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Saturday, 12 August, 2000, 19:01 GMT 20:01 UK
Football violence on the rise
Trouble at Millwall
Mounted police chase thugs before a Millwall v Cardiff match
By the BBC's Sports Correspondent, Neil Bennett

Violence at football matches in England and Wales went up again last season, according to figures released by the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS).

Although the total number of arrests went down from 3341 during the 1998/1999 season to 3138 during 1999/2000, the figures were up for offences involving violence.

Hooliganism is not just a football problem

Det Supt Bryan Drew
The NCIS report shows a continuation in the recent trend for disorder to break out away from football grounds, which are now more effectively monitored with CCTV and stronger policing.

The government is hoping that the new Football Disorder Act, which comes into force at the end of August, will help combat the problem by giving the courts greater powers to ban known hooligans.

'Inherent tribalism'

The latest NCIS figures indicate that most of the trouble involved supporters from Nationwide League clubs, with Wolves fans misbehaving more than any other group.

But Detective Superintendent Bryan Drew, from NCIS, says hooliganism is not just a problem for football.

"The reports from forces all over the country show the opportunistic and violent problem that we still face.

"Hooliganism is not just a football problem. The activities of drunken young Englishmen can be seen on continental beaches and outside English city and country pubs during the summer months.

"But football, with its inherent tribalism, passions and loyalties has always been a beacon for such boorish behaviour," he said.

Influence of the net

NCIS reports that a growing number of websites have sprung up on the internet spreading xenophobia and encouraging a "culture of hate".

Home office minister Lord Bassam
Lord Bassam: dealing with disorder and anti-social behavious
Some hooligan activity is planned over the internet and via mobile phones and pagers. But the police say that the real organisers of violence would never dream of advertising their involvement publicly and operate in secret.

Their activities often include other criminality such as drug trafficking and counterfeit currency.

The figures make depressing reading for the government, still smarting from criticism that it didn't do enough to stop English hooligans making trouble at Euro 2000.

'Not just legislation'

The Football Disorder Act is designed to give courts greater powers to ban known or suspected hooligans from going to matches at home and abroad.

But the Home Office minister Lord Bassam said it was not just about legislation.

"We are also setting up a working group with the key players in the football world to look at ticketing and other issues to help prevent hooliganism. Our work on this is part of a much wider government commitment to deal with disorder and anti social behaviour", he said.

The footballing world has tried to stress the positive in these statistics.

There are few arrests in football stadia themselves and the Football Association says the increase in arrests for racial chanting shows that the game is taking this particular problem seriously.

But the violent activities of a small number of thugs who latch on to football, continue to embarrass the game and damage England reputation abroad.

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See also:

14 Jul 00 | UK Politics
MPs back football thug crackdown
07 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Hooligan Bill unveiled
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