The ugly face of football: Inside rising hooliganism in the stands as new C4 documentary follows officers trying to clamp down on violence, disorder and anti-social behaviour blighting the beautiful game

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The ugly face of football has been laid bare in a new documentary that follows officers as they try and managed feuds between bitterly divided teams.

Football Cops on Channel 4, which premiered on Monday night, takes an inside look at the country's Dedicated Football Officer's (DFO) who work to tackle the violence, disorder and anti-social behaviour at games. 

Kicking off the series, the DFO had to manage a bitter feud between Coventry City and Sunderland, whose entrenched hatred of each other goes back almost 50 years to a decisive game that saw Sunderland relegated and Coventry fined for 'influencing an outcome'. 

The cops barely made it through their breakfast before they have to rush in to break up a group of youths who have started brawling in a car park.

Similarly, officers in Ipswich were on high-alert as they tried to safely get fans into the stadium as it debuted its new turnstile system. 

And as Manchester City hosted Liverpool in a cup fixture, the DFO were forced to jump into action to intercept ticketless fans from getting in, while also trying to prevent opposing fans from becoming violent or disturbing the peace.

Cops in Coventry barely made it through their breakfast before they have to rush in to break up a group of youths who have started brawling in a car park

Cops in Coventry barely made it through their breakfast before they have to rush in to break up a group of youths who have started brawling in a car park

Cops in Coventry barely made it through their breakfast before they have to rush in to break up a group of youths who have started brawling in a car park

Inside Coventry Building Society Arena, a fan with a smoke bomb rushed on to the pitch with a smoke bomb. But much to officers' surprise, the blue flare was not meant to show his support for Coventry, but was instead part of a gender reveal for his upcoming child. The man was arrested and later given a four year football ban

Ahead of the contest between Coventry and Sunderland, DFO were stationed at The Wheatsheaf Inn, which is home to Coventry supporters.

As apparent Sunderland fans tried to enter the pub, a DFO stops them, explaining that they were not welcome in the establishment.

The officer told the programme that keeping rival fans out of the pub is a necessary preventive measure, alleging 'it would be seen as a big thing' if there were more away team fans in the boozer than Coventry supporters. 

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The force is also responsible for ensuring fans get into Coventry Building Society Arena without clashing with the opposition.

The documentary shows how cops followed a group of roughly 70 'very vocal' youths, who police suspect could engage in anti-social behaviour, as they head towards the arena.

Fans launched profanity-filled chants at their rivals and at least one hooligan was arrested for violent disorder. Officers also determined that individual had been involved in the brawl at the retail car park earlier in the morning.

Inside the stadium, the DFO spot a fan with a smoke bomb - which has been banned, along with pyrotechnics, for several years - in the 14 and 15 block of the stands. The fan then runs on to the pitch, waving a blue flare.

Fans suspected the smoke bomb was meant to show his support for Coventry, but the stint was actually a gender reveal for his upcoming child.

The man was arrested, and later given a four year football ban, bur the incident left one responding officer with 'no words'.

The same match also saw a Sunderland fan have a go at a DFO while leaving the stadium, prompting response from the cops. But a crowd of fellow supporters became enraged and knocked down a barrier.

Coventry fans then started taunting the opposition as Sunderland fans tried to get around the police.

At the end of the match, officers were forced to escort Liverpool fans to the city centre so that home fans could not interact with them

At the end of the match, officers were forced to escort Liverpool fans to the city centre so that home fans could not interact with them

But the Manchester City fans continued to taunt their rivals, forcing police to move the group away to 'prevent a breach of the peace'

But the Manchester City fans continued to taunt their rivals, forcing police to move the group away to 'prevent a breach of the peace'

The escort only ended once the majority of Liverpool fans had boarded the train at Manchester Piccadilly station

The escort only ended once the majority of Liverpool fans had boarded the train at Manchester Piccadilly station

Liverpool fans flocked to Manchester in December 2022 ahead of the EFL Cup tie, which saw at least one incident of assault and a 15-year-old girl injured after being hit in the head with a cup.

The clubs had released a statement ahead of the match 'condemning violence', but DFO warned that 'hatred amongst supporters had grown and grown'. 

One officer even claimed that many fans with families had been questioning: 'Is it safe to watch the game?'

Thirty Liverpool stewards were sent to the match, with many predominately stationed in the car park. They were prepared to jump into action to intercept ticketless fans from getting in.

Officers had been notified ahead of the contest that a group of fans might be attending with fraudulent tickets.

A group of 30 to 40 males, dressed in black and some sporting balaclavas, marched towards the stadium and were intercepted by police conducting ticket checks. A few, who appeared to be youths, did not have tickets to the game.

Police were also forced to 'babysit' a 14-year-old boy after his father was arrested for possession of cocaine - which a DFO said could result in a 10 year ban.

At the end of the match, officers were forced to escort Liverpool fans to the city centre so that home fans could not interact with them. 

But the Manchester City fans continued to taunt their rivals, forcing police to move the group away to 'prevent a breach of the peace'. The escort only ended once the majority of Liverpool fans had boarded the train at Manchester Piccadilly station.

