Why police show a red card to this hooligan's book

Football yobs are kicking up a literary storm before the World Cup but they have run into problems, Jason Bennetto reports
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The Independent Online
AN expected rash of books and articles written by football hooligans trying to cash in on their exploits during the World Cup has prompted a police warning that they could encourage fighting and rioting.

The warning follows the disclosure that Paul Dodd, a convicted hooligan banned from every Football League ground in Britain, plans to have his book, believed to be called Serial Adventures of a Soccer Yob, published next Monday - two days before the start of the finals in France.

Dodd, 26 - a member of the hooligan outfit Carlisle's Border City Firm - revels in the title of Britain's worst soccer thug and has more than 30 convictions. In 1995, he was arrested after being involved in the Dublin riot and was held by Italian police after attacking two men on his way to England's World Cup qualifier in Rome last October.

The National Criminal Intelligence Service, which includes a football hooligan unit, is concerned that football thugs who "glorify violence" could encourage fighting at the World Cup.

The NCIS yesterday appealed to media outlets not to publish material written by hooligans and said that the police would consider taking any media outlets that promoted or serialised the new books to the Press Complaints Commission. Mark Steels, head of news at NCIS, said: "We expect various hooligans to cash in on the World Cup. We are sharply against this - we don't think criminals should be allowed to profit out of criminal activities and glorify violent crime, and the media should not encourage them to do so.

"We would be against any media organisation who tried to publish or serialise extracts of the books. Articles written by hooligans are not helpful either.

"This would be exceptionally unhelpful in the run-up to the World Cup."

He added: "We would have to look at taking action to stop convicted hooligans - if, for example, the press were to serialise the works of a convicted criminal we might well make a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission."

In the past couple of years a small industry has built up around the publications of books based on the reminiscences of soccer hooligans - some of whom have reformed. Most sell fewer than 10,000 copies, but other authors, such as the former hooligans Dougie and Eddy Brimson, who have just published their fourth book, Derby Days - the game we love to hate, have sold about 100,000 books.

One of their previous books, Capital Punishment, is, according to the promotional material, "a remarkable and frank examination of football violence involving the supporters of clubs from the capital".

Authors can expect to be paid between pounds 2,500 and pounds 20,000, although most manuscripts are rejected for being badly written and boring.

Mickey Francis, the author of another recently published book, Guvnors, is, according to the boast on the cover: "The first of the hooligan 'top boys' to tell his story."

Francis, 37, has been "a football hooligan since his youth", proclaims the publicity; "he has numerous convictions for violence-related offences, has served two prison terms and is currently banned from every soccer ground in Britain".

The back-cover promotion adds: "Mickey Francis and his brothers led an army of Manchester City thugs on a 15-year trial of terror on the streets and football terraces of Britain. They fought scores of pitched battles with rival 'firms' until their violent reign was brought to an end by the police ... Guvnors tells it the way it was in the heyday of the hooligan culture."

The book is dedicated "To all the football firms that stood and fought on the terraces".

One of the best-selling novels about hooliganism, and one not written by one of the perpetrators, was the The Football Factory, by John King. Published in 1996 it has gone on to sell 140,000 copies.

Ian Marshall, the sports publisher of Headline Publishing, whose authors include the Brimson brothers, said: "In the past few years these type of books have been one of the big boom areas in sports publishing. They are written by a very specific type of fan, but they seem to have a much more general appeal among all football fans."

He denied that the Brimsons' books glorified violence. "They are not glorifying football hooliganism. They have been working hard to come up with solutions to the problem of violence."

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