Same as it ever was
So West Ham v Millwall turned into a massive bunch up and for once I don’t have smart alec response to this. You see anyone who knows anything about football and fan culture will tell you that this was always going to be a high tension fixture. Both clubs have a well deserved reputation for having a nasty following and these elements have considered each other rivals for many decades. So for their to be clashes between fans was not exactly an unexpected event.
However…… as I have stated many times on this blog, football has come a long way since the 1980s. Football grounds are much safer places, the areas around football grounds on match days are much safer places. They are (for the most part) family friendly and the police presence is now 90% for ensuring the safety of tens of thousands of people arriving and leaving increasingly large stadiums. In the vast majority of cases I would be more than happy for any kid who was capable of using a bus or tube on their own to go to a match on their own or with their friends.
In the majority of cases that is, because football related violence has never completely gone away. Only a cursory glance at You tube will dispel you of any fantasy you had to the contrary. Indeed just a couple of years ago I went down the wrong street in Leeds in away colours and was followed up the road by a bunch of Leeds thugs and had beer cans bounced of my head. It was only the fact that I was with a female friend that stopped me getting a total kicking. So it is still there, bubbling under the surface, worse at certain grounds than others, essentially because some people enjoy fighting. It’s as simple as that. Even if you drummed it out of football altogether it would surface somewhere else, it might be another sport, it might just be your local high street or council estate. It could be anywhere, but it would be somewhere.
Nevertheless it is worrying that the violence we saw last night has reappeared on the scale that it did. This was serious stuff. Most worrying was that it occurred inside the stadium itself. Ask yourself, when was the last time we saw a game stopped while trouble inside the stadium was sorted out? A very long time ago. My memory seems to recall a Milwall (now there’s a surprise!) v Derby play off game in the late 90s some time, but that is as recent as I can remember. Yet here we have what was clearly two very large and organised firms able to have a pitched battle before, during and after a game. My understanding from the media is that the incidents before the game saw the police more or less routed as both elements fought their way through the line separating them.
So is this just a one off? Is this one occasion where a high tension fixture combined with inadequate policing and two very organised groups to result in a large scale punch up not seen since the 80s? I sincerely hope so. Whether my hopes are well founded though remains to be seen.