FA investigates violence at Bridge

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The Independent Online

The Football Association began an investigation yesterday into the crowd trouble which marred Chelsea's League Cup match against West Ham on Wednesday evening, the second such outbreak at a London match within 24 hours.

The Football Association began an investigation yesterday into the crowd trouble which marred Chelsea's League Cup match against West Ham on Wednesday evening, the second such outbreak at a London match within 24 hours.

Wednesday's trouble, which came on the heels of a mini-riot at Millwall's Cup tie against Liverpool, began after Chelsea's Mateja Kezman was hit above the left eye by a coin thrown from the Stamford Bridge stands.

Police in riot gear struggled to contain West Ham supporters at the end of the game, which Chelsea won 1-0 thanks to Kezman's first goal for the club. Eleven people were arrested.

"The FA will seek reports from both clubs and the police, as well as reviewing video evidence and the referee's report," an FA statement said.

The FA is also investigating the violence at Millwall on Tuesday, when a group of visiting fans tried to charge into the home end, reportedly after chants about the Hillsborough disaster from home supporters. Millwall's security officers said that 68 seats had been ripped out and four fans ejected from the ground.

In a third hooligan-related episode, police in the West Midlands yesterday arrested 13 football supporters in a series of dawn raids in connection with a street brawl following West Bromwich Albion's match with Aston Villa on 22 August. The men - four Albion followers and nine Villa followers - were arrested on suspicion of violent disorder.

If new figures from the Home Office are any indication, this week's violent episodes are not so much a re-emergence of wide-scale football-related hooliganism but a continuation of a problem that has never gone away. In fact, hooliganism overall has been on the decline, and the violence this week has arguably been given a higher than usual profile because of the Premiership teams involved and the nature of the television footage.

"Football-related disorder has not gone away," said the Home Office Minister, Caroline Flint, this week, revealing detailed updated figures on football violence for last season. "The statistics reflect a lingering, if small, domestic disorder problem and we are not complacent."

There was a 10 per cent drop in arrests at football matches during the 2003-04 season, with 3,982 arrests for football-related disorder, compared to 4,413 in 2002-03. More than 36 million attended the matches in question. The majority of matches were trouble-free, with 50 per cent of Premiership games having one arrest or no arrests for any offence, including those relating to alcohol.

Manchester United followers had the worst behaviour record among Premiership clubs last season, with 170 arrests, 80 of them at home games and 90 at away games. Portsmouth (168 arrests) and Leeds (122) were the only other top-flight clubs last season with more than 100 arrests. Fans of Charlton and Fulham were best behaved, with fewer than 10 arrests each.

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