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Dave McBay

Stupid idea and how disappointing that everything comes down to extending the tax grab: All Louise is really suggesting is another stealth tax just like a socialist. It isn't the fault of sports businesses that oiks attend. The businesses already contribute vast amounts of corporation tax and VAT to pay for proper policing.

Tony Makara

Louise, hooliganism hasn't gone away its just that its rarely seen in the stadiums these days. I used to attend football matches regularly in the 70s and 80s, and saw unbelievable levels of violence at close hand. I was at the Blackpool Vs Bolton game in the 1974-75 season when a Blackpool supporter was stabbed to death. After the game we were all held back until very late, searched, questioned, and had to give statements about what we saw.

In my opinion hooliganism today is in many ways more fierce than it was back then. Trains do often carry a police escort with more police on the station waiting. Hooliganism isn't just related to football either, just try getting the northern rail Blackpool/Manchester train on a Saturday night etc. Louise this problem goes beyond football and reflects serious problems in our society.

The fact that you, as a woman, were abused just shows how little respect there is in our society. Thirty years ago women were not abused and anyone pregnant or with kids would not have been hassled by football hooligans. Now its very much open season and anyone can be attacked as the recent footage of a very old man being headbutted by a seventeen year old showed. Something is seriously wrong with our society and the way that social relations have broken down.

The future Conservative government must look at why respect has broken down. Thirty years ago young men liked to fight and cause mayhem, with each other. However they were not attacking women and kids. Something has gone badly wrong. Britain is broken.


Well done, Louise, for taking a stand against these thoroughly troublesome, disrespectful people. I know exactly what you mean when you worried you would be glassed... I try and do my bit too!

I completely agree that something does need to be done to ensure the safety of all rail users - and you are right that a Train Guard simply cannot do this on certain occasions. Interestingly, I have recently seen large numbers of BTP at Basingstoke Station on Reading match days, presumably to 'greet' the troublemakers after reports of behaviour on the train.

I am pleased that you are not advocating another/higher tax as such - but I am not sure quite how it would work with so many trains leaving some stations and no certainty which service the offenders will use (and how many will use it).

I think the solution will have to be two-fold. There is a clear need more security on the train, jointly funded by clubs, councils, the BTP and train companies. This would combine both police and specific train company security, such as SWT's "TravelSafe" Officers. But, more importantly, true fans need to stamp out this behaviour in what is a minority of football lovers and reject those who conduct themselves in such an unruly manner. Respect needs to rule on the Railway once more.

Daniel Harvey

Louise, sorry, but you are totally wrong. If you want to solve the problem, then the simple solution is to bring back the Football Special trains that used to operate in the past, then you will not get the football supporters on your train.

Have you ever tried to get a train from Charlton, especially after a game against Crystal Palace, all of which seem to be 4 carriages long, totally unsuitable for dealing with the number of people using the station, and for the use of football supporters and non-football supporters alike? I have, and if there had been an incident, or even worse accident, then an awful lot of people would have been injured if not killed. Perhaps a few football supporters being killed in a train crash thanks to the train being far too overcrowded would cheer you up.

Simon R.

Daniel Harvey -maybe these football special trains are something that clubs could also have a hand in funding. It's a simple case of corporate responsibility.

I think it's an excellent idea, but as someone has already stated, this is a wider issue of social breakdown and anti-social behaviour.

When I question why respect has broken down to the extent it has in my own generation and younger (I'm 25) I think a large part of it is the lack of consequences. At any rate, before we rebuild society and families, we have a clear and pressing problem of what to do NOW, to get feral, predatory youths off our streets and relieve society in general of the sickening fear of violence and abuse.

And this could be more than just an aspiration; it could be a party-political necessity. People do not like the Tory party. In the 80s we governed by default, and people were only too delighted to get rid of us the moment the opposition looked credible in the 1990's. Now we see a situation where once again we face gaining power at a time of huge economic difficulty, and once again will have to make unpopular decisions. In 1983, Margaret Thatcher had the Falklands Victory behind her and Michael Foot opposing her. Who is to say that we are going to benefit from a foreign policy coup and an unelectable oppositon when we go to the country after our first term? We are not guaranteed a decade in power just because that's the current pattern. We MUST get these people OFF the streets, and do it sharpish; then whatever the situation with the economy, we can at least go to the polls having cleaned up the streets and lifted a vast burden from the public conciousness.


Louise is right to bring up this problem. It is a particularly unpleasent form of Anti-Social behaviour and something must be done.

One of my close friends was in exactly the situation Louise was in. The father of a family, disgusted at his children being exposed to such language and behaviour asked them to quiet down. The response was several punches to his face, right in front of his screaming family.

How horrific it must be to see your own father being beaten by a mob of drunken hooligans. I think it would be a good idea to have police travel on trains during match times. Obviously there is the issue of funding but I don't think I have enough knowledge to suggest anything there. All I know is that this, along with the wider elements of our Broken Society, must be fixed. Only our party can do this.


