The recently published statistics on football banning orders passed without comment from The Scratching Shed because we felt there was a much bigger issue than Leeds United coming out ‘top’, and wanted to question the Home Office first.

The primary concern was that the league table format in which these statistics are published will always be spun negatively by the press and be used as nothing more than rankings for the more unsavoury element amongst our fans. A football hooligans league table if you will.

For me personally, I feel that the press coverage of these statistics further adds to the negative stereotype of Leeds United fans. It creates an immediate atmosphere of expected trouble whenever we visit away grounds, which in turn, can lead to a less than welcoming reception for the travelling support. It’s difficult for a club to change perceptions when Government statistics help the national media to single your club out for criticism.

We put it to the Home Office that the statistics should not list banning orders by how many each individual club receives, but should instead focus on the positives and list all the leagues as a whole. Overall, trouble at football grounds has decreased year-on-year, but very few newspapers will pick up on this statistic when they see an easy headline in ‘Dirty Leeds have the worst fans in football’

Here’s the Home Office’s response;

Thank you for your e-mail of 2 December about the recently published Football Banning Order statistics. I have been asked to reply.

The Home Office publishes these statistics annually. Football-related arrest statistics are compiled by police football intelligence officers’ returns for every regulated football match in England and Wales. Football banning order statistics are provided by the Football Banning Orders Authority, the statutory body that administers football banning orders

We do not prepare league tables to show the “worst hooligans”. Such tables are created by the media. Regional media may use the published data to construct a story with local flavour. You cite coverage in the Yorkshire Evening Post that highlights supporters of Leeds United being subject to the highest number of extant football banning orders. This is one piece of information chosen from 13 tables of statistical information. Banning orders last a minimum of 3 years (the majority of bans are for 3 years, 5 years is the maximum duration if a custodial sentence is not imposed, if a custodial sentence is imposed the duration of the order must be 6 to 10 years) accordingly data in this table changes when new bans are imposed and existing bans expire. The journalist could have used information from 2009/10 season showing that Leeds United supporters were made subject to the 7th highest number of football banning orders or the 13th highest number of football-arrests in that period.

We publish the data, but we cannot dictate the story. The statistics and commentary is presented data without reference to particular clubs. Our editorial input is to draw attention to key points through the statistical highlights page. Home Office Minister James Brokenshire MP made a more discursive statement issued by way of a press release. Additionally, the Minister was available to national and regional media on the day of release.

Home Office has published information in a similar format to the 2009/10 season statistics since we took over the role from the National Criminal Intelligence Service for 2001/02 season. The information is collated to show absolutes, trends and to aid policy development. It is shared with a range of stakeholders; football authorities, police and other partners in the criminal justice system. It has always been made publicly available, and we regularly receive requests for historic information from academics and students.

One reason comprehensive data is published annually is that were it not, we would receive numerous ad-hoc requests for similar data in various formats from Parliament, press and members of the public. This would inevitably lead to less useful information, in various formats making comparison difficult, and take longer to prepare. The established publication regime, with refinements to the information provided, has stood the test of time and seemingly satisfies users.

A key theme of the Government’s football disorder strategy is that supporters should be treated on the basis of their behaviour, not their reputation. This is stressed by officials and police when security and safety arrangements with overseas host authorities and police, and at European fora. This ethos is supported by the Association of Chief Police Officers domestically. The police football intelligence network facilitates police planning, assisting the process of match-by-match dynamic risk assessment and setting of the policing strategy. This is based on up-to-date police intelligence, not on historic statistics.

I appreciate your concern that football disorder tends to be glamourised in the media, and that behaviour can be influenced accordingly. In years when the number of football-related arrests has increased there has been more interest in the statistics release. However, football disorder has decreased significantly since the dark days of the 1970s and 1980s. There are many factors behind this and great credit must go to the fans. Self-policing is the best policing, and supporters can do their bit by marginalising troublemakers and unacceptable behaviour.

Firstly, we thank the Home Office for taking time to respond. Whilst we appreciate that such statistics could be requested anyway, and that this method saves time, we’re still not convinced that individually listing clubs is the best method.

Academics may well use the statistics for comparison, and require some geographical frame of reference, but it would be just as easy to list counties as it would football clubs, thus removing the inevitable spin from the media.

