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Thursday, 8 August, 2002, 14:14 GMT 15:14 UK
Football violence 'back in fashion'
Figures released on Thursday suggest football-related arrests have gone down but does that mean football violence is declining?

Not according to two journalists who followed hooliganism throughout the 2001/2 season for the BBC documentary series Hooligans.

"Arrest figures are meaningless," says Sam Bagnall, series producer on the BBC documentary Hooligans.

Banning orders by club
Cardiff City: 125
Stoke City: 107
Leeds United: 71
Manchester City: 43
Derby County: 37
"The first thing you have to ask about arrest figures is what do they tell you. When the disorder is very serious the police cannot risk making arrests," he said.

Mr Bagnall said in the midst of serious disturbances police would not want to make a lot of arrests because it would take too many officers out of the frontline.

He said: "We filmed outside the Bristol City v Cardiff match last season and there was serious disorder which went on for several hours, at the end of which the police made only four arrests."

'Hooliganism is back'

Mr Bagnall said: "Most police officers around the country would tell you that football hooliganism is on the rise for the first time in 10 years."

He said arrests were not a reliable guide to the level of violence because it was under-reported.


Most police officers around the country would tell you that football hooliganism is on the rise for the first time in 10 years.

Sam Bagnall, series producer, Hooligans
"No self-respecting football hooligan is going to want to get the police involved if he has been beaten up by a rival firm. It's humiliating."

He said arrests were more likely to be for non-violence related offences such as drunkenness and running onto the pitch.

"The figures say that Newcastle have one of the highest number of arrests, but most people who are in the know would tell you that the Toon Army are not notorious hooligans but are legendary drinkers and most of those arrests are for drunkenness," said Mr Bagnall.

He said a more reliable way of gauging the level of violence was looking at the amount spent on policing football matches.

'Police costs rising'

"British Transport Police, who are responsible for trains, railway stations and many other places where the trouble occurs, have seen their spending go up 20%," he said.

Mr Bagnall said there was little prospect of curing football of "the English disease" because for most hooligans violence was a hobby which bordered on an addiction.

Premier League arrests by club allegiance
Manchester United: 146
Newcastle: 132
Sunderland: 131
Tottenham: 129
Jason Williams, a reporter who went undercover to find out about hooligans for the programme, said many of those he met and spoke to enjoyed the "buzz" of possible violence.

He told BBC News Online: "One of them likened it to going to war for Queen and country. They get a great deal of satisfaction out of it and see themselves as big men."

Mr Williams said most gangs communicated with each other, and set up brawls using mobile phones while the internet was reserved for "bragging" about past exploits and making threats.

'Hooligan paradise'

Mr Bagnall said the peace seen among England fans in Japan was an illusion and he foresaw serious problems at the European Championships in Portugal in 2004 if England qualify.

"It is going to be a hooligan paradise. In Japan there was pretty much only one point of entry - the airport - while with Portugal there are numerous ways of getting there.

"Then you have got the fact that many of the banning orders were only for three years so they will have expired by 2004 and without further convictions these people will be free to come and go as they please," he said.

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