Aston Villa Hardcore
|Founded by||Alex Wilson-Webb|
|Founding location||Birmingham, England|
|Ethnicity||Mostly White British|
|Criminal activities||Football hooliganism|
Aston Villa Hardcore (often shortened to Villa Hardcore or known as Villa Youth when referring to the younger element of the group) is a football hooligan firm associated with the Football League Championship club Aston Villa, based in Birmingham, England.
The firm have been active since 1993, following on from previous Aston Villa hooligan firms the Steamers, C-Crew and Villa Youth. The name "Hardcore" reportedly arising from a Metropolitan Police offer announcing on his radio: "Here come Villa's hardcore" following the firm's emergence from a train station before an away match against West Ham United. The Hardcore have been involved in some high-profile hooligan fights in Europe, while following Villa and England. The Hardcore have clashed a number of times with the Birmingham Zulus, associated with Aston Villa's fiercest rivals Birmingham City.
Fifteen people were arrested in October 2002 in a series of dawn raids in connection with serious disorders committed in the Rocky Lane area of Aston before the game between Aston Villa and Birmingham City in September 2002, in what was described as the "Battle of Rocky Lane". In 2004, Steven Fowler, a Category C hooligan and member of Villa Hardcore, was jailed for six months for his part in the fight in 2002. In 2005 he received a twelve-month jail sentence and was banned from attending football matches for ten years, for his part in an organised brawl between the Villa Hardcore and Chelsea Headhunters at King's Cross in London on 27 March 2004, while five other Villa fans were also jailed. Fowler was jailed again in 2006 when he and 57 other people were found guilty of their involvement in a riot at a Handsworth pub on 22 August 2004 - the same day as Villa's Premier League clash with local rivals West Bromwich Albion.
In November 2006, a planned launch of the book Villains about the various Aston Villa hooligan firms, which included details of clashes with the Birmingham Zulus, which was due to be held at Sensations Club in the Balsall Heath area of Birmingham, had to be cancelled due to threats that the Zulus would turn up and cause trouble at the event. The Zulus were said to have taken exception to the launch of the book and the presence of rivals on what they considered "their territory".
In October 2008, Fowler, along with Michael Lutwyche released a book entitled Hardcore about the firm.
A younger wing of the firm has recently emerged under the banner "Hardcore Youth" with two members of the firm being banned in January 2010 from attending Aston Villa matches, being in the vicinity of Villa Park on match-days, and, when Villa are playing away from home, using trains to travel the country and from entering the relevant town-centre. The pair were branded as "ring-leaders" by police and also were made to pay a fine of £500 each in court.Also later on in the year another known Villa youth hooligan was handed a 3-year banning order at Warwick Crown Court whilst being held on remand after serving a 12-month prison sentence. He was handed the banning order after troubled flared outside Birmingham City's ground in 2009 after Villa won the game 1-2 with Gabriel Agbonlahor scoring a late winner. Police statistics claim that after the three leaders of the Youth faction of the Hardcore were all banned, reports of violence and potential organised clashes fell by 75%.
In October and December 2010, Aston Villa played Birmingham City, at Villa Park (Premier League, 31 October) and St Andrew's (League Cup, 1 December) and in both games violence between the two sets of supporters and hooligan firms occurred, with many fans being arrested. In the first game, there were scenes of violence outside Villa Park, with Villa fans throwing a flare into Birmingham fans leaving Villa Park, there were a small amount of arrests including a Birmingham City club chef. In the second of the two games, after Birmingham had beaten Villa 2-1, Birmingham supporters invaded the pitch and confronted the visiting Villa fans. In retaliation, Villa fans ripped out seats and hurled them into the Birmingham supporters. Further, a flare was thrown from the Villa fans section into the Birmingham fans on the pitch. Villa fans have since been convicted following being picked out on CCTV after the game for offences, including the attack by Villa hooligans on a pub near St. Andrews frequented by Birmingham City supporters. There were also flash points before and after the game, the events were described as a "warzone" by a supporter who attended the game. As a result of these incidents, Birmingham City Council along with West Midlands Police decided to restrict Villa's ticket allocation for the return Premier League game at St. Andrews in January 2011.
On 13 August 2011, the Birmingham Mail published an appeal for information after several Villa fans seriously vandalised a train taking Villa supporters to Birmingham New Street after Villa's friendly match away against Derby County on 3 August. The destruction included tray tables being ripped from the backs of seats, seat coverings being damaged and lights being smashed. The damage meant the train had to be taken out of service for 24 hours for repairs.
