NEWS COMMENT: Pioneering plan to nip hooliganism in the bud

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Despite rigorous efforts by police and clubs to name, shame, and ban the culprits, the spectre of football hooliganism has never truly been laid to rest.

Tribal loyalties, heightened tensions and the atmosphere of a matchday showdown means the threat of exuberance boiling over into violence is never far away.

We are used to seeing an increased police presence on matchdays, maybe mounted officers on patrol, and fans are well used to being herded about like cattle, segregated from rivals at every opportunity.

But still there are flashpoints, such as the Pompey v Oldham match in September last year, when disgruntled Pompey fans responded to a defeat in post-match scenes which terrified innocent fans and families.

And it was not just adults caught up in the mayhem. CCTV footage identified 32 children aged between 12 and 16, throwing coins, stones and bottles.

But instead of seeking a prosecution through the courts as they did with the adults, Hampshire detectives, football officers and youth offending team, in partnership with Pompey, tried a different approach.

The young offenders and their parents were made to attend workshops to educate them in the error of their ways. And, in case anyone should think they had got off lightly, they were also banned from attending any home or away football games for 12 months, and are required to complete work in the community. They were shown CCTV stills of their actions and made to talk about the effects of their behaviour.

In the same way a speed awareness course might make an errant driver think twice about the dangers of exceeding the speed limit, it is to be hoped that this pioneering approach will have a deterrent effect on budding young hooligans and, in time, ensure football remains harmless family fun.