We have yet to reply to this letter as we would like to get your thoughts first. Do you think Leeds United are subjected to worse treatment than other clubs when travelling away? And do you agree that these statistics could be reported in a less individual manner?

You can comment below, or email The Scratching Shed using the online form.

  • Elliott

    I actually think that we are subjected to worse treatment at home than any other club I know of. West Yorkshire Police are the worst I have come across anywhere. They seem to have decided to criminalise all football; fans and their heavy handed crowd control etc. causes, in my view, as many offences as it prevents. And all this is considering I used to live in Cardiff when they had some real trouble – SWP deserve a favourable mention here.

  • Ollie G

    I have found that West Yorkshire police have a few officers who can be very aggressive and provocative, though for the most part the boys in blue just do their job.

    The problem with the stats are that they are just numbers, which are easily manipulated.

    I’m waffling, but I like how you’ve asked before replying, makes me for one feel important.

  • Gryff

    In my career I’ve learnt to be very critical of statistics. In this instance, I appreciate that the information could be had either by Freedom of Information or by a time-saving annual .pdf. Nevertheless, I feel that the statistics could in fact punish clubs who work hard to keep on top of hooligans.

    Consider this: a hypothetical club, ‘Club Northern FC’, has a past history of large minorities of its fans resorting to hooliganism. CNFC therefore decides to strive to keep on top of any misbehaviour. They hire officious stewards and work closely with the local police authority and clamp down on even the most minor misbehaviour. As such, CNFC lets the hooligans know who’s in charge and cases do not rise.

    Meanwhile ‘Club Southern FC’, who have a similar history, revel in their reputation as the hard-men of football. They work with the police to ensure hooliganism does not get out of hand, but they do not punish hooligan-fans so stringently and therefore less incidents are recorded on the annual figures.

    I think most people would agree that CNFC is to be commended in such a case, while CSFC can be criticised for being too lenient. Yet when the tables arrive it is CNFC who makes all the headlines and is shamed as the dirtiest club in English football. While the problem is indeed in media sensationalism, surely it would only take a short introductory note in the .pdf explaining the situation and so making media look more irresponsible if they do indeed go with the sensationalist headlines?

    • Lee B

      @gryff

      A mate (Millwall fan, poor bugger) claims that this is exactly what his club do. They’ve clamped down hard on hooligans to try to restore their reputation, but then get slated by the media for being ‘the worst offenders’.
      Damned if you do, damned if you don’t…

  • Lee B

    The whole method of delivery of the statistics is wrong.

    As an example, consider a match taking place between Leeds United and Frickley Athletic (if you don’t know who they are – look them up!), or any other very small club (I’m not picking on anyone here, it’s just an example).

    The police arrest 30 LUFC fans and 10 FAFC fans.
    If LUFC had 30k fans at the match, that’s 0.1%.
    If FAFC had 100 fans at the match, that’s 10%.

    From these stats, we can see that the fans of the smaller club were much more mis-behaved in proportion to the fans of the larger club.

    But who gets all the head-lines?!!??

    Clearly the size of the club and the attendance figures at matches needs to be taken into account to be able to get an understanding of the size of the problem. The numbers alone just don’t do it.

    Besides that, I agree that publishing figures per club is self-defeating. Football hooliganism is a nationwide problem (as the powers-that-be readily admit), so the statistics should be published on that basis.

  • Ben

    Firstly Were Never As Badly Behaved As Millwall.
    Secondly Millwall’s Reputation Precedes Them And Police Try To Contain them Not arrest Them.
    Thirdly They Can Never Put Us Down Without a Good Scrap.

  • l l l leeds

    nope. if our fans are being dicks why not let people know. It’s a shame, but that’s the way it is…

  • TSS

    Some great responses so far.

    What concerns me equally as much as the stereotype that other clubs judge us by, is how much of an effect this will have on some Leeds United fans.

    I come from a background in psychology, so behavioural effects and social phenomena are of particular interest to me. I cited the following observational research to the Home Office is my initial letter, which is something most people will be aware of to an extent from the poem ‘Monday’s child is fair of face…’ etc.

