Hooliganism has been very wrongly seen within the wider football community to have evaporated and is no longer a part of our game, but that is quite clearly not the case.
When you travel abroad it is often said that British football is fortunate to have eradicated violence associated with football fans, but when we have a weekend like we have just had, it makes that kind of view seem utter nonsense.
It is very hard to know how complacent the football authorities and police have been in this country of late, and it will be very interesting to see what steps are now taken in the wake of the latest outbreaks of violence.
When it is rival supporters fighting that is one thing, but to have one set of segregated fans scrapping with each other – what do you do about that?
With the same set of supporters fighting in a section of a stand, it is very difficult to know what can be done to prevent it – but there is no doubt that the police did seem to be very slow to intervene.
One thing that must be addressed is the issue of late weekend kick-offs, because it is driven entirely by TV and is becoming a major issue with security.
The justification can no longer be made that the broadcasters pay for the rights and can dictate when a match is played, because the police have to make a stand if they feel that security and safety is being compromised.
There is absolutely no need for a weekend FA Cup fixture to be kicking off so late, and crucially it gives the hooligans ample opportunity to fill their boots with alcohol and illegal substances before the match has even got under way.
If there is something positive that can come out of this weekend’s violence, it would be for changes to be made with the scheduling of matches that are clearly likely to descend into violence.
It is sadly no secret in football that the Millwall followers have a very negative reputation and history – it is pretty astonishing that an FA Cup tie featuring the club was allowed to be played that late on a Saturday.
The authorities must be seen to be doing everything they possibly can do to eradicate violence, and this cannot be simply swept under the carpet and viewed as a one-off, because this is a situation that can always creep back into the game.
One potential solution I do not agree with is the suggestion that supporters of clubs such as Millwall can only attend high-profile weekend matches if they are season-ticket holders or established members of some sort.
The only loser in that situation would be football, and it would prevent new fans from coming to matches and drive people away from the sport.
It makes you wonder if we are being very naive when we catch ourselves thinking that hooliganism is no longer part of the game, in the same way that people tell themselves and others that racism doesn’t exist.
We must stress that this is a minority of mindless thugs that we are talking about, but the scenes in Newcastle’s city centre was also very alarming and disturbing. It is linked to unemployment and social frustration, of course, but it was the last thing that football needed.
They lost a big derby match and were pretty humiliated by their rivals Sunderland, but it is just a game of football and what we saw afterwards was absolutely horrendous and something must be done about it.
The police and football’s authorities must be aware that ensuring security at a ground is one thing, but they cannot switch off after full time and think that is the end of it – this weekend showed that evil acts can occur well after a game.
Football fans are being heard more than ever before, and they must take responsibility themselves to ensure that the scenes at the weekend are not repeated: it is their game, and they cannot allow it to be ruined by an idiotic minority.
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