In a recent article, I discussed the incident involving Manchester United and Roma fans that resulted in four United fans being jailed for assault and resisting arrest, and whether or not football violence was getting out of hand.
In October 2007, the Home Office released a report detailing the number of arrests that occurred in English FA matches during the 2006/07 season.
It’s an extremely in-depth report, breaking down arrests by event (League, Cup, European/International, etc.), club, and most notably, by offense.
So, what do the numbers say?
The total number of arrests in the 2006/07 season was 3,788. That was an increase of 8% over the 2005/06 season, when there were 3,502 overall arrests.
The biggest percentage of those arrests came in the Championship, where there were 1,103 arrests, up from 886 the previous year.
Arrests in the Premier League went in the other direction, dropping from 1,225 to 999.
There were 2,833 total arrests in league matches, which was up 160 from the 2005/06 season. The remaining 955 arrests came in cups, European/international matches, Conference action, and other matches, both on the senior and youth level, a figure that increased by 126.
The most significant category in their report, violent offenses, saw mixed numbers.
The numbers went down in both the Premier League and the Championship, but went up in League One (36 to 55) and FA Cup matches (35 to 65). But, on the whole, the numbers decreased, falling from 378 to 355.
As you can guess, the majority of the arrests were related to alcohol (1,036 – up 24) and public disorder (1,659 – up 330). I imagine many of the people who were arrested for one of those could have been arrested for the other, and that many of those arrests kept the amount of violent offenses down.
The club with the most arrests was Manchester United. There were 192 arrests of Manchester United supporters in 2006/07, up from 147 the previous season. Only eight of those arrests, however, were for violent disorder, with 98 for public disorder and 68 for alcohol offenses.
And, just as they were in the league table, Chelsea were second behind United in arrests, with 135 (up from 126). Chelsea had the most issues with ticket-related offenses, as 25 people were arrested for ticket touting, which accounted for more than half of the total number of ticket touting arrests in the entire Premier League (47 total).
The biggest riser behind Manchester United was West Ham, whose numbers went up from 69 in 2005/06 to 111 last season, the majority coming from public disorder arrests (57), with only ten arrests for violent disorder.
Arrests also went up for Aston Villa (up 16), Middlesbrough (up 22), Newcastle (up 21), Reading (up 14), and Watford (up 20).
As for significant risers in the other divisions:
Championship: Leeds (up 39 to 115), Cardiff (up 33 to 89), Leicester (up 38 to 81), Wolves (up 31 to 77)
League One: Nottingham Forest (up 28 to 62), Bristol City (up 28 to 51), Blackpool (up 22 to 34)
League Two: Bristol Rovers (up 32 to 41), Hereford (up 24 to 31), Hartlepool (up 21 to 23), Lincoln City (up 20 to 41).
The club with the most improved fan discipline in the Premier League was Tottenham, whose numbers dropped from 169 in 2005/06 to 117 last season. It’s not all good news for Spurs though, as 30 of those arrests were for violent disorder, which was the highest among all of the clubs from the Premier League to the Conference, 13 higher than Chelsea’s 17.
As for the most behaved fans in the top flight, let’s give a hearty congratulations to Fulham, who had only eight supporters arrested in 2006/07.
That’s also the lowest number among the top two divisions in English football, edging out Colchester, who had only nine supporters arrested in 2006/07 (up from four in 2005/06).
Other significant drops:
Premier League: Manchester City (down 27 to 91), Liverpool (down 19 to 64), Wigan (down 13 to 29)
Championship: Luton (down 38 to 19), Sheffield Wednesday (down 20 to 69), Coventry (down 20 to 67), Hull City (down 18 to 40), Stoke City (down 15 to 51)
League One: Swansea (down 24 to 39), Bradford City (down 17 to 14)
League Two: Barnet (down 16 to 2)
In case you’re wondering, since I mentioned the other members of the EPL’s Big Four and several London clubs, 80 Arsenal supporters were arrested last season, a slight increase from the 77 arrests in 2005/06. Like United, there were only eight arrests for violent disorder.
All in all, despite the overall increase in arrests, the amount of people who got popped by the cops is pretty miniscule, given the amount of people that go through the turnstiles in a day, month, or year. In fact, if you want to go the numbers route again, it’s only 0.01% of the total number of the more than 38.6 million (recorded) spectators that witnessed a match in 2006/07.
And, despite that increase in overall arrests, which the Home Office says is a testament to how the authorities are cracking down on criminal activity, 43% of matches were actually police-free, so that not only puts faith in people to behave themselves but also allows the police to tend to far more important matters.
Considering the history of football violence in England, the fact that the number of violent incidents is decreasing every year is a big step in the right direction. The number of arrests for violence has decreased by 46% over the last three seasons, and it’s the lowest on record.
There are definitely some bad apples in the bunch, and the reality is that will always be the case, no matter how many arrests are made or banning orders issued. But, they are indeed a minority. And, while it might be easy to lump everyone in the same group together, the troublemakers don’t ruin it for the majority of the people who are there to see the match, but for themselves, because unless you really, really enjoy handcuffs (well, there are exceptions…), getting arrested and/or thrown in jail isn’t the picture of fun.
What are your ideas on football violence? Is it a problem at the stadiums you frequent? Does it affect your enjoyment of the matchday experience, or does it not bother you unless it gets personal? Or better yet, are you a hooligan and want to defend your actions?
You can download the report here (pdf).