Not a very conservative response to a problem, is it? Legislate to force the company to pay for something that it essentially should not be responsible for?

There is existing legislation to deal with the louts, it just needs to be enforced.

Louise Bagshawe

Erm - can I point out that I am most emphatically not calling for any kind of tax whatever.

"to change how businesses contribute to society.. through exhortation and not regulation. A light touch is the Conservative way...I do not advocate a punitive tax or charge on premier league clubs."

I'm a low tax Tory. This article suggests that as a sign of their corporate responsibility, football clubs should voluntarily offer to pay some policing or security costs. It'd be good value for their corporate image and brands (selling merchandise to children for example), it would improve the wider image of a responsible sport and it would help families traveling on Saturdays.

The article is about the benefits of corporate responsibility assumed by companies as being virtuous rather than taxes imposed by the state, which is the wrong way round.


I don't understand what it is with the culture of football and violence. Many, many times I've been to Twickenham, returning on the trains packed with rugby supporters, and have never seen a hint of trouble. Queuing to get on overcrowded trains can be irritating but everyone always seems pretty good humoured about it. I've been in the Shed at Kingsholm in a Leicester shirt and while there can be some gentle ribbing (particularly if Gloucester are winning) I've never felt threatened in the slightest.

By contrast, my uncle's family live in London and their nearest tube is Upton Park. My cousins are warned by their uncle to keep well away from the tube on match days, particularly when Millwall have been playing, and the atmosphere is threatening more often than not. What is it about football that attracts the yobbish element?

Ken Stevens

Simple answer: abolish football in favour of rugby. I'm a fan of neither but I distinctly remember a seething horde of rugger fans packing out our train a couple of stops short of Manchester. A nicer bunch of folk one couldn't have hoped to meet. Maybe it's because the violence in rugby all takes place on the pitch! ;-)

Letters From A Tory

Not sure that your plan is viable, Louise. Having said that, something certainly has to be done. My preferred choice would be not allowing drunk people into public areas such as sports events. Yobbish behaviour is clearly linked to alcohol consumption, so why not ban the drunk idiots from attending public events (especially ones where there are children present)?


I do not agree with businesses being forced to take on the extra costs of policing outside their premises. Whether it's football clubs or night clubs I think it is wrong for them to have to "nanny" their customers. Policing should be the job of the police. In any case any extra costs would be added to the cost of the tickets, and so in effect it is like an extra tax.

Where would the responsibility end; how many miles from the ground? Conservatives believe in personal responsibility of the individual. "Corporate responibility" is just shoving the responsibility on to someone else.

Louise Bagshawe

But there's no such thing as a free lunch, Derek. What we have today is an unacceptable situation on trains across the country on Saturdays after matches.

So the options are:

1. Do nothing, and deny the general public and most law-abiding football fans the right to travel on Saturdays without being harassed, subjected to obscenities, violence etc. Accept yobs on trains as part of modern British life.

2. Provide security in the form of either private security offered by the train companies, which will be passed on as a tax to the traveler, or by the police, who are already horribly overstretched, and pass it on to the general taxpayer.

3. Force the football clubs to pay. As I said I am against that.

4. Encourage football clubs to provide security, either by contributing money for police or perhaps by arrangement with the trains their own security/stewards, for a service or two right after matches. This would eat a little into profits but so does every charitable thing they do. It would be an investment in a club's brand image, help the sport, promote the sale of merchandise, and might in the end lead to more fans going to more games in a safer environment - thus paying for itself.

It's option 4 that I favour. A wholly voluntary arrangement that would give the clubs who did it all the financial benefits of good PR. I think taking option 1 is to accept part of our broken society, and it's not an option for me.


Stupid idea.

These problems have nothing to do with football and everything to with society.

Ideas like this show the Tories are out of touch. I thought we had moved on from all the social authoritarian stuff.

Football supporters are voters too and won't like the sound of this.

Sally Roberts

Louise I sympathise with you - I have had very similiar experiences and I think the sheer unpleasantness of it is something only women can truly understand.

Mike A

Football clubs already pay for policing.

It's probably the police's fault for not seeing the need.


Its not football thats the issue, its social breakdown. Rupert is right - this sort of talk paints us as out of touch and blimpish. I would hate to go back to the days of Colin Moynahan and ill thought out knee jerk reactions (banning flags with writing on etc!!!).

Mike A

"By contrast, my uncle's family live in London and their nearest tube is Upton Park. My cousins are warned by their uncle to keep well away from the tube on match days, particularly when Millwall have been playing, and the atmosphere is threatening more often than not. What is it about football that attracts the yobbish element?

Posted by: Cinnamon | November 29, 2007 at 07:52 AM"

Millwall and WHU must have played once or twice at Upton Park in the last ten years. I've been there lots of times and never had any problems. There are lots of loud shouting people, but that's it.

Forgive me if I think your uncle has no idea what's going on.


