warriors'

Mark Perryman, an academic who campaigns to improve England fans' image, is also concerned: "It risks encouraging wannabe warriors who will head off to Portugal thinking, 'doing England' means 'doing violence'", he said.

But the timing of the film's release is just a coincidence, according to ex-hooligan Dougie Brimson, who wrote The Yank, which is due out next year.
Hooliganism is being glorified by the media yet again, and we are not pleased
Vince Alm
Cardiff City Supporters Club chairman

He told BBC News Online: "It takes a long time to make and arrange the release of a movie. They had no way of knowing Millwall would make the final."

Former Soul Crew hooligans Tony Rivers and David Jones, whose book Welsh's movie is based on, will reportedly reap a five-figure sum from actor Robert Carlyle's production company 4Way Pictures, which is making the movie.

Rivers and Jones say the film will offer an insiders' view of football violence just as Trainspotting did for the lives of deprived, urban heroin users.

The Association of Chief Police Officers' spokesman on football issues, Deputy Chief Constable David Swift said: "In a democracy there is always a balance to strike between freedom of speech and expression, and protecting the public from crime.

"However, the police unreservedly condemn football hooliganism and those who would incite others to violence."

Cardiff City Supporters Club chairman Vince Alm says: "Hooliganism is being glorified by the media yet again, and we are not pleased."

He told BBC News Online: "The film will misrepresent fans - we are not raving lunatics.

"If this film comes out, it will sour relations with police forces, and we will have to start all over again."

The BBC's Tom Edwards
"Many in the game think this film isn't doing football any favours"

Four Cardiff City fans held
24 Aug 02  |  Wales
Police ban more football 'thugs'
08 Aug 02  |  UK News
Cardiff and the hooligan element
17 May 02  |  Hooligans
Cardiff won't appeal misconduct fine
17 May 02  |  Cardiff City

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