Football hooliganism numbers up as police fear return to 1980s violence

Police and security contain Mansfield fans after a match at Milton Keynes Dons. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

Police have expressed concerns about the return of football hooliganism after a reported rise in violent incidents.

Figures reported in The Times have shown a rise in disorder at football matches across England with law enforcement worried about a return to the kind of violence seen in previous decades.

“Having successfully clamped down on hooliganism since the Eighties we are once again starting to see it creep back into the game,” said deputy chief constable of South Yorkshire and the police national lead for football policing Mark Roberts.

“While we are not quite at that level of violence yet, the use of weapons and the pre-planning of fights are coming back.”

Crowd trouble during Birmingham v Leeds in 1985. (Photo by Staff/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)
Millwall fans riot, fighting pitched battles with the police, match against Luton (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)

The number of matches with incidents ranging from throwing coins to fighting rose from 727 in the 2012-13 season to 1,128 in 2017-18.

In the last year alone, Assault was up 24%, hate crime rose by 67% and the use of flares and fireworks by 21%.

The Times also reports more arrests are taking place involving clubs outside the Premier League.

Championship side Birmingham City had the highest number of recorded arrests in the 2017-18 season with 95, more than twice that of the highest Premier League team, West Ham with 46. Further down the pyramid In League Two, Coventry City had the most arrests with 37, followed by Grimsby Town on 35.

Ugly scenes at Stanford Bridge as a fight breaks out between Chelsea fans. (Photo by Plumb Images/Leicester City FC via Getty Images)
A flare thrown onto the pitch during Salford v Leeds (Martin Rickett/PA Wire)


With a number of teams based in London resulting in large scale policing operations in place each weekend, The Met Police told Yahoo Sport they are committed to minimising trouble by working closely with the clubs.

“The Metropolitan Police Service has a dedicated football unit which works closely with all clubs across London to ensure spectators, players and staff can attend safe and enjoyable events.

“The Met ensures a proportionate policing plan and response is in place for each match.

A fight breaks out among fans during the Championship match at The KCOM Stadium, Hull. (Photo by Mike Egerton/PA Images via Getty Images)
Police patrol outside Stamford Bridge ahead of Chelsea and West Ham United. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)


“We are working with the London clubs, Football Association, Premier League and English Football League to assist them in challenging the behaviour of this minority of their fans, for the club to take action, and where appropriate for police involvement.”

An increase incidents could be linked to budget cuts in policing over the last decade.

According to the National Audit Office, Home Office spending on police has been cut by 19%, leading to a loss of 45,000 officers and staff, since 2010.

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