    The research by a psychologist called Jahoda, discovered that the Ashanti tribe believed the day of the week on which they were born had a profound effect on them as individuals. Those born on Wednesday for example were believed to be more aggressive than those born on different days of the week, and the theory was so broadly believed and driven into them, that they started to act more aggressively than others.

    http://www.behindthename.com/articles/1.php

    My point is this; If there is such a belief that Leeds United fans are thugs – created by the media and spread by peoples general beliefs – they will eventually begin to act in accordance with this stereotype. You can’t change behaviour without changing perceptions.

  • CP

    Another thing to notice, showing arrests in the 09/10 season both away and at home, Table 11. You’ll see that of our 85 arrests that season, 72 have come at home. 13 were made away (7th highest in the league, which is remarkable seeing as though we took more fans to away matches than any other club). My take on this high proportion being arrested at home matches is that it’s all down to the local yobs, who are not Leeds fans, who come for a fight. Not really fair then that they get classed as ‘Leeds United fans’.

  • CP

    A final point, is that 16 of our arrests were pitch incursions…we got promoted on the last game of the season, it’s not really surprising! Just because we have more passion than the Chelsea fans who sat applauding their team’s Premiership title like they’d just seen a slightly disappointing play at the theatre.

  • Craig

    @TSS

    And I thought you were anti-intellectual judging by your disdain when I quoted the physicist who analysed the trajectory of a ball hit with increasingly greater force! Truth is you are a social scientist – which is probably the same thing!

    Joking aside though TSS, I think you have a good point here. If I’d got in earlier I would also have mentioned the percentage factor but all I’m left to comment on is the phenomenon that occurs in large crowds but not in small ones. Call it northern pig-headedness or something else but, after watching Leeds amongst the home fans at both Ipswich and Norwich I noted the way the Leeds fans were herded by the police after the game, blocking all roads ostensibly to prevent them from mixing with any locals but actually creating a bolus of bravado with thousands of onlookers, and I wondered at the time whether the ‘special’ treatment meted out somehow added to the expectation that trouble could break out at any minute and therefore creating such an expectation. Reality was that behaviour was good and the fact was mentioned by the locals around me but it is the first time in many years that away fans have been treated thus at Carrow Road.

  • Neil

    I agree with most that has been said, more fans means more arrests even though statistically the percentage of fans arrested could be way less. The police at one ground could be arresting more fans than at other grounds for the same offences. Trying to eradicate hooliganism at some grounds would mean more arrests, at grounds where they don’t care it leads to less arrests. Anybody can put a spin on statistics when all factors are not equal.
    Now if they based the table on the arrests/banning orders per 1000 fans you’d probably see a much different picture.

  • Bill

    Great piece and the many facets of this particular argument are coming out.

    Talking of pitch invasions, I really hope the poor sod carted off following the winner on Saturday is okay, others were pushed back into the NE Corner but one lad was picked on and carted off – bad crack for a mini/mini ‘pile on’ sparked by Becchio’s winner.

    % wise I don’t believe we have any more dicks than many clubs across the country and through out the leagues.

    We have long suffered a certain press profile and everytime the hacks can use statistics or ad hoc accounts to help them cement their (largely London centric) bias they ‘pile on’.

    Let’s organise a TSS v Fleet Street charity match and get into them!! haha

  • El Tel

    Overall I think the reply from the HO is quite reasonable. However there is some interesting stuff in them there stats. Most notably is the number of banning orders as a % of the number of arrests. For Leeds this is up to 40% whilst for others I checked it tends to be around the 20% mark with Sunderland having just 4%. Cardiff were closest to our level with 38%.

    The question I would ask the Home Office is ‘How do they ensure that Banning Orders are being used consistently across the country as the stats would seem to suggest that some courts are much more likely to give a BO than others.

    Of course it could be that Sunderland fans are all arrested for dropping litter or some other very minor offence but this seems highly unlikely.

    • Terry

      This is a very good point. A friend whose “seat” was next to us in the Kop was arrested at the station in Leeds on the way back from an away match for swearing at a copper who was arresting a fellow fan. On his court appearance the police who were there told him not to worry, his offence was only minor compared to some of the dickheads who were appearing with him and he should expect a fine and a warning. Cue the magistrates to lump the whole crowd together, say that they had to crack down on all these football hooligans and give him a three year ban. Now he freely admits what he did was wrong but the punishment far outweighs the crime and not having the money to stand the costs of an appeal he just had to suck it up and has lost his season ticket and has been unable to attend Elland Road for nearly wo seasons now. This reinforces the belief that our “hooligans” may be getting bans for behaviour that may lead to the proverbial slap on the wrist in other areas.

