The scourge of football-related violence has been with us since the 1960s, and came to the fore during the 70s and 80s, before the use of CCTV and other pro-active measures started the fight back by police and the authorities. The so-called ‘beautiful game’ has served to enrich the way of life for many generations in the UK and abroad, but for a relatively small, but significant, mindless minority football provides a platform for organised acts of mindless violence at its extreme, whilst spontaneous incidents of disorder, often fuelled by alcohol, remain a reality.

‘The Hooligans Are Still Among Us’ was released on the 15 May 2017, co-written with Bill Rogerson. It seeks to provide readers with a resume of those early years, using recollections from retired police officers, before examining in some detail the risks that such violent individuals pose whilst travelling on the rail networks, and at, and around stadiums in the UK during the 2015/2016 season.

The authors draw on material, much of it ‘open source’, which clearly indicates that, whilst we have not returned fully to the ‘bad old days’ of the 80s, the problem of football hooliganism still exists to this day. As police tactics have been honed over the years through better use of intelligence, legislation and technology so too have the tactics of determined hooligans. One has only to look at ‘social media’ to see how readily material of an anti-social nature can be found.

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British Transport Police officers, outside Arsenal tube station, 1980s. (Tony Thompson, The Hooligans Are Still Among Us, Amberley Publishing)

This latest book also explores problems in the sport relating to sectarianism and racial abuse in the UK, as well as the impact that ‘travelling’ English supporters have at international ‘away’ games. Sometimes, ‘more sinned against’ than being ‘sinners’ themselves, the historical reputation of English supporters often goes before them, sometimes leading to violence and confrontation, as groups vie for supremacy.

This behaviour is vividly described in accounts of violence by eye-witnesses at the European Championships in France in June 2016, and, in particular, at the Old Port in Marseilles on the 11 June 2016. It is clear that, to the ‘combatants’, status is everything, and reinforcing their position in the ‘hooligans hierarchy’, all important.

After a review of the history of some of the UK’s better-known hooligan ‘firms’, the book moves on to look at some of the latest measures that the police are taking, and also takes an academic view on one of the ways forward, where such issues as ‘fan engagement’ are highlighted.

There is no doubt that history plays a huge part in the mind-set of hooligans and ‘local derbies’, and high-profile tournaments always feature highly in their planning.

As some of the older hooligan elements have taken a ‘back-seat’, there are some indications that ‘youth groups’ are filling that vacuum, particularly at non-league football games, where there are normally no police in attendance, or there is a lack of effective stewarding and CCTV.

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Monitoring football traffic at Wembley Park Station in 2014. (British Transport Police Media Centre, The Hooligans Are Still Among Us, Amberley Publishing)

As former police officers, Bill and I have no desire whatsoever to vilify the many thousands of decent football supporters who travel to games each week, or indeed to glorify the actions of those who seek attention from the media through their perverse actions.

Without doubt however, this is a problem that remains in our society, so much so in fact that less than two years ago the British Transport Police put tackling football hooliganism at the very heart of their operational priorities – indeed it was second only to tackling terrorism.

The irony of this directive will not be lost on many, as we witness the recent terrorist attacks in the UK, and without doubt, as the police seek to balance finite resources, the challenges to tackle football related violence will become even more demanding.

To some extent, ‘The Hooligans Are Still Among Us’ acts as a sequel to ‘Tracking The Hooligans’, which was also published by Amberley in 2016. Whilst it is specific by way of its reference to football violence on the UK rail network, nevertheless, the principles of research remain the same.

I refer to a statement made by the BTP Chief Constable Mr Gay in 1972, which remains with me to this day: “On an average Saturday, some thirty trains carried police escorts of between two to eight officers. They sometimes reached their destination with their uniforms spoiled with spittle, and other filth, burnt with cigarette ends, or slashed….”

This is how it was, and often still is, for the very thin blue line of officers who have to deal with such issues week in, week out, whether on transport networks, or in city centres and stadiums.

This is the sort of behaviour that innocent members of the public still have to endure on a regular basis – in short, ‘The Hooligans Are Still Among Us’.


Michael Layton and Bill Rogerson's new book The Hooligans Are Still Among Us is available for purchase now.