So-called hooliganism at Lincoln City

I’ve been reading with interest the comments and fall-out from the recent Mansfield match. Alongside the debate about events on the pitch runs a rich topic of opinion on behaviour off the field too. In truth, the actions of police, fans and stewards seems to be dominating the coverage, more so than our narrow defeat against our expensively assembled local rivals.

With promotion to the Football League comes the inevitable rise in attendances and more local matches. We’re a club on the up now with a passionate fan base looking to enjoy the matches, and we’re set to meet some much bigger clubs than last season. That brings more ‘proper’ football fans to our games and lifts the interest levels to a significantly higher level than for a match with Welling.

Football encourages people to forge themselves an identity, and the presence of the 617, L.I.S.A and all the other groups at Sincil Bank go towards that. Football is, I’m afraid to say, tribal. Even in the minority groups (or current minority groups) such a female supporters, the urge to belong is irresistible. L.I.S.A has been formed for exactly the same reasons as the 617 or any of the other fans groups of old; a desire to have an identity within an identity. We are Lincoln fans and we each have our own niche within that. To a degree that accounts for me being Poacher for so long, or now writing the blog. We even like to identify with which message board we use, whether it’s Vitals, Banter or Red Imps Banter. Like it or not we’re all a member of a gang, differing in every aspect of human life apart from the football club we support. We identify with Lincoln City, and we like identify ourselves within that.

The younger football fan is looking to forge an identity too, and for impressionable youths football is a great way to introduce yourself to adult life. There’s nothing better at 16 than ‘football days’, getting together with the lads to drink a few beers and chant hate and bile at anything not wearing red and white. Back in my day it was no different, and along with the peaceful elements within that group, you get the others looking to make even more of a ‘name’ for themselves. It accounts for smoke bombs, skirmishes and intimidation of opposition support. I’m sorry, but that is a fact of life. That element have been following the club for as long as there’s been a football club in Lincoln, trouble has featured at Grimsby derby matches since the years started with an ’18’ and they’ll carry on well past 2017.

This is dangerous, fact.

Then there’s away days, a time when even those amongst a fan base that regard ourselves as rather reserved become something else. I’ve been on some cracking away days recently, and even without violence there’s a certain thrill at invading a new place. I see red and white up and down the High Street from 11am in Lincoln without taking note, but the second you see your colours in another man’s town there is a sense of belonging, a sense of having arrived somewhere championing your cause. I imagine the same can be said for those residing amongst the livelier, more aggressive sections of support. Again, these elements are not always bad people, they’re identifying with the experience in a different way.

When those two groups come together, you get scenes such as we saw on Saturday. I don’t doubt some of the behaviour from our fans was unacceptable. The Mansfield coach was attacked, briefly, but that in itself isn’t on at all. I’ve been on a coach when it was attacked as we left Scunthorpe one year, it’s frightening and uncalled for.

Those who have studied football hooliganism on any level will known that it often becomes more prevalent in times of economic hardship, when working class young men suffer from a lack of opportunity, a lack of financial clout or just a lack of anything more attractive to do than drink and fight. 2017 isn’t a great time to be a struggling young person, or a struggling person of any sort. I don’t like the fact that behaviour becomes synonymous with the team I love, but they’re fans of the club also. They just care less about the clubs reputation as a family institution and more about the fans reputation within the football community.

Nowadays the so-called ultra group just wants to go out, have some beers, march to the ground, let off a few smoke bombs in the club’s colours and then bounce around the stadium for a couple of hours.

