The English Disease
From thenet Magazine (Kind of like the Daily Mail of Computer Mags) January 2000 (out first week of December)

Heres another poor piece of journalism about Football Violence, the internet and Millwall. Judge its credibility for yourself, with just three points I will highlight:

1) The title of the piece is "The English Disease" when basing their article on trouble at a game between an English and Welsh club. Apportioning blame from the start?

2) "… matches are becoming battlegrounds for hooligans" thought they have been battlegrounds for 25 years.

3)  Dave Rowley quoted as saying "Dodd's site is past it.  It used to have some valuable information when it first come out about a year ago, but now I reckon it's [by] students." Students? School kids surely!

The article contains Pictures of Cardiff Supporters on the Bob Bank? from August's game, The back page of the Mirror after the Derby playoff game with the headline Mill - War a much smaller back page of the Sun after we knock Chelsea out of the FA cup with the headline Mindless (but no explaining caption) and picture of England fans in Dublin and Rome.

The English Disease: "This Season, British police have already dealt with 20 violent disturbances at football grounds, while international matches are becoming battlegrounds for hooligans. The Ugly face of football has reappeared, say David Hurst - and this time round, the thugs are on the Net……

IT'S THE OPENING DAY OF THIS year's football season and Dave Rowley is doing what he does best: following his favourite team to an away match. He's been looking forward to this opening fixture since the last season ended. He lives for Saturday afternoons and midweek matches. It's his hobby.

'We're at this bar in the centre of Cardiff where we'd arranged to meet for a drink,' recalls Dave, a 24-year-old labourer from south London, his face turning upwards at the memory of the matchday. 'There's about 100 of us when suddenly this geezer comes running in with his mobile. 'They're up the road,' he shouts, 'about 400-handed and fucking up for it."

'Next thing we're outside having it toe to toe with all these massive Taffs - windows are going, bottles are cracking on heads, there's a bit of blood and lots of shouting. We're well outnumbered but Millwall give as good as we get and we stand. I booted some bloke like he was a football. Then the Old Bill showed up and spoiled it.'

THE INTERNET: GROWING RESPONSIBILITY Ask Dave if he's a football hooligan and he'd say that he isn't. He'd say he was fighting for what he believes in, and what he believes in is Millwall Football Club. Regardless of what you want to call it, figures over the last couple of seasons show that the ugly face of football-related violence has reappeared, and it's being organised over the Internet. Now, as well as a bottle and knife, a hooligan's weapons are a mouse and an awful lot of mouth.

There have been other incidents of hooliganism this season, some reported on the front and back of the nationals, but most not even mentioned in local papers. The National Criminal Intelligence Service said there were more arrests last season for violence compared to the previous one. The trend looks like continuing, and police chiefs are becoming 'increasingly alarmed' about the number of incidents of thuggery - police have had to deal with more than 20 violent disturbances so far, not including the fallout from the Scotland v England games.

Bryan Drew, head of the NCIS Strategic and Specialist Intelligence Branch, said: 'In August last year, arrests for the more violent football-related offences had shown a marked increase over the previous season. A well-organised hardcore is hell-bent on causing mayhem, using football matches as a cover for its criminal activities.' Football hooliganism is back - and the Net has to take some of the blame.

After the Cardiff versus Millwall fixture - another meeting is set for 4 December - the tabloid newspapers reported how thugs had arranged the violence on the Internet through a Web page set up by Paul Dodd, the Carlisle fan dubbed Britain's 'most notorious hooligan'. His Web site includes a Message Board section on which those who follow football teams - in order to fight for them - taunt each other, arrange 'meets' and swap tales of violent mob disorder at football matches.

The tabloids claimed victory over the thugs when they managed to get the site closed, but a few days later it was back and shutting it down simply had an adverse effect - when some of the football fans who used it realised they were being watched they simply set up new ones. Sites such as and unofficial club chat sites have the potential to gear hooligans up for matches while forming their plans for physical confrontation. The 'English Disease' has, like all the worst bugs, spread, and there's even a site, www.qeocitiescom/colosseum/fleid/6261/index1.htm, where hooligans from around Europe can look at pictures showing what other team's fans look like, and see shots of their own 'firms' in fighting action. A visit to the Paul Dodd site reveals messages containing shining pearls of prose: 'Walked right across a mob of about i5o of your lot coming down from the grassy bank. No disrespect but they were mainly young kids who did not look much, I thought about chinning a couple of them. After the match came out and I saw a small number - about 30 reasonably rough looking geezers. I think they were Gooners. Anyway my mate and I got down to Aston and (thank fuck ) must have been about 1 minute away from a large mob of MUFC (250?) who came down. We saw the OB herding them away from where we were queuing up for the train that broke down on way back. If you'd broken through you would only have slapped scarfers, although my mate and 1 would have given a good account of ourselves before dying.'

ALL THE RAGE: FASHIONABLE AGAIN There's no doubt that, given the publicity, there are now plenty of people visiting the site whose only involvement in football hooliganism is from sitting at home in front of a screen. However, there's also no doubt that hoolisites are playing a major part in organising violence around matches and of making hooliganism 'fashionable' once more.

Ken Chapman, Head of Security at Millwall, acknowledges this. 'The Internet is increasing the hype. You get somebody with a twisted mind who, say, supports Chelsea and they're playing Arsenal next week, so they send a message to an unofficial Arsenal site saying, "We're coming to get you and this is what we're going to do..." and the word gets round.

'Paul Dodd has his own Web site, and that is used just by like- minded individuals. There is organised hooliganism, and people who will be fighting each other one week will be together under the banner of England or one of the home nations the next. It is a culture I've been involved in looking at for 10 years and I still don't understand the complexities of it.'

