One of Britain’s most prolific football hooligans, accused of inciting and abusing Manchester United fans, has been banned from attending matches. Liam Newton, 32, has been on an MI6 watchlist of known troublemakers at West Ham games in the UK and abroad since 2014, a court has heard.
Hammers fan Newton was part of a group of so-called ‘at-risk supporters’ and wreaked havoc in nine different matches, with Manchester United, Birmingham City, Tottenham Hotspur and Middlesbrough as well as the French side of Lyon and the German teams of Schalke 04 and Frankfurt.
Giving evidence to Stratford Magistrates’ Court this week, the Independent Engineer said verbal abuse between rival supporters was ‘common’ in Britain and ‘unfortunately it is just football’.
READ MORE: Boy, 6, sleeps on airport floor as family’s £2,000 vacation to Spain ruined after TWO easyJet flights canceled
Handing him a three-year ban, District Judge John Law, reports the Mirror, said of Newton: “He enjoys the camaraderie of being with other supporters in a risky group amid the tension of the epidemic of potential violence, which he says is part of the game.”
The affair comes after a number of pitch invasions after games in England, including Manchester City’s Premier League title win over Aston Villa last weekend, in which the Aston keeper Villa, Robin Olsen, claimed he was assaulted. And last week Crystal Palace boss Patrick Vieira was involved in an altercation with an Everton supporter during a pitch invasion following the team’s defeat at Goodison Park.
The Metropolitan Police previously sought a restraining order against Newton, from Wickford, Essex, after he was identified as an at-risk supporter at four football matches between 2014 and 2016 – but the force lost.
Last year, they renewed their request after Newton was spotted at the center of trouble in three more games between 2019 and 2021. In a last-minute request before trial, a prosecutor managed to convince the judge to hear of Newton’s presence during the chaos overseas. matches as recent as this month.
The father-of-one told the court he had been attending West Ham games since the age of five and being banned would be a ‘shock to the system’. The court heard Newton was first arrested during West Ham’s pre-season tour of Germany for the Schalke 04 Cup in 2014 after he tried to fight off two fans inside the stadium.
In April 2016, he was accused of shouting abuse and gossiping at Manchester United fans during the Premier League side’s final home game at Upton Park and in October of the same year during another home game with Middlesbrough. Newton was arrested during an away game with Tottenham in November 2016 and later admitted to violent disturbances after visiting fan buses outside to taunt them. He was given a 12 month community order and ordered to do unpaid work.
In January 2019, Newton was seen in body footage escorted by police after a group of West Ham fans clashed with Birmingham City supporters ahead of a home game. Newton was heard in body worn footage saying to another fan who had been assaulted: “Mark well done, well done mate, I love it.”
Asked by prosecutor Andrew Price what he meant, Newton replied, “It takes some kind of man to face this and not be afraid.”
In November 2019, Newton was again captured in body worn footage with a group trading insults with Chelsea fans as they left a pub in Putney, south London. After an 18-month hiatus from live football matches during the pandemic, Newton was arrested in September 2021 after a fight with another West Ham fan the day before the club’s first ever Europa League group stage game in Croatia.
Newton told the court he was held in a police cell for 22 hours and only made up the last 20 minutes of the match after being fined for causing a public disorder . In April this year, Newton was seen on CCTV during a Europa League match with Lyon running towards overseas supporters who were launching missiles at West Ham supporters at the stadium.
He denied walking towards a rival supporter who hit a West Ham fan, saying he was following his friends because he didn’t want to get lost in an unfamiliar stadium. But his explanation was dismissed by the district judge, who said: ‘I didn’t believe his testimony that it was just an innocent route to the game and he didn’t know where to go.’
The latest incident happened during another away match with Frankfurt, the court heard, where he was allegedly part of a group of supporters involved in a fight with the rival team.
Handing him the restraining order, Mr Law said: “Nine times in eight years he has been in the midst of or engaged in violent disturbances at football matches in the company of identified at-risk West Ham supporters. He was aware of these procedures and went to Lyon with the group of friends at risk.
“In May he went to Frankfurt and was involved in fights. The constant is that he stayed with a group of friends who are identified as a risk and there is reason to believe on his evidence that he’s continued to associate with those people and he’s a role model.”
Sign up for MEN’s email newsletters to get the latest on sports, news, current affairs and more by following this link