I think recent years have seen a clash of fan culture that even our own 617 group are struggling with. The rise of the ‘ultra’ is, at times, contrasting heavily with the old school firms. The LTE wouldn’t organise displays in the stand, they wouldn’t look for visual displays such as smoke bombs when travelling away, they were an old-school hooligan. Go to the game, have some beers, win the scrap, go home. Nowadays the so-called ultra group looks to go out, have some beers, march to the ground, let off a few smoke bombs in the club’s colours and then bounce around the stadium for a couple of hours. I truly believe the 617 are not hooligans at all, they’re a group of lads that wanted to increase the atmosphere in the ground. They’ve grown, their politics have evolved from simple atmosphere creation to the preservation of the old values and a battle against the sanitisation of the modern game. One thing that has been sanitised, not to the detriment of fans, is hooliganism. In standing up for old values of standing, drinking in the stands and following your team there is a by-product that in many it conjures up images of flying bottles, gauntlets of hate and getting a kicking from Hull City.

Many look at the 617 as embodying that culture, others attach themselves to the 617 because that is the culture they identify with. Similarly, critics of the group link them with the likes of the LTE, some of the older hooligans look at them as wannabes who’ll get a shock when they march up to Blundell Park. Let me tell you, those Grimsby boys do not care if you’re a shirt wearing fan or a card-carrying 80’s hooligan. They’ll kick you whether you like it or not.

My point is, nobody wants to see scenes of violence at football games, and nor should we have to just tolerate it. Similarly we should not label angry young people that attend football to get tanked up and sing as hooligans either. Belonging to this ‘gang’ of ours means different things to different people, and whilst L.I.S.A will find their place hosting fan’s forums and welcoming a more peaceful atmosphere, some will find their place stalking the side-streets of Sincil Bank waiting for their counterparts from Mansfield also wanting trouble. That is for the police to sort out, which brings me to a final point.

I haven’t seen the policing methods from Saturday first hand, but I’ve spoken to people who have. A picture has emerged of home fans treated like away fans, being held in a pub until just before kick off and herded to the ground like animals. I’ve heard stories of completely innocent female supporters being shoved around by police for inadvertently catching up with so-called ‘known faces’ leaving the ground. I’ve heard that despite this treatment of a core group of supporters, it was others causing trouble, fans the police clearly haven’t got marked as high-risk.

I’m concerned that the fans group responsible for so much positivity has been labelled as hooligan by our police force, just as I’m concerned many who want to be hooligans have aligned themselves with the 617 too. Almost by proxy they have become a focus for everyone, the police, other fans and those looking for trouble. Now, I’m not saying they’re saints, nor am I suggesting they’re not guilty of stirring things up a bit on away trips. When a smoke bomb was thrown into Covent Garden tube station, it was something celebrated rather than condemned by the group, and that in turn has implications with other fans. In order to retain the image of representing the working-class fan, the ‘football lads’ if you will, they won’t openly condemn some behaviour. That’s their choice, but I sometimes think an outright statement of condemnation towards some of that behaviour might decrease the pressure on the group. Instead they focus on the heavy handling by police, or the victimisation they’ve suffered.

Lock him up? Really?

Anyway I was looking at the smoke bomb on the pitch on Saturday and reading the comments of ‘heavy prison sentence’ or whatever. I understand flares being an issue, I understand something physically alight being an issue, and I thoroughly understand those at Bradford in 1985 having an issue. That is beyond any doubt, and anyone too young to recall that awful day shouldn’t even offer an argument against those who were. However……

Is a smoke bomb actually that bad? Sure we should stamp it out where we can, it should never be openly condoned or become the norm, but the boy from Mansfield that threw the bomb, does he deserve to go to prison? Really? Think about that, as a society we often don’t lock up a person that will break into your house and take your things, so does a kid throwing a coloured smoke bomb onto a football pitch be judged more harshly? He wasn’t outside the ground kicking people’s heads in, was he? I get the arguments about asthma, health implications and all that, but we walk past people in the street burning nicotine on a daily basis, and that smoke is actually poisonous. My point is, should a 16-year old from Mansfield really be treated as a full-time criminal just because he wanted to make a bit of name for himself with the other Mansfield fans? Yeah give him a slap on the wrists, issue a few harsh warnings, ban him for a bit if you want, but at least he was supporting his team. At most he had a yellow smoke bomb and a few angry words, not a broken bottle and six of his mates around whilst they kick a man on the ground. Let’s get some perspective.