  • Colin

    When TSS published an article on how many goals our defence had leaked (the worst in 50 years) I was slated for saying that the numbers alone should not be trusted as there’s other things to take into account such as other stats and looking at the facts as well as stats.

    Now the same type of data appears but this time showing Leeds as having the highest number of banning orders, and everyone starts spurting out the same stuff/arguments and coming to the same conclusions that I did with the ‘Worst goals record in 50 years’ – but I got slated for that then and now everyone’s pally pally with each other.

    And for the record, this report has been out a while, I’ve not seen the words ‘Leeds United’ and ‘Hooligan table’ on NewsNow until TSS posted this today. I haven’t heard anyone calling Leeds hooligans as a result of this report. @TSS Are you trying to stir this up on purpose?

    • TSS

      @Colin

      On the contrary Colin. I actually read about this in the national media the morning it was published (forget which paper unfortunately) but have also linked to the Yorkshire Evening Post’s coverage above.

      The difference between the two sets of statistics is that the amount of goals we have conceded does not alter people’s perceptions of us as a club. it does not fuel the negative stereotype of us in the media.

      A bit of a stretch trying to compare the two Colin.

      • Colin

        @TSS
        I’m not having a go at you by the way. My thoughts are just that are we really bothered about other people’s perception of Leeds United? A lot of public perception about Leeds comes from the 70′s – Dirty Leeds etc. That was over 30 years ago and it still sticks.

        I don’t think that anybody really think that Leeds have bad fans. A bad perception comes from throwing flares around as per Birmingham City vs Villa. Leeds fans running onto the pitch to celebrate isn’t seen as a bad thing and I don’t think anyone really takes notice of these Home Office stats either.

        The alternative view is that the stats don’t lie and we do have bad fans (i don’t agree with this stance by the way) in which case the club have some work to do to fix this.

        I don’t really think we should be worried about the negative stereotyping of Leeds United fans – I think since the decline of Leeds into the 3rd division and the way that we have clawed our way back, bit by bit, being professional throughout, I think the respect for Leeds fans is the highest we’ve had in decades.

        Which club is causing away teams to break their attendance records?
        Which away team keeps turning up to packed stadiums and full houses?
        Which club is regularly flaunted all over the TV screens – FA Cup, Sky, BBC etc.?

        Answer: Leeds, Leeds, Leeds.

        The opposition fans don’t seem to be staying away when Leeds come to town. They’re turning up in their droves because they want to see a great match. They want to see Leeds United and have banter with the Leeds fans. Far too many football grounds are quiet – no atmosphere, no fun, no entertainment. When Leeds come to town, there’s an atmosphere. An often complaint about Old Trafford is that it’s quiet. It wasn’t when Leeds turned up. The same goes for the Emirates. There’s going to be some volume in that one and Arsenal have confirmed they have no spare tickets for Arsenal fans – those tickets have gone already.

        I don’t think about negative stereotyping, as a Leeds fan, I want respect. And I think we’re getting it in spades, every time we travel.

        Okay some fans out there might not like Leeds, but it’s not our job to make them like us. It’s our job to gain their respect and we’ve got that already.

  • Enkayo

    ” There are lies, damn liies and then there are statistics” – say no more

  • TheReaper08

    @Enkayo

    Ditto !

    * Although I do like to use them to re-inforce my own arguments from time to time ;)

  • les irwin

    there are some nutters who watch leeds as there are at other clubs put frankly they don’t fight themselves ,i sit in the family stand at E R near the away fans there are some young up and coming banning orders at around the 15/16 years age group .based on the number of fans we have we are by shear weight of numbers perentage wise more likely to have more hooligans .there are some leeds fans who are hell bent on taking us back where we were years ago now i wouldnt mind if they were 18 /19 but they are 35/40 .it also has to be said there are some bobbys who get togged up in riot gear of a saturday for a ruck and they are heavy handed and to be fair i nearly clobbered one of our stewards myself recently aswell .
    this is a nothing stat