When was the last time you remembered getting into trouble at a football game?
You may have seen it on the news, read a story, or even witnessed it yourself – threats of violence, abusive chants, or even large-scale crowd rioting.
And when you saw that anger, what was your first thought?
I guess most people would assume leadership failure, heavy drinking, or maybe even the collapse of society.
I don’t think many people would primarily blame the antics of Lairy fans on cocaine, the Class A staple that’s been associated with bankers and celebrities for years.
So when the government starts insisting that cocaine use is what they need to address in order to combat rising incidents of “violence and disorder” at football games, something is wrong.
There’s a problem with football culture in the UK, but I don’t think it’s a coke problem.
Police Secretary Kit Malthouse announced a new rule this week, warning any football fan convicted of selling or taking a Class A drug at a game that they face a five-year ban and may have to surrender their passports if their team it’s playing abroad.
That’s just stupid. Let’s have a look.
A report by the UK Football Police in January this year reported that the 2020/21 season saw a 47% increase in arrests and a 36% increase in match disorder compared to the same period last year.
Those are big, scary numbers! But while they’re useful when used as soundbites, they don’t nearly tell the whole story.
I don’t know if you’re paying attention to the news, but there was a fairly significant global event that has impacted football viewership over the last few years.
The pandemic doesn’t fully explain this surge, but it’s certainly a factor, as does the increase in the number of games police attended over the past season.
Tossing that out the window and saying ‘Nah, it’s actually the cokeheads’ stinks at the government looking for a convenient excuse for a problem that has existed in English football for a long, long time.
Some people are just assholes. Logically, it follows that a good handful of football fans are assholes, given that the sport is a rough cross-section of society like any activity in the countryside.
When you bring tens of thousands of people together, especially in an environment that encourages significant drinking, it’s no surprise that some assholes show up.
That is the fundamental problem with policing football fans in this country.
Difficult to deal with thousands of people all in crowd mode – you know that thing where 50 people storm the barrier so you might as well be the 51st because hey you don’t wanna be the sucker left behind – when you decide you don’t want to be consensually monitored.
Last summer’s European Championships final was the real catalyst for this reform, as thousands of people tried to storm into Wembley Stadium without tickets and isolated instances of outrageous behavior went viral (how could we forget the ‘Bum Flare’ man ? )
The blast at the stadium was justifiably dangerous, and passers-by reported that some people were taking cocaine in the general carnage around the capital.
Shocking. Tens of thousands of people are having a huge party in London and it seems some of them have been on drugs.
Just… some of the folks sucking up a key here and there while surrounded by folks wreaking equal or more destruction with nothing stronger than several dozen old-fashioned lagers.
The aftermath focused on a few high-profile (or at least the few visible) drug users in the crowd, with a slew of headlines about how the “bum enthusiast” (Charlie Perry, to give him his Sunday name) had ALLOWED his cocaine use.
Because it’s easy to pick an example as an anecdote to create your own headlines, especially when you don’t want to get to the root of the problem – football fans and crowd mode are real, and they’re tougher as hell for the police.
Even more so when, day in, day out, your police force in the capital seems to be doing their best to undermine any trust and respect that anyone has ever placed in them.
But it’s okay. Our fearless Prime Minister is on the case. “Middle-class cokes” are a huge problem, says Boris Johnson.
“Their habit feeds a war in our streets and drives misery and crime in our country and beyond.”
Just listen to the man! Open minded! Clearly!
Johnson went “tough on the causes of crime,” adding, “That’s why we’re stepping up our efforts to ensure those who break the law face the full consequences – because using illegal drugs is never a crime without it.” Victim.”
That’s exactly the kind of hard-hitting statesmanship you’d expect from… ah, the Eton and Oxford boy who, yes, is on record talking about trying cocaine at university.
Is it possible that this headline-grabbing five-year ban is just that – a headline to cover up the problem that football culture in Britain is still toxic?
No, actually – it’s a lot worse than that.
It’s a headline handle stuck on the wrong wall in the wrong house. Three cities further.
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