Hear hear. I agree it is really the police's fault. They should provide extra transport police and then charge the clubs for the extra expense under s.25 Police Act 1996. If clubs aren't prepared to pay for the extra policing, they shouldn't be allowed to hold their matches. And if and when football fans find themselves having to pay higher ticket prices to cover the extra costs, maybe they will start to learn some manners.

Tony Makara

Young men have always enjoyed being in groups and having a punch up with rival groups. This is nothing new. I remember my grandad telling me how rivals gangs used to fight each other in Wigan in the 20s and 30s. The hooliganism in the 70s and 80s was mostly confined to the stadiums and often looked worse than it actually was because many young supporters would just tag along and join in any trouble that was going on swelling the numbers. Most of the trouble in the early days involved mass numbers trying to 'take' the opposition end of the stadium. Those who are older might remember the abandoned 1973 FA cup tie between Newcastle and Forest in which Newcastle fans swarmed across the pitch on mass in thousands to try and take the forest end. There were often problems with Man Utd fans after their relegation but again most of the numbers were made up of non-violent supporters tagging along out of curiosity.

The difference today is that the hooliganism isn't taking place in the stadiums but on route to and from the stadium, which means the numbers are smaller, but those involved are a more dedicated and hardcore group. What is disturbing is the fact that women and children are now seen as legitimate targets for harassment because that just would not have happened at one time. Louise mentions that she was hassled during games in the summer, now I know our regular league doesn't play during the summer so I can only assume it must have been a pre-season friendly, which would have had less policing as a matter of course.

Alan S

A very good article, Louise.

Businesses should be responsible for what economists call the externalities of their output.

Football clubs should also pay a levy for the special transport facilities they require.

I think of Arsenal's new Emirates Stadium. Wembley paid a levy but Arsenal haven't.

Gareth Knight

Would I be right in assuming you're not a football fan Louise?!?!

I get far more irritated by parents letting their kids scream on trains, by people eating smelly food on trains and by trains being late. I hate trains in general actually, hence why I'll happily spend 4hrs driving up to York when I can get there in less than 2hrs on the train.

Yet we subsidise bad parenting, provide councelling for fat people on the NHS and subsidise the railways.

Why is it acceptable to group all football fans in together but not others? So many people are obsessed with 'understanding' instead of condemning or minding their own business with so many of life's irritations but football fans having a good time seems beyond the pale.

I look forward to reading your 'all football fans are thugs' argument in your election leaflets!

Bruges Group NG

One of the hitherto unremarked upon features of the last 10 years has been the proliferation of the "Stupid Police".

This can be seen not just at football matches but in every day life. Recently I have had dealings with the police on two entirely seperate matters. Firstly during the rush hour at a very busy train station, delays caused a complete stampede and log jam. A Hillsborough like crush was a possibility, yet fairly senior BTP officers stood alongside PCSOs chatting away merrily as people turned blue in the crush. Secondly, I called the police after a break in. A whole 8 hours later two PCSOs arrived on the scene. Neither even had walkie talkies, but used mobile phones ! After taking down details, I asked them what was the point of their jobs as they were quite clearly impotent. "We are here to reassure the public" one replied. In cheap uniforms, with mobile phones ! Very reassuring.

The calibre of Britain's police today is absolutely shocking. Height, age and fitness requirements have been removed, as has the basic requirement to have five O'Levels. Under Labour- we now have the police force we deserve. Thick, stupid, unquestioning, sub servient.

Under Labour the phrase "police intelligence" has become the ultimate oxymoron.

David Davis' first act as Home Secretary must be to sack every single glorified lollypop lady- sorry PCSO- and get back to employing real police officers with real powers and, god forbid, real intellect.

Chad Noble

Am I missing something here? The football clubs do and should take responsibility for the safety of those on their property, and the train companies should do the same on theirs.

The problem lies with the money-grabbing train companies that keep introducing inflation-busting fare increases to 'improve the service' whilst singularly failing to doing anything of the sort.

The train companies are ripping us all off.

Let's not give them a helping hand to absolve themselves of further responsibilities whilst continuing to inflate their income in a way only a monopoly can get away with.

Graeme  Archer

Gosh, I sense that lots of Tories still have to get their heads around the concept of "social responsibility", because the response to Louise's (in my view, utterly unanswerable) request that football companies pay for the consequences of their existence has been a lot of people saying "legislation and more tax is not the answer". If you read Louise's column, you would see that she's *not* calling for new laws, or higher taxes - she wants politicians to shame the football companies into paying for some of the execrable outcomes that affect everyone on a train whenever one of their brands meets another for their competition. Social Responsibility is about being aware that your actions have consequences for *other* *people* (no man is an island) and that the response of the left and the libertarian right are, almost amusingly, the same, both in terms of their solution ("we've paid our tax; end of my responsibility") and their outcome (failure; a broken society). Brava signora!.

(Football special trains seem like a bloody obvious solution, by the way - why did they stop in the first place?).

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