Burnley F.C Hooligans
The Suicide Squad is a football hooligan firm linked to the English Championship team, Burnley F.C. The self-imposed title is derived from previous behaviour at away games where the single-minded involvement in violence against overwhelming odds could be described as suicidal. The name became synonymous with the group during the early 1980s and many of the original members, now in their forties are well known to the police and have a string of convictions.
Out of the terrace wars of the 1980s emerged a gang known as the Suicide Squad in a period which also saw Burnley’s fall from the old Division One to Division Four and the threat of non-league football. This meant that the calculated, disciplined, organised operation that struck fear into opposing fans clashed with just about every rival mob in the country and became world renowned as one of the fiercest and most dangerous in Britain.
Although partially disbanded a new, more menacing group began to emerge. This group, considerably younger, named themselves the Burnley Youth. They would remain associated with the older hooligan group known as the Suicide Squad but refused to abide by the rules of the game. This group were more determined and less affected by the police tactics than their older colleagues. The police began to receive intelligence reports from members of the Suicide Squad who were genuinely concerned that their younger brethren were “out of control” and were travelling to away matches with weapons. The level of violence and the circumstances surrounding these incidents strongly supported these concerns.
In November 2002, Burnley police and the football club jointly established Operation Fixture, a scheme aimed at tackling football hooliganism in and around the club’s stadium, Turf Moor with more bans, more arrests and quicker convictions. The scheme also aimed to target racists, with the example of a Burnley fan having given a Nazi salute during a Worthington Cup match against Tottenham Hotspur F.C.
On 7 December 2002, a 17-year-old Nottingham Forest F.C. fan was killed when Burnley fans attacked Nottingham Forest fans in Burnley town centre. Two days later, a 19-year-old Burnley fan, Andrew McNee, a member of the so-called Suicide Youth Squad was arrested and charged with murder. In July 2003, McNee was sentenced to seven years in youth custody after he pleaded guilty to manslaughter. He was also banned from football matches for ten years. When passing sentence, the trial judge commented that the attack had happened, “for absolutely no reason, other than he supported a different football team and had the temerity to visit a public house the defendant and others believed he should have kept away from”; adding that football hooliganism was a “scourge on the sport” and said the courts should make it clear that anyone involved in violence would face harsh sentences. McNee was released from prison in 2006. Within weeks, however, he was fined £200 after pleading guilty to breaching his ten-year football banning order. On 22 July 2006 police caught him outside Turf Moor where Burnley were playing Bolton Wanderers F.C. Burnley’s first home game since McNee had been released from prison.
In July 2007, one of the founding members of the Suicide Squad, Andrew Porter, who wrote a book about his exploits with the firm was coming to the end of a three-year ban from attending both England and domestic matches. However, Burnley police applied for a fresh banning order with the start of the new season only weeks away under Operation Fixture which had been introduced in 2002.
In May 2009, another founder member of the Suicide Squad, Philip Holmes, was banned for a further three years from English & Welsh football grounds. The ban follows a steady stream of incidents since Holmes’ original ban expired in February 2007, including being the central figure in games against Stoke City & Sheffield United in the 2008-9 season.
The Suicide Squad featured in the television documentary series The Real Football Factories which was first shown on the Bravo Television channel.
On 18 October 2009, following the first FA Premier League derby between Blackburn Rovers and Burnley, members of the Suicide Squad clashed at the Station public house in the Cherry Tree area of the town in a riot described by police officers as “like something out of Braveheart”. 15 months later, 12 members of the Suicide Squad received prison sentences totalling 32 years along with lengthy banning orders. Andrew Porter, aged 44, was discovered to have organised the riot, receiving the heaviest sentence; a five-year prison sentence along with a 10-year banning order. Porter had written a book – Suicide Squad: The Inside Story of a Football Firm – about his experiences as a football hooligan.
Burnley ‘Suicide Squad’ hooligans jailed for 32 years over East Lancs derby clash
TWELVE members of Burnley’s infamous hooligan firm the Suicide Squad have been jailed for a total of 32 years for their part in violence which erupted after the Clarets’ first Premier League clash with Blackburn.
Experienced officers described the derby day scenes outside The Station pub in Cherry Tree, Blackburn, as ‘like something out of Braveheart’ as Burnley fans came ‘roaring, screaming and grunting’ up the hill to clash with rival Rovers supporters.
