Monday, August 9, 1999 Published at 01:09 GMT 02:09 UK
Soccer hooligans organise on the Net
The Paul Dodd Website is full of soccer threats and abuse
By Internet Correspondent Chris Nuttall
Police are investigating how football hooligans may have used the Internet to help organise violence that erupted around Saturday's match between Cardiff City and Millwall.
Police are concerned that the Internet is being used both to organise and give running commentaries on football violence.
Skirmishes discussed online
The Website of a notorious football hooligan, Paul Dodd, contains a bulletin board section where visitors can post messages to one another almost in real time about action both on and off the football field.
This exchange, headed "Cardiff Millwall Live Commentary" appeared on Saturday afternoon:
"YEAH IT'S KICKING OFF RIGHT NOW AS I SPEAK HAS BEEN ALL MORNING, TIME NOW 1:45PM LOADZA OB AROUND.
"BACK SOON FOR AN UPDATE. DON'T MISS THE TEAR UP OF THE YEAR:) "
"nothing happen, too many old bill, millwall well up for it"
"YEAH YOUR RIGHT, TOO MANY OLD BILL. BUT IT'S GOING OFF IN PLACES. JUST WAIT NOW FOR AFTER THE GAME . MY MATE ON THE MOBEY RECKONS IT'S GETTING PRETTY HOT IN THE GROUND TOO."
Threats and abuse not Net norm
The Dodd site, consisting mainly of threats and foul language directed at supporters of rival clubs, is seen as an extreme example of the football chat that takes place on the Internet.
Most Websites run by supporters have the air of humorous fanzines, paying homage to their clubs and providing a forum for fan's views, minus the abusive comments.
"We run a message board but I make it a point to closely monitor it and I for one won't tolerate anything of that nature, "says Paul Neve of the unofficial Millwall FC site, House of Fun.
Police had seen Net warnings
Police are watching discussion areas on the Net as well for early warnings of trouble at matches.
Chief Inspector Mick Long - in charge of policing for Saturday's match - said they had been aware of what might happen and had boosted their presence accordingly to minimise the violence.
"There were several messages...fortunately part of our pre-planning exercises was that we looked at that information, were able to make an assessment and were able to apply the necessary resources to keep the disturbances to a minimum and deal with them effectively, which I'm quite happy we did," he said.
Supporters who value the Internet as an information source and for the exchange of views fear it is being demonised again by the media for no good reason, with its power being blown up out of all proportion.
"The concept of a running commentary being done over the Internet is to me totally ludicrous," he said.
"I can hardly see a six-foot-four hooligan skinhead with a brick in one hand and a laptop computer in the other, it's just a completely ludicrous image. I do think it's a case of media sensationalism."
NCIS details technology race
But the police have serious concerns about the growing sophistication being displayed by the hooligans in the use of mobile phones, pagers and the Internet to organise violence.
The National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS) has just highlighted the problem in its annual report. Gail Kent, spokeswoman for NCIS and its Football Intelligence Unit, said law enforcement was engaged in a technology race to keep tabs on the troublemakers.
"I think they're just happy to use whatever they can get their hands on which makes organisation easier and obviously the Internet and mobile phones mean that they can have instantaneous contact with each other," she said.
"They can also spread the message about what they're doing, to other people," she said.
"As these fans become more organised and they're using these tools, so the police become more advanced in what they're able to do."