 At most he had a yellow smoke bomb and a few angry words, not a broken bottle and six of his mates around whilst they kick a man on the ground. Let’s get some perspective

I’m going to get some interesting response to this piece, I just know it. I’m not condoning those who want to fight in the name of Lincoln City, and I’m not saying it should be part and parcel of being a football fan, but it is. More to the point, it always has been and that struggle between authority and angry people continues everywhere in society, not just the back streets near a football game. It is the job of the police force and the authorities to limit the potential for that behaviour, but not by locking a load of lads in a pub. I’m not 617, I don’t agree with some of their politics but I do know them, and the ones I know don’t have a conviction for violence amongst them. Why are we hoarding them in a pub? Why are we acting aggressively to women walking down the street, and yet still fighting broke out around the ground?

Everyone has a part to play in making Lincoln City safer, from better policing method to the 617 condemning something other than poor police behaviour and not getting defensive or angry when they are questioned. There are some clever boys in the 617, university educated and hard-working lads that want to belong to a ‘scene’, but don’t want to smash the heads of Mansfield fans into a pub window We have our part too, by trying to understand which section of our fan base it is looking to be involved in the trouble, not just assuming because someone wears the clobber and has a few pints on a Saturday afternoon that they’re to blame for a problem that has existed for centuries.



  1. all good points Gary. As for the Mansfield lad they’ll possibly make an example of him I suspect. Nobody wants to see flares, etc. being thrown at footy games. This time it landed harmlessly but on another occasion it could have hit somebody. Re the hooligans, I’m old enough to have been around when the ‘Clan’ were around and remember vividly what used to happen on trips to our neighbours up the A46 and I can remember the league Cup visit to Mansfield in 1967 when our coach was attacked after the game – but agree we don’t want to go back to those old days. I’d like to think we’ve all matured and say to one and all no violence please at the ground or outside in the name of your football team – that’s not what support means. Imps 4ever

    • “Nobody wants to see flares, etc. being thrown at footy games.”?! pretty important difference you’ve skimmed over there. A burning flare wasn’t thrown.

  2. I thought the whole article was irresponsible glorifying the former days of football violence and attempting to justify the present behaviour as being acceptable. In my view all of this so called macho enthusiasm does nothing but blacken the name of our football club and should not be tolerated. If some spectators behave badly then what are the police supposed to do There can be no excuse for a mob attacking the opposition team bus and as for saying that the throwing of a flare is no big deal if that had hit your son or daughter would you be saying the same thing.
    I feel that the club should be coming out with a statement like the following from Sheffield Utd who on the crest of a wave like us are having their reputation sullied by a few mindless idiots.

    ‘Sheffield United have released a statement criticising the violence at Saturday’s home game against Norwich.

    According to the statement, during the match “supporters were injured, objects were thrown onto the pitch and high-profile Norwich officials were abused”.

    The club said: “We simply will not tolerate the unsportsmanlike and illegal conduct of a few to spoil things for the majority.”

    The Blades travel to rivals Sheffield Wednesday on Sunday.

    Last week Cleveland police released images of Sheffield United fans they would like to speak to after violence broke out at the end of the Blades’ defeat at Middlesbrough in August.

    The club added: “Violence in any form is unacceptable at Bramall Lane. We’d like to assure our fans and supporters that the staff and management of Sheffield United, in co-operation with South Yorkshire Police, will make every effort to assure a safe environment for the derby at the weekend.

    “To a degree all in football expect good natured comments at a game – it is part of the culture of football. Enthusiasm, however, can never be an excuse for violence. We are working with the police in coordinating a root and branch approach to identify those supporters who are tarnishing the name of Sheffield United and putting football in a very poor light.