On 30 October 2012, three Villa fans were arrested for violent disorder after a local derby with West Bromwich Albion at Villa Park which finished in a 1-1 draw. Flares were thrown at Albion supporters and a fourth Villa fan was arrested inside the stadium for throwing coins into the Albion fans.
On 8 January 2013, known Villa hooligans were involved in scuffles with the police and rival supporters in and around The Queen pub in Bradford city centre before Villa's League Cup semi-final first leg against Bradford City in which one Bradford fan claims he was headbutted by a Villa supporter.
On 25 November 2013, several Villa fans were arrested after clashes with rival fans of West Bromwich Albion at the Rose Villa Tavern in the Jewellery Quarter area of Birmingham before the two sides met in the Premier League at The Hawthorns which was later the subject of an episode of the BBC's Inside Out series.
On 28 December 2013, during a match between Villa and Swansea City at Villa Park in the Premier League, three Villa hooligans were arrested by West Midlands Police after organised violence broke out between Villa and Swansea supporters near to the stadium. The violence was reported to have been similar to a scene from the film The Football Factory and at least 25 people were involved. One onlooker said her children were traumatised after seeing rival fans fight with bottles and sticks.
On 10 January 2015, 11 Aston Villa supporters were arrested after clashing with rival fans in a Leicester street before a Premier League match against Leicester City at the King Power Stadium. There was widespread disorder before, during and after the match as police officers were also called to the Richard III pub on Highcross Street. It is understood that an ashtray was thrown at a group of supporters by another gang and a fight erupted, eyewitnesses said the men were hurling insults and threats at each other as the dispute spilled over into the road near the stadium, it is alleged they threw bins and cones in the violent clash before the ill-tempered game, which saw Villa's Ciaran Clark and Leicester's Matty James sent off. Footage of the violence was later released online.
On 7 March 2015, a large number of Villa fans ran on to the Villa Park pitch in injury time and at full-time during Villa's 2-0 FA Cup quarter-final victory over local rivals West Bromwich Albion. A number of West Brom players appeared to be pushed by home fans on the pitch. Villa supporters were widely criticised in the media and the club were fined by The FA.
On 22 September 2015, Villa met arch-rivals Birmingham City in the League Cup at Villa Park for the first time since 2010, 28 people were arrested during the day despite one of the largest football policing operations for many years. Eleven people were arrested for violent disorder and affray after trouble flared at the Manor Tavern pub in Aston before the game. Two men from Birmingham and one man from Redditch, Worcestershire, were charged with using threatening words or behaviour. Others were held for breaching bans, being drunk and disorderly and assault. A 32-year-old man from Birmingham was also charged with invading the pitch. Villa won the match 1–0. 
On 14 January 2017, around 35 members of the Hardcore were issued with dispersal orders at The Angel Inn in Bilston, where around 55 had gathered before a 5:30pm EFL Championship match against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux, and escorted back to Birmingham on a Midland Metro tram by the West Midlands Police. The Angel Inn were ordered to stop serving drinks and nearby pubs were told to lock their doors amid fears of violent disorder. The Midland Metro service was briefly disrupted as a tram was handed over to police for the purpose of transporting the fans out of the city. About 30 police officers, some with dogs, took part in the operation between 3pm and 5pm. In a statement, West Midlands Police said: “To be really clear, these were a group of people we strongly believed were together to cause trouble.” Villa lost the match 1-0, and Villa fans were criticised after destroying toilets in the away section of the stadium. 
In popular culture
On Sunday, 10 April 2011, an episode of Police Academy UK, a TV show aired on BBC Three, which documents 4 overseas police officers introduction to British crime and policing, was set in Birmingham and covered the violence that occurred at the game between Birmingham City and Aston Villa on 1 December 2010.
In April 2011, a DVD was released with the title Aston Villa Hardcore Lads; the 70-minute-long DVD shows footage of the Hardcore involved in violence with rival hooligan firms, for example fans of Oxford United, West Bromwich Albion and various clashes with fans of Birmingham City. The DVD also includes pictures of Aston Villa hooligans and sections where Villa's rivals are ridiculed.
In February 2014, an episode of the BBC series Inside Out followed officers from West Midlands Police as they attempted to combat football hooliganism at a West Bromwich Albion v Villa game in November 2013.
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