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July 2021

Violent attacks and aggression should be handled by the police, and the courts NOT by the FA


Don McMahon

In keeping with the recent spate of articles surrounding values and principles of proper Football behaviour, and subsequent to an article I read about Birmingham, I offer a perspective on this approach to managing the Game.   First you might want to read the article

There is no doubt that for the majority of us, hooliganism and violence,on and off the pitch, against officials, spectators, players,organizers or local civilians is totally unacceptable and intolerable. Therefore let me suggest a rather radical and highly controversial series of approaches to helping reduce this plague:

1) All acts of violence involving anyone associated with Football should be exclusively dealt with exactly the same as those in normal civilian life. That is to say, a violent attack or act of aggression on the streets is handled by the police, the courts and the justice system, NOT by the FA or its assigned authorities. So any incident involving players or referees before,during or after a game should be treated in the same fashion as well. Goons who think they can get away with violence on the Football pitch will think twice when facing serious criminal charges.

2) On top of any criminal or civil justice proceedings, the local and national Football authorities (including FIFA and Uefa) should also be able to assign serious bans and if necessary lifetime exclusion from participating in active football events. So a convicted aggressor could still go to watch a match but never be allowed near the playing field as a participant.

3) There should be a concerted media and publicity campaign to publicly shame these people by publishing their photos and names across the country. This would further punish them and serve as a reminder to other miscreants that violence is unwelcome in our Game and that social and family values come first!

4) Repeat offenders should be treated more severely than first-timers and minors should NOT get any special considerations. If a teenager attacks a referee, coach, supporter or player and injures him or her, why should they be treated any differently than their parents, if they did the same thing?

5) It would appear that campaigns to promote non-violent and non-confrontational solutions to disagreements in the Game are growing in popularity. These offenders need and deserve re-educating and reforming. Therefore I would support a plan whereby such offenders be required to follow FA sanctioned referee, coaching or management courses and be required, as part of their sentences, to graduate successfully and participate for a specified time.

Their reward would be a diminution of their sentences and the lifting of bans, provided they proved, by their actions as referees, coaches or management, that they had learnt their lesson.

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6) Those offenders who succeed in learning their lesson should have their photos and stories told by the media as well, to encourage those who trying to change. Those who are recidivists and do not fulfil their remedial activities should be treated even more severely the second time around, as mentioned above.

The Game was created 140 years ago with the intent of promoting a safe and enjoyable game using mostly the feet and being available to anyone who wanted to kick a ball in an organized fashion.  It NEVER included violent behaviour, serious foul or dangerous play and brutality. It was and still is a family spectator sport in which 3.8 billion followers worldwide share this uncommon passion for our Beautiful Game… is time we returned to those values.

And if you really want to see just how far football can get out of control, you might want to read this, but believe me it is frightening.

20 July Anniversaries

The books…

The sites from the same team…






29 comments to Violent attacks and aggression should be handled by the police, and the courts NOT by the FA

  • LRV

    Yes Don, all football related violence should be handled by the police.

  • marcus

    There has been a worrying trend in British society diluting the powers of courts, and augmenting the powers of unofficial legal bodies. (This seems to have happened over the last 15-20 years).

    This is very worrying IMO. Having been grilled by a local council as a potential criminal, because some council employees fucked up my benefits once, where the council employees become unofficial police, I can assure you this is a serious matter. When jobsworths start acting like little Hitlers, we are very much entering the Stasi twilight zone. Remember, Britain is founded on principles of freedom and the assumption of innocence until guilt is proven, as opposed to the Napoleonic legal code, of guilt until innocence is proven.

    The FA seems to be a self-anointed self-appointed judge jury and executioner. I find it disturbing to watch such a bunch of halfwits, incompetents, and worse (read what you want into that), making serious legal judgements.

    In short, you are totally right Don.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Thans for this Dom , very sobering indeed.

    Some fine quotes from Gandhi which may be apt.

    Each one has to find his peace from within. And peace to be real must be unaffected by outside circumstances.

    Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit.

    I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.

    There are more inspirational quotes at-

  • nicky

    Of course you are 100% correct in your contention. The Police should always deal with violence wherever it occurs.
    But I don’t think we should make a specific mention of this issue insofar as it relates to professional football. The Police already have the powers they need in order to control crowd behaviour at matches. They do NOT need any further dictatorial powers to require this or that at football grounds. Remember the Clubs already pay for police presence.
    As someone in the twilight of life, I cannot resist commenting on how sad it is that the friendly rivalry between pre-War football fans gradually disappeared after (but not during) the Second World War and was replaced in the majority of cases by vicious hatred of the most violent kind.
    Whether, after peace was restored, we had to find a substitute enemy on whom to vent our bile, only students of our national game coupled with human behaviour, will eventually discover.

