Hooligans return to football grounds

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The Independent Online
HOOLIGANISM HAS made a return to football grounds as the latest arrest statistics showed an increase in loutish behaviour for the first time in six years.

Arrests for violent disorder almost doubled last season, according to figures compiled by the National Criminal Intelligence Service. Its report shows that the number of arrests for football-related offences in England and Wales increased to 3,341 during the 1998/9 season from 3,307 the previous season.

Arrests rose for threatening behaviour, affray and throwing missiles, but those for racial or indecent chanting were down.

Bryan Drew, head of strategic and specialist intelligence at NCIS, said: "Last season the ugly face of football hooliganism made a small but very unwelcome return.

"The numbers of people involved do remain comparatively small but, far from being `mindless', they are well organised and adept at exploiting spontaneous situations."

Arrests for violent disorder rose from 52 in 1997/8 to 100 last season, those for threatening behaviour increased from 312 to 322, affray from 65 to 69 and assault from 110 to 133. Racial and indecent chanting arrests fell from 33 to 25.

Mr Drew went on: "Away from the grounds and with activities planned and communicated using mobile phones, pagers and the Internet, the hooligans remain a menace.

"Many continue to use football matches as a cover for other criminal activities.

"As the new football season begins and with England's last qualifying matches in Euro 2000 only a month away, we fully support the endeavours made by Simon Burns MP to get the Football (Offences and Disorder Act) on the statute books."

Home Office minister Lord Bassam echoed Mr Drew's comments, saying: "This Act will toughen up measures to deal with hooliganism, both domestically and at international matches involving supporters from England and Wales."