    “At a time when we are aiming to have fewer security-related incidents, these individuals seem concerned only with their selfish desire to ruin the wonderful Bramall Lane experience for everyone else.”

    • It’s a shame you felt that way, this article was never intended to glorify football violence in any way at all. My point was really the identification of those perpetrating the trouble, and how it gets dealt with. I don’t feel it has a place in the modern game, as my father didn’t in the 70’s and his father before him and so on. The article was intending to highlight some of the things that often do not get said, and looking to underline the distinct difference between the 617 ultra and the hooligan element amongst our fans.

      I would like to state, categorically, that I am not attempting to glorify or justify football violence in anyway, merely approaching the issue from another angle and focusing on the role some groups have to play in eradicating the problem as much as is possible.

  3. Well-reasoned piece. I didn’t particularly like some of the comments on one of the groups that admonished a mother complaining about the scenes because that is part of football. It is part of it, but that doesn’t make it right. As a regular at cricket and rugby I will be taking my daughter to those sports long before I take her to football and if football loses a fan to those sports because of that then there we go. However, the atmosphere at football is always better and there is a fine line to be trod between the inclusiveness of cricket with a few beers in the Surrey sunshine and the raucous cheering and atmosphere of a packed away end in Ipswich during in early January.

    Hooliganism at our grounds there is not, at least very limited. I was at Doncaster v Scunthorpe on Sunday and walked to the ground with the away fans for ease (the police stop the traffic for you). I just joined the group as we were surrounded by police vans and cars with the blues on. None of the fans cared I was there, they were 13 to 18 year old lads singing songs. This is very different to the story my dad tells me of when Doncaster went to Scunthorpe in the late 60s and did the home fans obligatory bricking of the supporters coach only to find out the Doncaster fans that day were part of the Man Utd reds going to a game as Man Utd weren’t playing. It ended in fans with knives chasing Scunthorpe home fans, and you get the gist. Sometimes I think there is too much pearl clutching in the media these days. Just look at the reaction to Cologne in Arsenal. 20k fans many without tickets, oh the humanity! They were singing songs and trying to get into the ground, outrageous. The facts show there were 5 arrests, and as I passed on my way to a 5 a side game there were men and boys and mothers singing and patiently waiting in the rain to see if they could buy a ticket from a not nearly as passionate home fan. It was hardly as scene from Mad Max.

    We have to be very careful we don’t take the atmosphere out the game. We also have to be careful to treat fans as adults. No segregation works wonders in cricket and at that Arsenal game. At Headingly I have watched games with Leeds Ultras on the Western Terrace and at as Roses Derby I knocked a beer out of a hand by accident. The first reaction was to reach for me, but then almost because he remembered where he was and how things are meant to be at cricket, he laughed and let me buy him a replacement. Just anecdotal but because everyone is there for the game and a beer that is how it is, no need for fighting even when playing big local rivals. Same goes for that policing at the Doncaster game, did some lads singing really need an escort and did that in itself cause an issue?

    Fans have to take a responsibility to conduct themselves properly. The Mansfield lad should be dealt with fairly, not be made an example of. But the rules are you can’t bring in flairs or smoke bombs and the punishments are there for all to see. He is young and trying to impress which is understandable but actions have to have consequences. Reasonable ones of course. We need to make sure we behave reasonably, and we must give out stick and chant, but also take it back. I have seen people thrown out of home ends for cheering an away goal, surely we can take that or are we too precious that we have to attack someone for loving their team? Most of all though, we need to be allowed to be responsible. I think football is about ready in most cases for this to happen. For people to be allowed to mingle and not forced to be for or against. You love your team, but love a fellow fan who has the same drives and passions as you, but for a team under a different badge. One but for a quirk of geography or family past you might well follow. Had I moved to York as a 15 year old instead of Lincoln, perhaps now I would be mourning being in the Northern Prem rather than revelling in league 2. I would still love football and still be just as passionate about my club.

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