  • Gandi when asked what he thought of civilisation replied “it would be a good idea”!
    The Police should be kept out of football, it is they who caused the trouble at football grounds, they treated all fans as hooligans. Remember their crooked, nay, wicked behaviour at Hillsborough, to cover up their total inefficiency.
    They have lost all public respect, look up their record on the web, post war, and you find they were involved in more rackets than the racketeers!

  • nicky

    @S j little,
    I would like someone to give a opinion as to what might have happened at Hillsborough, without the presence of the Police.

  • ClockEndRider

    I don’t think anyone is saying their shouldn’t be any rom of police presence at football. Just that they shouldn’t be above the law themselves. As they were for 20 odd years following Hillsborough. A disgrace whichever way you look at it.

  • The deaths would not have happened as it was the police who opened the gates! H

  • nicky

    @S j,
    On the subject of Hillsborough, of which I know nothing, I keep thinking back to an incident which could have turned nasty. And it showed how a happy crowd became a forward moving mass which could not be stopped.
    In 1945 I accompanied an old Uncle of mine to Stamford Bridge to watch Chelsea play the Russian Moscow Dynamo team who were touring Britain. Over 80,000 in the ground. After the game, we left by a rather narrow escape road, more like an alley really. My Uncle and I got separated by some yards, as we became part of a quickly moving mass of laughing fans, excited at what they had just seen. Suddenly, I heard my Uncle, in his 60’s and 5 ft nothing, call out that he was “going down”. I was too far away to reach him but someone else did and dragged him up to safety. The point of the story is that it is nigh impossible to stop a heaving crowd of people when moving en masse. No one is able to halt or slow down.

  • AllanC

    @ S j little
    Do not believe all you are reading now about Hillsborough.
    Some Liverpool fans have a very bad record for behaviour at big games. Before Hillsborough and since. Forcing their way in to grounds. At the time of Hillsborough the thing to do was to stay in the pub until 10 minutes before the kick off and then descend on the ground. This was also perfect cover for people without tickets. The police had a very difficult situation to deal with at Hillsborough. A year before the same fixture on the same ground, luckily went off without major incidents. Because the fans that died at Hillsborough did not cause the problem does not mean that Liverpool fans were not to blame in a major way.

  • WalterBroeckx

    I think brigning in Hillsborough is completely (or far) away from the initial subject which is violence against referees.
    Let us keep this well separated I would suggest.

    Great articles Don

  • weedonald

    Thanks Walter…………those who use UA as a launching pad for their meaningless rants about Hillsborough and the police need to appreciate that this post is not about whether the police should be involved in enforcing the laws of the land but rather rather about how they are enforced and whether the FA should be involved at all….not whether the police should be.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    OF LAWS ……

    If a law is unjust…(Quotation)

    Quotation: “If a law is unjust, a man is not only right to disobey it, he is obligated to do so.”

    Variations: None known.

    Sources checked:

    Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Digital Edition
    Thomas Jefferson retirement papers
    Thomas Jefferson: Papers and Biographies collections in Hathi Trust Digital Library

    Other attributions: None known.

    Earliest appearance in print: undetermined

    Comments: This quotation has not been found in Thomas Jefferson’s papers. It has been suggested that it is a paraphrase of Jefferson’s statement in the Declaration of Independence, “…whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government…,” although such a paraphrase would seem to be taking some radical liberties with the original version. The quotation bears a much closer resemblance to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s comment in his famous letter from Birmingham Jail: “One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”[1]

    1.Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” April 16, 1963. African Studies Center, University of Pennsylvania.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    This is for anyone who would like to follow up on the above.

  • AllanC I am not sure we have any evidence at all about Liverpool fans culpability about the game at Sheffield W’s ground, but if you want evidence of their behaviour you just have to look at Heysel. Liverpool FC to their credit don’t hide from this and have a page (or did last time I looked) on their web site about this. But it is terribly sad that the British press say so much about the former disaster because English people died, but not about the latter, where English people caused the deaths.

  • blacksheep63

    great article Don and I too would like to see violence taken out of the game at all levels. However, I would like to add – as someone who works on the history of crime for a living – a couple of observations. First, @Marcus, the idea that the presumption of innocence has always been part of the English legal system is far from accurate. It really dates from the mid to late 18th century and comes along with a reform of the court trial and the emergence of defence lawyers and rules about evidence.

    Even then the law was very far from ‘fair’ and this government’s attack on legal aid is likely to set us back somewhat. As for the diminishing power of courts again I would point out that magistrate courts (where there is no jury) have gained power and hear more and more cases. The Summer riots of 2011 and the outrageous penalties handed down are a case in point.