The programme also highlighted how DFO conduct security at matches, including the day Ipwich Town Football Club debuted its new turnstiles at Portman Road Stadium. Police anticipated that there could be glitches with the new system and were monitoring the crowd on the ground and from a control room, watching CCTV and live drone footage

The programme also highlighted how DFO conduct security at matches, including the day Ipwich Town Football Club debuted its new turnstiles at Portman Road Stadium. Police anticipated that there could be glitches with the new system and were monitoring the crowd on the ground and from a control room, watching CCTV and live drone footage

At least one fan was asked to finish his beer before entering the arena, which he claimed he did not know was a rule. A DFO said, 'its early to be on the beers isn't?', before asking him what time he started drinking. The fan replied 9am and the pair shared some playful banter before he finished his drink and walked in

At least one fan was asked to finish his beer before entering the arena, which he claimed he did not know was a rule. A DFO said, 'its early to be on the beers isn't?', before asking him what time he started drinking. The fan replied 9am and the pair shared some playful banter before he finished his drink and walked in

Another fan, pictured during his altercation with a DFO, was stopped for allegedly swearing at and threatening an officer

Another fan, pictured during his altercation with a DFO, was stopped for allegedly swearing at and threatening an officer

The programme also highlighted how DFO conduct security at matches, including the day Ipwich Town Football Club debuted its new turnstiles at Portman Road Stadium.

The new turnstiles could accept mobile tickets, which officials hoped would help crack down on fans entering without tickets or using fraudulent tickets.

The DFO at Ipwich, which was hosting Wycombe, anticipated that there could be glitches with the new system and were monitoring the crowd on the ground and from a control room, watching CCTV and live drone footage.

One officer explained that 'you've got to get people in safely' and warned that you don't want people to get stuck because it could slow down the queue and 'potentially cause a crushing situation'.

The DFO did not appear to have many issues ushering fans into the arena, though one did try to jump the queue. 

Another fan was stopped for allegedly swearing at and threatening an officer.

At least one fan was asked to finish his beer before entering the arena, which he claimed he did not know was a rule.

A DFO said, 'its early to be on the beers isn't?', before asking him what time he started drinking. The fan replied 9am and the pair shared some playful banter before he finished his drink and walked in.

The ugly face of football has been laid bare in a new documentary that follows officers as they try and managed feuds between bitterly divided teams

The ugly face of football has been laid bare in a new documentary that follows officers as they try and managed feuds between bitterly divided teams

Football Cops on Channel 4 takes an inside look at the country's Dedicated Football Officer's (DFO) who work to tackle the violence, disorder and anti-social behaviour at games. Pictured are Sunderland fans knocking down a barrier after a clash with police

Football Cops on Channel 4 takes an inside look at the country's Dedicated Football Officer's (DFO) who work to tackle the violence, disorder and anti-social behaviour at games. Pictured are Sunderland fans knocking down a barrier after a clash with police

Kicking off the series the DFO had to manage a bitter feud between Coventry City and Sunderland, whose entrenched hatred of each other goes back almost 50 years to a decisive game that saw Sunderland relegated and Coventry fined for 'influencing an outcome'

Kicking off the series the DFO had to manage a bitter feud between Coventry City and Sunderland, whose entrenched hatred of each other goes back almost 50 years to a decisive game that saw Sunderland relegated and Coventry fined for 'influencing an outcome'

Football-related arrests stand at their highest level for nine years, with 2,264 arrests during the 2022-23 season, an increase of 66 on last year and the highest figure since 2013-14.

The figures for last year included arrests made in England and Wales relating to overseas matches and arrests for possession of Class A drugs for the first time.

Police have said that all the fans featured in episode one of the programme were released without charge, except for the man who carried out his gender reveal on the pitch. 

This comes after Netflix released 'The Final: Attack on Wembley', which followed the build up to the match on July 11 2021 which saw bedlam across the country and widespread instances of mob-like football hooliganism.

It also includes footage of the invasion of the Euro final by fans without tickets which resulted in brawls between fans inside the ground and people filmed openly snorting drugs on Wembley Way

One expert told MailOnline that a 'lockdown generation' of young thugs is fuelling a rise in football hooliganism across the UK. 

Geoff Pearson, a professor of law at the University of Manchester and one of the UK's foremost authorities on football hooliganism, said some of the trouble can be traced back to lockdown.

He said boys attending games for the first time usually go with relatives or older friends, who help set the boundaries of acceptable behaviour before they go alone with peers of a similar age when they are more mature.

But Dr Pearson said lockdown had stripped out this crucial formative step for a generation of youngsters.

Football-related arrests stand at their highest level for nine years, with 2,264 arrests during the 2022-23 season, an increase of 66 on last year and the highest figure since 2013-14

Football-related arrests stand at their highest level for nine years, with 2,264 arrests during the 2022-23 season, an increase of 66 on last year and the highest figure since 2013-14

This comes after Netflix released 'The Final: Attack on Wembley', which followed the build up to the match on July 11 2021 which saw bedlam across the country and widespread instances of mob-like football hooliganism

This comes after Netflix released 'The Final: Attack on Wembley', which followed the build up to the match on July 11 2021 which saw bedlam across the country and widespread instances of mob-like football hooliganism

'If you think of how fan communities work when you don't have lockdowns, young fans go with family members, who at points will make interventions and draw the line about what is acceptable,' he told MailOnline.

'During lockdown these young fans were set at home.

'So you had a sudden rush of young, new fans rushing into stadiums at the same time.

'Good policing relies on officers knowing fans, particular away fans, which did not happen over lockdown.

'We also lost a lot of experienced police and security officials. I suspect we're still putting some of that back together.'

There were 682 new football banning orders issued last season, an increase of 32 per cent compared to the 2021-22 campaign and the highest number issued since 960 in 2010-11.

Scotland has also suffered outbreaks of football-related violence, with a Scottish League Two match between Stanraer and Clyde ending in chaos on February 10 as home supporters reportedly attacked their rivals with golf clubs.

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