Sunderland tops the football hooligan league

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The Independent Online

Manchester United are nowhere near the top of the Premiership; Chelsea and Sunderland ought to be ashamed of themselves, and Wycombe Wanderers are the best club in the entire Football League.

Manchester United are nowhere near the top of the Premiership; Chelsea and Sunderland ought to be ashamed of themselves, and Wycombe Wanderers are the best club in the entire Football League.

Welcome to the football hooliganism results, a record of how many got arrested during 1999-2000, issued by Britain's police intelligence service as the new season begins.

Top of the Premiership (or bottom) is Sunderland, where 223 fans were arrested, mainly as a result of intensive policing operations. On one occasion, 53 Wearside fans were arrested on a coach before they even reached a game with Derby County after officers learned that they were planning attacks on rival supporters.

This was also the case with Chelsea, whose 168 arrests included a group of 100 hooligans stopped by police from attending a game against Tottenham Hotspur after police found weapons including a meat cleaver and a bottle of ammonia which they planned to use on a rival Tottenham gang.

Three of the most popular and biggest clubs in the land had surprisingly few arrested. Manchester United had 88, from a total season's crowd of 1.04 million; Arsenal had 89 arrests in 700,000 and Liverpool 80 arrests among 800,000.

But while other football clubs are haunted by the hooligan scourge, managers at Macclesfield Town and Wycombe can rest in the knowledge that they have the best-behaved fans in the country. Police did not have to arrest any supporters at either ground last season.

The figures have been compiled by the National Criminal Intelligence Service, who said last night that there was an increase in violent attacks at British football matches last season. It also noted a substantial rise in missile throwing, threatening behaviour, and a rise in the level of racially abusive and indecent chanting.

Bryan Drew, head of strategic and specialist intelligence at NCIS, said much of the violence was preplanned. "The criminal hooligan element often know when a game is going to be police free and, far from being 'mindless', are well organised."

Lord Bassam, the Home Office minister, said many of the major public order offences were connected with small clubs. "That is where we are picking up more problems with disorder," he said. "The vast majority are well behaved. But a lot of violence is fuelled by alcohol."

He added that the Government will work with football organisations to look at ways of preventing hooliganism.

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