Police intercepted and Judge Graham Knowles QC admitted: “It was the closest of close run things that the police didn’t find themselves sandwiched between two groups of drunken, violent and hostile men intent on confrontation’.
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Judge Knowles said the Burnley gang’s actions were about the ‘glorification of violence’ and that its ringleaders Andrew Porter, Daniel Tempest, Paul Hartley and Mark Hamer, got ‘status and pleasure’ from it.
He said evidence during four trials of ‘supporters’ showed that members of ‘Blackburn Youth’ had got wind of a ‘planned confrontation’ with the Suicide Squad hours after the game had finished.
Judge Knowles said the ‘chosen battleground’ was The Station pub in Preston Old Road with Burnley fans travelling there by taxi at around 5pm on October 18, 2009.
He said: “All these defendants gave their allegiance to it on this day.
“No-one leaving in a taxi was in the slightest doubt what they were doing and under what banner.”
Organiser Porter, 44, of Parliament Street, Burnley, who didn’t even make it to the incident after his taxi got lost, was jailed for five years with a 10-year football banning order.
His right-hand man and fellow convicted football hooligan, Hartley, 27, of Church Street, Burnley, was jailed for four years with a 10-year banning order.
Tempest, 27, of Mitton Grove, Burnley, was told by the judge he was an ‘intelligent, articulate man’ with an ‘extraordinary’ flip side of enjoying violence.
His girlfriend had pleaded with him to behave before the derby.
He was jailed for four years and two months and given a 10-year banning order.
Hamer, 28, of Olivant Street, Burnley, was the fourth convicted hooligan with 30 previous offences and was jailed for three years and eight months.
Others convicted of conspiring to commit violent disorder were Joshua Slade, 18, of Kittiwake Road, Chorley and Steven Ball, 18, of Crabtree Avenue, who were sent to young offenders institutes for 12 months and 14 months respectively, both with six-year banning orders.
Thomas McDonough, 23, of Valley Road, Barnoldswick, was jailed for 21 months with a seven-year order.
Stuart Craig, 23, of Haverholt Close, Colne, Ian Grice, 37, of Herbert Street, Padiham, and Scott Page, 26, of Huntroyde Close, Burnley, were all jailed for two years, with seven- and eight-year banning orders.
Page’s mobile phone had pictures of Porter’s book ‘Suicide Squad: The Inside Story of a Football Firm’ and a ‘Suicide Youth’ flag on it as ‘badges of allegiance’.
Joshua Gornall, 22, of Northview, Eastburn, Yorkshire, kissed his pregnant wife in the public gallery before being sentenced to two years and three months jail, with an eight-year banning order.
He had been on his stag do on the day of the incident.
Sean Widdop, 24, of Hornbeam Way, Manchester, ‘led a very different life to those in the dock’ according to the Judge, but had armed himself with a snooker ball and padlock.
He was jailed for a total of three-and-a-half years, with an eight-year banning order.
Following the sentencing, senior officers who lead the operation and investigation spoke out.
In total 32 people were arrested immediately after the incident from both sides and a further 15 during the course of a five-month inquiry.
Mobile phones were seized, as was CCTV evidence, house to house inquiries were made and more than 160 statements taken.
Assistant Chief Constable Andy Cooke said the investigation into what police believed was ‘pre-arranged disorder’ between ‘remnants of a bygone age’ was given resources similar to a serious and organised crime inquiry ‘because of how seriously we take this sort of violence’.
Mr Cooke said: “We’ve got more professional football grounds than anyone except the Met and GMP.
“It’s a big responsibility for us. We have great relationships with the clubs.
“The fact this occurred some distance away, three hours after the game shows how well the grounds are policed by the police and clubs.”
“We will treat them as we treat other serious criminals.
“Those involved in it are halfwits, spoiling the reputation of football supporters.”
Superintendent Chris Bithell, who was the match commander on the day, praised officers’ bravery, adding: “If the police weren’t there, someone would have been seriously hurt.
“They are just thugs and criminals, it’s people like that who spoil football.”
For the first time, Mr Bithell revealed that there were 400 officers and staff working on the East Lancashire derby operation throughout the day.
He said the tactics were right because of a minority ‘hell-bent’ on causing trouble.