The EDL & Terrace Culture

Although the lucrative hooligan memoir industry is not to be taken too seriously, the exaggerated tales of bravery have clearly been well-rehearsed in the pub, it is here that the EDL’s mentality can be examined closely. In the late 60s the skinhead phenomenon emerged, sound tracked by ska and reggae and taking a stylistic cue from the Carribean Rudeboys, which became extremely popular on the London terraces before going nationwide. One West Ham memoir states that there were many black fans as well as skinheads at Upton Park but ‘Paki bashing’ became a popular pastime with Asian people perceived as “isolated” and unwilling to attend matches or boozers. It is this attitude that remains with the EDL. In the 1970s, National Front tried to recruit on the terraces and later, in the 1980s, their paper Bulldog published its weekly ‘League Of Louts.’ In the 1980s, both Man City Kool Kats and Birmingham City Zulus emerged with a strong black presence but there were still predominantly racist crews.

During the notorious Chelsea Headhunters trial in the late 80s the defendants were linked with the far right. At one point the defence rightly pointed out the presence of ‘Black Willy’ Reid when the question of National Front membership was suggested. However, black people can be as prejudiced as anyone else which Willy proved by calling the judge a ‘yid.’ The defendants always denied they had far right connections but the presence of  Chris ‘Chubby’ Henderson of White Noise band Combat 84 who had links with Combat 18 amongst your co-defendants is not going to help the argument. In his autobiography, a case of selective memory writ poorly which glosses over such links, Henderson describes the Chelsea Shed end as “skinhead city. Paki-haters every one.”  

Evidence for the Headhunters trial centred on 2 of the defendants’ scrapbooks and it is this scrapbook culture that also has echoes amongst the EDL membership. We live in a highly mediated society where it is not what is done but how it is represented that becomes important. The media coverage of the EDL will no doubt be videod, photocopied or pasted into the members’ scrapbooks whilst their heroic tales are frequently burnished at the bar. It is an indirect result of the Headhunters and subsequent trials that has fuelled the popularity of the EDL. Having a few beers and a scrap has always been part of terrace culture but after the changes in the law that meant heavy sentencing for football violence and the hooligans natural vent for his frustration was blocked. Although organised offs away from the ground still continued, the recent EDL demos mean that, at last, lads can get together, drink lagerloads and wind up the Old Bill. But this time, it’s political so the hooligan sentencing does not apply. And this is part of the attraction: we can do what we did before but escape a serious nicking.


The EDL’s denial of links with the BNP has begun to sound silly even to them that they have ceased mentioning it, especially after the exposure of leader ‘Tommy Robinson’ as a BNP member. This and increased police pressure had forced him to hand over control temporarily to his perfect cousin Kevin Carroll, who was convicted of violence in Luton and recently lost his appeal. Robinson was hauled in by plod and given a hard time over various allegations involving money. However, there are still diverse opinions on the EDL forum which features both pro- and anti-BNP comments. The EDL contains a broad spectrum of opinion from Tory-lite to neo-Nazi but 1 single thing unites all these diverse opinions: they view any Sri Lankan, Bangladeshi or Indian as a ‘Paki’ and therefore a muslim extremist. It is this that can be called ‘Anti-Asianism.’ They view the Asian communities as a soft target although militant Asian youth are organising. There are people on the demos who view the BNP with contempt but indulge in much the same rhetoric. The BNP has proscribed the EDL yet there are BNP members in the EDL and idiots like Bill Baker of the English Nationalist Alliance is also BNP and EDL. There is considerable antipathy from many members to the BNP and from fascists towards the ‘multicultural Zionist EDL.’ The BNP and EDL are both racist organisations but with a few subtle differences. Mainly their popularity.

The EDL name itself is a contradiction: they call themselves a defence league but are openly provocative by going into contentious areas and indulging in racist chants, violence and vandalism which are hardly defensive manoeuvres. Whether they support the BNP or not they are violently anti-Asian and although claiming  not to be fascist, use the fascist tactic of intimidation on the streets.

Old Bill

The EDL leadership were pulled by the cops during their Scotland debacle and taken to Sheffield. It seems that they were leaned on for info prior to the world cup and subsequent demos saw heavy handed policing against anti-fascists. Now the World Cup is over and the police have updated their files, the EDL have served their purpose. The Dudley demo was a fiasco and plod got heavy. The police may have got their use out of the EDL. Police pressure on the EDL has also forced them to become less centralist and there is a move to organise regional groups although the leadership clique still want their bit of power. This means more work for the Old Bill. Members of the EDL are also interchangeable with the likes of Casuals United and English National Alliance and this weekends double demo in London (ENA/EDL) and Blackpool (Casuals) stretched them a little thinly with a diminished number attended each. However, this keeps pressure on plod.


The cops weighed in heavily at Leicester and there is footage aplenty of several battered EDL as well as 13 arrests. Tommy Robinson aka Stephen Yaxley-Lennon and Kevin Carrol got pinched but were then let go according to Nick Lowles on the Hope Not Hate blog. This must have been a relief for Yaxley-Lennon as he has accumulating ‘legal issues’ and can scarcely afford another arrest. The attitude of Plod has got sterner and they must be getting a bit sick of the trouble as well as the expense the EDL keep racking up. Local cops are drafting in extras from other areas and so they are getting overfamiliar with the EDL but also failing to contain them, as we saw in Leicester. The EDL certainly don’t like backing down to plod and they end up fighting them rather than ‘Islamic Extremists’ or anti-fascists.

The EDL have been trying to organise several operations on the same day but they simply do not have the numbers. Although they had a respectable 1,000 in Leicester their proposed march in Nuneaton failed to materialise. However, several coachloads had a pointless but spontaneous demo on the way to Leicester at Market Harborough. Unfortunately this received very little coverage as the national media were waiting in Leicester. However, what was blatantly obvious on Saturday was that there was not enough organised resistance to the EDL outisde of the UAF kettle. Some local youth were out and about but appeared disorganised. There were lessons on Saturday and we need to take heed.


About malatesta32

Malatesta aka M. Testa, undercover anti-fascist blogger, has analyzed the changing fortunes of the British far right for nearly a decade. He has given lectures on anti-fascism, published articles in Anarchist Studies and Freedom magazine and wrote Militant Anti-Fascism: 100 Years Of Resistance (AK Press 2015) which the Morning Star called a '‘Potent Primer On Europe’s Anti-Fascist Struggle … a useful source of information about the fight against fascism.’
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.