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Monday, 20 May, 2002, 05:47 GMT 06:47 UK
Hammam defends hooligan contacts
Cardiff City chairman Sam Hammam
The Cardiff City chairman is a controversial figure
Cardiff City chairman Sam Hammam is set to defend himself against a BBC documentary which questioned his commitment to tackling the club's hooligan problem.

The BBC Two series Hooligans broadcast on Sunday night showed him celebrating Cardiff's promotion in 2001 in the company of known troublemakers from the notorious Soul Crew gang.

Secret camera
Reporters filmed Cardiff fans undercover

The Lebanese businessman has previously defended his actions, saying it was necessary to get to know hooligans in order to reform them.

Hammam is due to give his reaction to the programme in a live phone-in on BBC Radio Wales at 0830 BST on Monday.

The programme - Kicking Off - described how the former owner of Wimbledon FC was treated as a messiah when he bought Cardiff City in the summer of 2000.

Triumphs and trouble

The club was languishing in the Third Division but, two seasons later, have only narrowly missed promotion to the First.

However, as Cardiff City's fortunes on the field improved, its hooligan reputation got worse.

Sam Hammam walks around Ninian Park
Hammam has been accused of inciting fans

At the end of Hammam's first season at the club, the Bluebirds were promoted to the Second Division.

The programme shows how known hooligans were among the selected fans treated by the chairman to a coach trip and champagne reception at a hotel outside Mansfield, Nottinghamshire.

Following the event, Hammam told a local newspaper that he was "proud to travel with the Soul Crew".

In his defence, Hammam has claimed to have a policy of rehabilitation of hooligans, saying he can tame them with "love and hugs".

Former chief superintendent Gerry Toms
Gerry Toms is unconvinced by Hammam's tactics

But former police chief superintendent Gerry Toms, who was head of the Cardiff division of South Wales Police, told the programme he was sceptical of such an approach.

He said: "To bring people who have clearly been involved... directly and indirectly, in football hooliganism into the heart of the football club is really, in my view, almost endorsing their behaviour."

National disgrace

Cardiff's hooligan problem came to a head in January when the club's shock FA Cup victory against Leeds United at Ninian Park was marred by violence.

Among the troublemakers was former Bluebirds player Dai Thomas, who was jailed for 60 days.

Cardiff fans
A pitch invasion followed the Leeds game

The disturbances prompted Hammam to launch what he called a "war on hooliganism".

But further trouble followed an end-of-season playoff against Stoke City and the FAW Premier Cup Final with Swansea City.

On Thursday, Cardiff was fined 20,000 by the Football Association of Wales for misconduct over the trouble at the Leeds game.

The next day it was revealed that Cardiff were top of the list of clubs whose followers were among more than 1,000 suspected hooligans banned from travelling abroad during the World Cup.

Hear Sam Hammam on BBC Radio Wales from 0830 BST to 0900 BST Monday - you can listen live online.

Call 08700 100 110 to take part or email goodmorningwales@bbc.co.uk.

You can also post your views in our Talking Point on the story.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Wales's Nick Palit
"The documentary had undercover footage of violence on the streets of Cardiff"

Talking PointTALKING POINT
Crowd trouble
Can football hooligans be tamed?

In a three part undercover investigation shown on BBC Two, the BBC travels from Bermondsey to Buenos Aires to find the true face of football hooliganism today.
The BBC investigates

See also:

19 May 02 | Talking Point
17 May 02 | Hooligans
10 May 02 | Hooligans
02 May 02 | Hooligans
18 May 02 | Wales
17 May 02 | Cardiff City
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