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Last Updated: Saturday, 23 October, 2004, 17:47 GMT 18:47 UK
Cardiff fans 'are not hooligans'
By Stephen Robb
BBC News Online

Cardiff City fans at Ninian Park
Violence marred Cardiff's 2002 FA Cup win over Leeds United
Cardiff City has long battled a reputation for hooliganism and has more fans banned from games than any other league club, suggesting that cheering on the Bluebirds or their opponents could be a nervous business.

Tony Jefferies is the former press officer of Cardiff City Supporters' Club and has been a devoted fan since 1959 - apart from a period in the 60s and 70s when hooliganism was at its height nationwide.

"I saw things happen that you should not see in a civilised society," Mr Jefferies said.

"I thought, 'I don't want to be a part of this'."

Bluebirds bans

The latest Home Office figures show there was a 10% fall in football-related arrests in England and Wales last season - down from 4,413 in 2002/3 to 3,982.

Home Office minister Caroline Flint praised "tough banning order legislation and targeted policing operations" for the reduction.

There are more public order offences in a town centre on a Friday or Saturday night than at a football match
Tony Jefferies
Cardiff City has 160 banning orders against its fans, which is more than double any other English or Welsh club except Manchester United, which has 87.

The number of Bluebirds fans arrested at all games fell from 152 to 118 - still the sixth-highest total of any club.

But Mr Jefferies said: "To use the word 'hooliganism' is totally, totally wrong.

"There hasn't been hooliganism at football badly for years. These days you do not see it."

Forty-nine of Cardiff's arrests were for alcohol-related offences, 15 were for violent disorder and 28 for public disorder. The rest were for a variety of offences.

It was "over the top" to brand most of these offences as hooliganism, he said.

"There are more public order offences in a town centre on a Friday or Saturday night than at a football match," he added.

"It's not a football problem, it's a society problem."

Family entertainment

"To go to a Cardiff City game these days, it's joy," Mr Jefferies said.

"We're pussy cats. There are lots of families going, lots of little ones, wives and girlfriends."

The effectiveness of policing of games in Cardiff had improved after the FA Cup final and divisional play-offs came to the Millennium Stadium, Mr Jefferies said.

South Wales Police were now "one of the best forces in Britain at policing sporting events", he said.

"They have got it down to a fine art. You can walk down the streets with them and have a laugh and a joke with them."

Chief Superintendent Bob Evans has said the club and police have worked hard "to address problems relating to the hooligan element who associate themselves with Cardiff City" and that their efforts were "paying dividends".

Worse overseas?

Travelling in support of the Welsh national side has also led Mr Jefferies to believe hooliganism is considerably worse in some other countries.

"The police in this country will move in and try and prevent confrontation," he said.

"Police forces abroad will let the fans carry on and kick the hell out of each other, then just go in and pick up the pieces."

Mr Jefferies believes UK fans are now so well behaved that they do not need to be separated, citing the example of a Cardiff landlord who invites away fans to his pub before games.

But he does not believe the clubs or police would back integration of fans.

"If fans can mingle and mix together it has got to be better. I would love to see that, but I don't think it will happen in my lifetime."




SEE ALSO:
Bluebirds top soccer thugs table
18 Aug 03  |  South East Wales


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