Former hooligan Jason Shipley, a 34-year-old salesman from Edmonton, north London, used to travel with Tottenham's firm until his throat was slashed during a fight with Coventry's mob in the late Eighties. He needed 15 stitches and the incident, along with two convictions for affray in football grounds, put him off going for a fight. He tells how he realised just how serious things had become and, like a lot of the hooligans of the time, left football and turned to raves and taking ecstasy for his weekly buzz. However, a few years ago he stopped clubbing and slowly returned to watching Spurs.

'I don't row at all now,' says Shipley. 'I've got a wife, kids and a mortgage. What I've noticed in the last couple of seasons, though, is that a lot of the old boys are around again. Even though football is safer to go to and it's changed from the old terrace days, I've seen a few firms appearing again. You can spot them a mile off - no team colours, designer gear like Prada tops, Timberland boots, white Reebok trainers, Armani jackets - the lot. There's a lot of youngsters, early twenties, who are there as well.

'Internet sites are providing more of an outlet for hooliganism because people are reading more about it. In the Eighties, every week there'd be a newspaper report about trouble and that would spur people on. But now you can read about it on the Net and people get fired up on that.

'You can go to any club's unofficial site and hear what fans are saying. Say you're playing Leicester next week, you can practically go and sit in a Leicester pub and listen to them go on, and then come back and gee people up.

'Even the people who aren't on the Internet will hear it. I've been in a Spurs pub and I've heard people say, 'I was looking at a Man United site and they said they were going to bring 100 boys down'. Within 10 minutes that's become, 'United are bringing a mob of 200 down". Because it's coming off the Net it's like a secret sect, and kids love being involved in things like that.'

THE LEGAL WAY: THE FOOTBALL ACT The Government and police are so worried by the re-emergence of football aggro that they introduced a new law last September (the Football [Offences and Disorder] Act 1999) that includes tough measures such as not even having to attend a match to be convicted - if people are at a place principally because of a football match and they cause trouble which leads to a conviction they could face a banning order, and banning orders stop an offender going to all matches in the country for a minimum of a year. If someone commits a football related offence within 24 hours either before or after a match, they also run the risk of a banning order, where they have to report at match times to a specific police station.

Punishments for offences committed abroad have also been toughened up - international bans can now last 10 years and a person has to submit their passport to a police station before key matches. Assistant Chief Constable Tim Hollis, member of the Association of Chief Police Officers and police spokesperson on football hooliganism, says: 'The police have never been complacent on football hooligans. We can't be. In fact, we actually pointed out that hooliganism was on the up again so that people didn't get complacent. Most of the problems take place away from the ground.

'Around 20 years ago the only way hooligans could communicate was by landline telephone, then we had mobile phones and pagers, so yes, now they use the internet. obviously we take steps to monitor that goes on there. Those involved in the organisation of hooliganism will utilise whatever technology is to hand. It's making the information more available, but whether it actually increases the problem is a debatable point.

'Granted, we have a reputation in this country and yet, in Belgium last year, two matches that were the equivalent of Premiership games were cancelled because they couldn't guarantee security - if that had happened over here it would have been headline news. And last season the police in Holland actually opened fire on hooligans.'

The shootings occurred last May during riots in Rotterdam, where 250,000 Feyenoord fans were celebrating their side's success in clinching the Dutch league title.

Six policemen fired live bullets after being attacked by dozens of youths. One victim was hit in the stomach, another shot in the neck and two received leg wounds. It is thought hooligans fired back at the police - bullet holes were found in a window of the Hilton Hotel and, while one gang attacked the police, another broke shop windows and looted goods. Property damage is estimated at up to £3 million.

With considerable experience in dealing with hooliganism, what's the British police force's reaction? Says Hollis: 'Well, European police look to us for advice, but we have never said it's easy, and we've never said we could eradicate it.' As well as the new law and policing measures such as dogs and horses that have become part of our whole footballing experience, police and stewards infiltrate gangs, have newer methods of capture such as smaller CCTV cameras and are fully trained in dealing with hooligans. They should be - after all, in this country they've had 30 years to prepare themselves.

THE FUTURE FIGHTING FIT? Leicester University's John Williams, an expert on football hooliganism and Director of the Centre for Football Research, feels that football hooliganism never really went away. instead, he believes that it was merely displaced to lower divisions where matches tend to have a less sophisticated policing system, and that the Internet is a catalyst.

'I do think the Web fires people up,' he says. 'Plus, all the new books about hooliganism indicate that there's a big market for this and that young men who like fighting over football haven't gone away.' Martin King - author of two books reminiscing about real football-related violence, Naughty Nineties and Hoolifan - 30 Years of Hurt - once enjoyed fighting at matches. A Chelsea fan, he is still very much 'in the know' of what's going on with today's new football firms and has his own Web site,

'It is definitely fashionable again,' he says. 'There is a new influx of youngsters jumping on the bandwagon and they seem to be having a good time. On my Web site we had to put up a note saying this is not a meeting place to arrange rows. But there are other ones like Dodd's site where people do arrange a few things.'

However, Millwall hooligan Dave Rowley thinks Dodd's site is past it. 'It used to have some valuable information when it first come out about a year ago, but now I reckon it's [by] students. Still, I probably hear about the decent sites before most people and there are new ones springing up all the time. To be honest, I don't care how the off is arranged as long as it happens.'


  The Millwall History Files    The Millwall Story since the early 1980's         [Home]  [Contents]  [Links]   [Search]