First Touch

Fight Club, Euro 2016 Style

We’ve all seen the shocking scenes of English hooligans and  of violence that have come our way from Euro 2016 in France these last few days.

The Matty Lawrence Column

matty lawrence logo for Euro 2016 article

They have come from foot soldiers on the ground in Marseille or Lille, numerous journalists safely ensconced in their Parisian hotels and a number of keyboard warriors snuggled up on their sofas here in the UK.

Look, I make no bones about it; I am one of those lily-livered souls resting their limbs on a chaise longue hundreds of miles away from the kerfuffle. (And these are the final words you need to read on the subject. In fact, I insist). What I do take an affront to is the fact that so many people actually out in France say I cannot comment because I’m not at the metaphorical coalface.


I wasn’t in the jungles in Vietnam, but I’m perfectly capable of passing judgement and having a viewpoint on the inanity of that conflict.

I’ve only ever been to the Houses of Parliament once, but I’m very comfortable in describing some MPs as good-for-nothing heathens who benefit solely from their lineage. Christ, I’ve never met Donald Trump, but I think bumbling buffoon is putting it mildly. The Donald probably wouldn’t even want to build a wall around my apartment for that lenient comment.

And don’t get me started on radio DJs from the 1970s. And I was only a child, then. Doh! Guess what? I read books, I read newspapers from all sides of the spectrum and above all else I like to think that I don’t cast aspersions without good reason. I have a brain: I can comment.

English Hooligans At It Again

The disgusting scenes from the European Championships have left many people and groups accountable. I’m not claiming that any one entity is solely responsible. However, I believe the catalyst for these scenes has been the deplorable behaviour of English fans: no, sorry, hooligans over the last three-to-four decades. I, honestly, believe that many of our hooligans have put themselves up on a pedestal to be toppled. You reap what you sow and all that.

And let’s not forget the Russian, so called, ultras who also deserve a massive portion of the blame. Did you see the size of those bastards? I would have left Usain Bolt in the starting blocks if I saw those guys heading my way. To call them meatheads really doesn’t do them sufficient justice: they appeared to not only be juiced up on steroids, but also psychologically deranged. And they are just the positive points!

Spend a few minutes trawling through the Internet and see how these guys prepared. I apologise if I sound like I have a modicum of admiration for them, but bloody hell did they train with intent and purpose.

For this is what they did: they trained with the sole intention of the wanton destruction of people and property in France. They trained in the arts of boxing, MMA and even brought with them a little hooligan kit in a bum-bag (a fanny pack to you guys on the other side of the pond) consisting of gum-shield, knuckle-dusters and lightweight fighting gloves. How quaint.

I’m afraid that we almost have to accept that hooliganism is a “thing.” Unfortunately, it’s a way of life for some on our shores and a sport for this new breed of Russian ultra.

Millwall vs Palace

I spent 16 years playing professional football in England and participated in a few decent derby matches: West Ham vs Millwall and Millwall vs Palace to name just a couple. As a player you got to learn when the trouble was going to erupt and quite often where. I don’t want to paint too romantic a picture, but these fights were usually pretty well organized and more often than not in areas well away from the football ground and quite often away from the glare of the public.

The police usually knew of these “meets” and would keep their distance unless anything got too out of hand…the introduction of knives and I think you can imagine the rest. Do you know what? I really don’t have a problem with this asinine phenomenon. But, here’s the kicker. If it is, thus, a team sport; then you better bloody well fight another team. The Russian ultras totally went against the grain of hooliganism as an ethos. (And I do say that slightly tongue-in-cheek).

They literally tried to hurt and maim everything in their path. Old, young, man, boy and even people with their hands up and “surrendering.” Not only would they knock innocent bystanders, either down, or out; they would then proceed to kick the living hell out of their heads: like a football.

Russian Thugs vs Boozed Up Brits

Meanwhile, the French police were slightly less useful than a chocolate teapot, but boy do I feel sorry for them. When you are trying to prevent numerous stadia from being blown to smithereens and multiple lone-wolf jihadis from unleashing the metaphorical dogs of hell on the European public, the last thing you need are boozed up Brits and Russian thugs causing consternation at every turn.

But, rather than stand around treating the fighting as a spectator sport it might be an idea if you arrested a few of the protagonists – mainly the ones that make Arnold Schwarzenegger look like a middleweight. Yes, the French police had an awful lot of other worries on their minds, but boy were they unprepared. “England vs Russia in Marseille at 9pm and there may be trouble,” Sherlock said in his best French accent.

UEFA Muppets

And, last, but not least, a word about those loveable old rogues at UEFA towers: total and utter muppets. Look, I know they had their cutesy, little wall-chart that they needed to fill in as the respective balls came out of the pots in the draw.

Have a little bit of foresight, though. The afore-mentioned wall-chart does not need to be set in stone. You can manufacture the group games to work to everyone’s advantage: the police, the fans and even the officials at the stadia.

Without being too derogatory (obviously being derogatory), but what on earth is the point of playing the Iceland vs Hungary game at the Stade de France? At best it will be half full. Please refer to the wall-chart.

All of the above are responsible in some way for this carnage.You decide to which percentage point. More importantly, how do WE prevent this from happening again? All of us; each and every one of us: stand in front of the mirror and figure out a way that you can have a positive effect on hooliganism.

However small an effect you think you can have. We all have to be better people. We can all change and influence change for the better. This wretched behaviour needs to be vilified and stopped in its tracks. Switzerland, of course, can remain neutral.

Read Matty’s review of the new Shaker Hymn LP here

shaker hymn album cover

Scroll to Top