The Leeds United Service Crew are a football hooligan firm linked to the English Football League team, Leeds United A.F.C. The Service Crew were formed in 1974, and named after the ordinary public service trains that the hooligans would travel on to away matches, rather than the, heavily policed, organised football special trains. The Service Crew have a reputation for being the most notorious hooligan firm in the history of English football.
In 1985 when football hooliganism was rife in England, the BBC Six O’Clock News had a special report in which they listed the worst football hooligan gangs creating mayhem across England and Leeds United were listed amongst the worst five clubs.
The club distances itself from any activities the Service Crew are involved in. During the height of the hooliganism, the Service Crew become one of the most notorious firms in European football, and in doing so nearly brought the club to its knees.
The first high profile incident that Leeds hooligans were involved in came on 28 May 1975 at the European Cup final against Bayern Munich at the Parc des Princes in Paris, France. When striker Peter Lorimer had a goal disallowed in a game which ended in a 2-0 defeat to the West German side, and having already seen their team have two penalty appeals rejected by French referee Michel Kitabdjian, scores of Leeds fans ripped seats from the stands and threw them onto the pitch. Some of them clashed with the French police as they invaded the pitch. As a result of this incident, Leeds were banned from European competitions for four years – although this was later reduced to two years on appeal. Due to their on-the-field decline, however, it would be another 17 years before they tasted European action again.
In the 1982–83 season, in the club’s first game in the Second Division after relegation, some Leeds fans went on what was described in The Sun newspaper as “an orgy of drinking, looting and fighting” in Cleethorpes, where 600 Leeds fans had stayed the night before the match. In October, two Newcastle United players were hit by missiles at Elland Road and the FA ordered another inquiry.
By January 1987, the club’s reputation for hooliganism was so bad that when they were drawn with non-league Telford United in an FA Cup third round tie, the Shropshire club refused to host the game at their Bucks Head ground; it was instead played some 30 miles away at the stadium of West Bromwich Albion.
On 5 May 1990, Leeds travelled to AFC Bournemouth on the South Coast for the final game of the 1989-90 Second Division season. Victory in the game would give them the Second Division title and promotion back to the top flight after eight years away. Leeds achieved this with a 1-0 win, but the success was marred by a string of vandalism on town centre pubs and shops as well as a series of battles between hooligans and police officers. 104 people were arrested and 12 police officers were injured.
Modern day crackdowns on football hooliganism and the heavy use of CCTV at grounds have, as with other firms, largely curtailed the activities of the Service Crew. While hooliganism continues at Leeds United, the nature of it has changed since the 1970s and 1980s. Improvements to security in Elland Road as with all grounds in England have led to confrontations more usually taking place away from stadiums.
On 28 April 2007, during the Championship game at Elland Road with Ipswich Town, about 200 home fans spilled on to the pitch and forced a 30-minute delay after a late Ipswich equaliser all but sealed Leeds’ relegation to League One. Around 100 of them ran toward the South East stand where the away supporters were located. In January 2008 thirteen Leeds United fans were handed football banning orders totalling 45 years after they pleaded guilty to affray in connection with the pitch invasion.