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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 August, 2003, 11:18 GMT 12:18 UK
The allure of being a Casual
Some English fans ran amok in France during the World Cup 1998
Some English fans ran amok in France during the World Cup 1998

Arrests at football matches soared by almost 20% over the last season. Dubbed the 'yob laureate', reformed soccer hooligan and writer Dougie Brimson says it could be the start of a new revival in violence off the pitch and teen thugs are leading the way.

There is nothing in his rampaging acts as a fan of Watford FC Dougie Brimson is ashamed of.

He was never arrested and he stopped getting involved when clubs and knives became as much of the Saturday kit as a scarf.

"When they started filling squeezable Vicks bottles with ammonia, I just thought, that's enough, I'm out of this."

An RAF serviceman and newly married, he didn't stop going to games but he made it clear to the friends he went with that he wasn't going to get involved in trouble.

"You develop a sense of where it's going to happen," he said.

"I don't condemn hooligans, it's a personal choice. I just had more at stake than everybody else."

If we get to 2004 - and it's a big if - the crowd damage that the fans will do to the English game and nation will be catastrophic

The latest figures, released by the Home Office on Monday, show arrests and match bans are on the increase.

So too, says Brimson, is match thuggery and he predicts an escalation in the run up to the European Championships in 2004.

"If we get to 2004 - and it's a big if - the crowd damage that the fans will do to the English game and nation will be catastrophic."

Tickets for England's final qualifier against Turkey in October are not being made available to England fans because of a history of trouble between fans of the two sides and a threat by governing body UEFA to pull the England team out of the competition if there was crowd trouble.

That, says Brimson, is like a red rag to a bull.

Teen thugs

"The Football Association (which withdrew the Turkey tickets) know people will still go so they're avoiding responsibility for them.

"I know lads who want to go because their team is their mecca and they'll be regarded as hooligans because the FA told them not to go.

"Most will go, have a drink, see a bit of the country. But there is a group who will be picked up by police and they will react to that."

The police said the amount of violence is up at home matches because of a new breed of teen thugs.

They are arresting fans as young as 14.

Brimson, a father of three, says children have always been involved in football gangs.

Weapons seized from Newcastle FC fans in 1996
Weapons including guns and knives seized from Newcastle FC fans in 1996

"They looked up to the older lads and hung around them, spotting the police and gathering intelligence.

"You had to earn the respect of the gang and that comes with time.

"When I was a kid I ran a mile when I saw a copper. Now there's no respect for the law.

"And the police have no respect for them. In some circles they're known as the biggest thugs of them all.

"One told me going to football was stress relief for him."

And Brimson says being a football hooligan or Casual is simply "fashionable".

"It's a culture of wearing designer gear - the fashion for wearing Burberry came from football.

"You used to see signs in pubs saying No Football Shirts - now they say No Burberry or Stone Island."

He said making it undesirable could be done and he praised the way racism on the terraces was made "completely unfashionable".

Everywhere We Go (1996) and Barmy Army (2000)
'The best book on football violence' Daily Mail

"But someone has to stand up and say what is being done just now to tackle hooligans is not working."

He says the answer lies in giving fans a greater say in the running of their clubs.

"For some supporters the only voice they have is the one they use on the terraces on a Saturday."

Now Brimson writes books about football gangs, both fiction and non-fiction, and one is being made into a film.

It's A Casual Life is due out in October to coincide with the England v Turkey game.

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28 Jul 03  |  England
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12 Jun 03  |  Tees
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26 May 03  |  England

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