1960s-1995 (Chelsea Shed boys)1995 – present (Chelsea Headhunters)
|Territory||West London, North west London,South west London, Home counties|
|Ethnicity||Mainly White British|
|Criminal activities||Football hooliganism, riots and fighting|
|Allies||Glasgow Rangers, Linfield, Brentford FC|
The Headhunters or originally the 'Chelsea Shed boys' and older 'Northstand' can trace their roots to the late 1960s, when football hooliganism was in its infancy and along with West Ham's 'Mile End Mob' were one of the original Football Firms. Led by Danny 'Eccles' Harkins it coincided with the Skinhead movement at the time which saw a new breed of youth on the terraces who were prepared to fight. However the Skinhead connection to the Firm did not go hand in hand with the racism that would categorise the Headhunters from the late 70s and onwards. The Shed boys had a number of Black Skinheads in their ranks including the infamous 'One armed Babs', as well as different gangs from areas such as Stockwell, Brixton, Battersea and Slough however despite this it was always a predominantly white Hooligan Firm. The turning point for the Firm in terms of race relations came in the 1970s when the national front gained prominence.
Since that point there was widespread racism amongst the gang and links to various white supremacist organisations, such as Combat 18 and the National Front. The gang also became affiliated with Northern Irish loyalist paramilitary organisations, such as the Ulster Defence Association and Ulster Volunteer Force.
They were infiltrated by investigative reporter Donal MacIntyre for a documentary screened on the BBC on 9 November 1999, in which MacIntyre posed as a wannabe-member of the Chelsea Headhunters. He had a Chelsea tattoo applied to himself for authenticity, although the hardcore were surprised he chose the hated "Millwall lion" badge rather than the classic 1960s upright lion one. He confirmed the right wing elements in the Headhunters and their links to Combat 18, including one top-ranking member who had been imprisoned on one occasion for possession of material related to the Ku Klux Klan. The programme led to arrests and several convictions. One member of the Headhunters, Jason Marriner, who was convicted and sent to prison as a result of the show, has since written a book claiming to have been set up by MacIntyre and the BBC. He claims that footage was edited and manipulated, and 'incidents' were manufactured and they were convicted despite having no footage of them committing crimes.
Nick Love's film The Football Factory presented the Headhunters in a fictionalized account. The film focuses mainly on the firm's violent rivalry with the Millwall Bushwackers. Jason Marriner was the subject of a DVD release 'Jason Marriner - Football Hooligan' directed by Liam Galvin (Gangster Videos).
Kevin Whitton, a high-profile member of the firm, was sentenced to life imprisonment on 8 November 1985 for violent assault after being found guilty of involvement in an attack on a pub on Kings Road, which was described as being some[clarification needed] of the worst incidents of football hooliganism ever witnessed in England. After Chelsea lost a match, Whitton and other hooligans stormed into the pub, chanting "War! War! War!". When they left a few minutes later, with one of them shouting, "You bloody Americans! Coming here taking our jobs", the bar's American manager, 29-year-old Neil Hansen, was lying on the floor, close to death. Whitton's sentence was cut to three years on appeal on 19 May 1986. The fan responsible for the actual assault, Wandsworth man Terence Matthews (aged 25 at the time), was arrested shortly after Whitton's conviction and remanded in custody to await trial. He was found guilty of taking part in the violence on 13 October 1986 and sentenced to four years in prison.Matthews came to the public attention again in June 2002 when he and his 21-year-old son William received two-year prison sentences after they and another man were convicted of assaulting two police officers in Morden, Surrey.In May 2011, some 25 years after the Kings Road incident, it was reported in The Sun newspaper that Matthews had been found guilty of taking part in another hooliganism incident, this time at an FA Cup tie against Cardiff City in February 2010. Much has been said about rivalries but Spurs, West Ham, Leicester and Manchester Utd are still heated. After an F.A.cup game in 2002 a firm of Spurs Yid Army clashed with headhunters between Pimlico and Victoria at 10.30 pm, the violence continued for 10 minutes with 2 people stabbed one of which was an Aberdeen fan as both Glasgow Rangers ICF & ASC were in attendance. During this period the Headhunters travelled extensively to champions league games in Europe, most notably PSG in Paris and Anderlecht in Brussels where large scale disorder was present before and after the matches.
A more recent incident involving the Headhunters occurred on 13 February 2010, when members of the firm clashed[clarification needed] with the Cardiff City Soul Crew at the FA Cup fifth-round tie at Stamford Bridge. On 25 March 2011, 24 people were convicted of taking part in the violence, which resulted in several people being injured (including a police officer whose jaw was broken) at Isleworth Crown Court. All of those convicted received banning orders from all football grounds in England and Wales ranging from three years to eight years. Eighteen of them received prison sentences of up to two years.
There have been numerous incidents over the years where known Chelsea hooligans have become involved in violence occurring at Brentford matches. Such incidents include one in 1982 when Chelsea fans backed up the Brentford casuals against the 6.57 Crew who came to Griffin Park and mass brawls ensued both inside and outside the ground.
In 2000, Chelsea Headhunters formed a temporary alliance with other British hooligans supporting Cardiff City, Swansea City, Rangers and Leeds United led by Arsenal's firm, The Herd to attack Galatasaray fans in Copenhagen and Heysel Stadium as part of revenge for the 2000 European Cup Final stabbing of two Leeds United fans by Galatasaray fans.
- "Making a new start". BBC News. 2 May 2002. Retrieved 2007-09-25.
- Lowles, Nick. "Headhunters unmasked". Searchlight. Retrieved 2007-09-25.
- Marriner, Jason (April 2006). It's Only a Game. Mainland GB Publishing. ISBN 0-9552682-0-6.
- http://efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=9644&reviewer=104 Football Factory Review
- Lasky, Melvyn (20 June 2006). On the Barricades, and Off. United States: Transaction Publishers. p. 156. ISBN 978-0-88738-726-5.
- "Chelsea violence: Men sentenced following Cardiff match". BBC News. 25 March 2011.
- Buglioni, Gaetano; King, Martin (1 August 2008). Bully C.F.C.: The Life and Crimes of a Chelsea Head-hunter. Head Hunter Books. ISBN 1-906085-08-0.
- Ward, Colin; Henderson, Clive (5 October 2000). Who Wants It?. Mainstream Publishing. ISBN 1-84018-325-X.
- Ward, Colin; Hickmott, Steve (10 May 2007). Armed for the Match: The Troubles and Trials of the Chelsea Headhunters. Headline Book Publishing. ISBN 0-7472-6292-6.
- Worrall, Mark (10 May 2007). Blue Murder: Chelsea Till I Die. Head Hunter Books. ISBN 1-906085-00-5.