Millwall Football Club is arguably better known for its supporters than its sporting prowess. The club has become synonymous with its infamous Millwall hooligans.
The earliest instances of football hooliganism at Millwall date back over 110 years when Millwall played West Ham United in 1906. At the time, supporters of both clubs were made up largely of dock workers – partly from companies vying for the same business. As a result, tensions were high during the game, which led to fighting on the terraces.
Crowd troubles continued in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s and peaked in the heyday of British football hooliganism in the 70s and 80s. Throughout the 70s and 80s, Millwall FC became synonymous with football violence and its firm became one of the most feared in the country.
The “F-Troop” was the name of Millwall’s firm. However, the South London club’s hooligans became more widely known as the “Bushwackers.”
Arguably the worst incident of football violence involving Millwall hooligans occurred in March 1985 during an FA Cup match-up against Luton Town. The game was suspended after 14 minutes due to overcrowding and rioting on the stands. The violence even spilled over onto the pitch. The game eventually continued and ended 1-0 to Luton.
The Luton riots of 1985 led to harsher restrictions and penalties for supporters as the authorities attempted to stamp out football hooliganism in the UK.
Millwall FC remains one of the clubs with the most stadium bans in the United Kingdom. However, despite the high number of banning orders and the introduction of a fan membership scheme at The Den, Millwall casuals are still active today.
While their numbers are nowhere near as high as during their heyday in the 1970s and 1980s, away games to Millwall are still a tricky (and potentially dangerous) affair for away supporters. Especially, if you come from a rivalling club such as Chelsea or West Ham United.
In recent years, the largest outbreak of violence occurred at Upton Park during a derby against bitter rival West Ham United.
Hooligans fought inside and outside the stadium, which resulted in the worst violence that London had seen in a long time.
Despite efforts by the club, the FA and the authorities to curtail hooliganism at Millwall, violence is still a regular feature at high-risk fixtures.
Many experts believe that media sensationalism has contributed to Millwall fans’ reputation. The reality, however, is that you will still find Millwall casuals at derbies and other high profile games today.