    @Don – I agree with a lot of what you suggest but the naming and shaming is problematic. We know from recent history that ASBOs can be worn as a ‘badge of honour’rather than deterring others. In the past ritual displays of shaming were commonplace in English history – public whippings, pillory, hangings, stocks etc. They were all abandoned as ineffectual and for sending the wrong message. Serious violence should, IMO, always warrant a custodial sentence and banning aggressive parents, ‘fans’ or players from the game they love (or purport to love) for months not days, or years or life, would be a more effective way of policing the problem.
    Finally (and slightly less seriously)I’m not sure football has ever been a truly beautiful game. Before it was codified in the 19th C it was very violent and chaotic – and in some places (Kirkwall in Orkney for example) you can see manifestations of the medieval ‘sport’.
    Still great, though provoking piece thanks!

  • nicky

    One last comment about a heaving mass of people being unable to stop. I was on fire watch in London the night there was a false air raid siren warning. In Bethnal Green, people panicked going down into a public air raid shelter. Someone at the bottom of the steps slipped and fell down. Those following couldn’t stop and a mass of crushed bodies resulted in over 100 deaths.
    It is so difficult to stop a mass of people moving headlong to or from a narrow entrance or exit.

  • blacksheep63

    wow Nicky, to remember that event from 1943 you must be around 90 – is this Untold’s oldest comment? And there were 173 deaths

  • Adam

    The problem is that the courts in England really don’t want to know. They don’t want to take responsibility for football. I have found it amazing that this situation has been allowed to evolve. It beggars belief.

    I think what is needed is a campaign by the populous to make the government take action and bring law breakers to account. This could actually be a route to challenging FIFA and the rules of football that have allowed this.

    Most problems in football, I think, can be traced back to FIFA and their strangle hold on the sport. But this issue is not just confined to football.

  • Adam

    Again, I forget to thank the author, nice one Don.

  • nicky

    90 in November. Ask me anything about WW2 and I’ll tell you. But don’t ask me what I had for breakfast yesterday!

  • WalterBroeckx

    Wow Nicky the amazing thing is that I knew you were a bit older than most of us but now I’m even more amazed.
    If you compare the comments of some who are probably just 1/5th of your age and your comments that are filled with wisdom and knowledge… I take a bow and so should all of us.

    I do admit I have some favourites that when I see their name I cannot wait to read their comments. You are one of them. To many more years of supporting the Arsenal and visiting Untold!

    I also admit I have moments when I see some names I just think: Oh no and skip it 😉

  • nicky

    Thank you for that.
    I will continue to eat your sprouts and my wife will continue to enjoy your chocolates.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Well that is nicely spread I think 😉 To be honest I like them both. Ok, the chocolates a bit more. I confess.. 😉
    But for the moment will take he sprouts over the chocolate (losing some weight before the season really kicks off…)

  • Brickfields Gunners

    And you wondered why justice takes so long ….

    The lawyer’s son wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps, so he went to law school and graduated with honors. Then he went home to join his father’s firm.

    At the end of his first day at work, he rushed into his father’s office and said, “Father, father! In one day I broke the Smith case that you’ve been working on for ten years!”

    His father responded: “You idiot, we lived on the funding of
    that case for ten years!”

  • Brickfields Gunners

    The loving husband ?

    A man walked into a bank, got in line and when it was his turn he pulled out a gun and robs the bank.

    But just to make sure he leaves no witnesses, he turns around and asks the next customer in line, “Did you see me Rob this Bank?”

    The customer replies, “Well, yes!”

    The bank robber raises his gun, points it at his head and shoots him.

    He quickly moves to the next customer in line and says to the man, “DID … YOU … SEE … ME … ROB… THIS… BANK?”

    The man calmly responds, “No, but my wife did.”

  • marcus


    Interesting stuff. I’ll need to improve my knowledge.

    Re the riots.
    Some of the sentences were shocking, couldn’t agree more; but I assume that once violence, disorder and rioting occurred near the banker’s mile, the clampdown was draconian and pre-emptive.

    Anything infringing on the bankers’ turf is bound to meet an iron fist in a diamond glove.

    Re jurorless courts, that is precisely my point. The dilution of the legal process. Little kangaroo courts of all descriptions popping up all over the place, dispensing justice as if they are the face of justice. I’ve seen this trend in various manifestations.

  • nicky

    May I be the first to convey good wishes to you, your country and especially to your new King.

  • weedonald

    Walter….I must confess that I dislike Brussels sprouts intensely but adore Belgium chocolates….maybe if I coated the sprouts in chocolate, I could overcome my distaste? Maybe it is like marriage, at first all sweetness and flavour, then sourness and mushiness until you die or divorce?
    Thanks to everyone who commented and lauded my efforts.
    My real concern in writing this piece was to ensure that my feelings about violence in Football needing criminalization, just like on the street could be understood. It makes me vomit when I read that someone in Football got assaulted,injured or intimidated by thugs, who purport to love the game, and then see the punishments meted out being a shadow of what a street criminal receives.