One of Britain’s most prolific football hooligans, who has been accused of goading and abusing Manchester United fans, has been banned from attending matches. Liam Newton, 32, has been on an MI6 watch list 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 separate games, involving Manchester United, Birmingham City, Tottenham Hotspur and Middlesbrough, as well as French side Lyon and German sides Schalke 04 and Frankfurt.
The self-employed engineer testified before Stratford Magistrates’ Court this week that verbal abuse between rival fans in Britain is “commonplace” and “unfortunately that’s just football”.
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District Judge John Law handed him a three-year ban, reports the Mirror, saying of Newton: “He enjoys the camaraderie of being with other supporters in a risk group amid the tensions of the outbreak of potential violence, which he says are part of it of the game.”
The case comes after a string of field invasions following games in England, including last weekend’s Manchester City Premier League title win against Aston Villa, where Aston Villa keeper Robin Olsen claimed he was assaulted. And last week, Crystal Palace boss Patrick Vieira was embroiled in an altercation with an Everton supporter during a pitch invasion following the side’s defeat at Goodison Park.
The Metropolitan Police previously sought a ban on Newton, from Wickford, Essex, after he was identified as a risk supporter at four football matches between 2014 and 2016 – but the force lost.
Last year they extended their request after Newton was spotted at the center of trouble in three more games between 2019 and 2021. In a last-minute motion before the trial, a prosecutor was able to persuade the judge to hear about Newton’s presence during the chaos in Foreign Games as new as this month.
The father-of-one told the court he had attended West Ham games since he was five and a suspension 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 trophy in 2014 after he tried to fight two fans at the stadium.
In April 2016 he was accused of shouting insults and goading at Manchester United fans at the last Premier League home game at Upton Park and at another home game against Middlesbrough in October of the same year. Newton was arrested at an away game with Tottenham in November 2016 and later admitted to violent disturbance after going to the away team’s fan buses to taunt them. He was issued a 12-month community directive and ordered to do unpaid work.
In January 2019, Newton was seen in body-worn footage being escorted by police after a group of West Ham fans clashed with Birmingham City supporters ahead of a home game. Newton could be heard on body worn footage telling another fan who had been attacked: “Mark well done well done mate I love this.”
When asked by prosecutor Andrew Price what he meant, Newton said, “It takes a man to face it and not be afraid.”
In November 2019, Newton was again caught on body-worn footage with a group exchanging insults with Chelsea fans as they exited a pub in Putney, south London. After an 18-month hiatus from playing live football during the pandemic, Newton was arrested in September 2021 after an argument with another West Ham fan the day before the first-ever Europa League group game in Croatia.
Newton told the court he was held in a police cell for 22 hours and only saw the final 20 minutes of the game after being fined for causing public disorder. In April this year, Newton was spotted on CCTV at a Europa League match as Lyon ran towards foreign fans who were throwing rockets at West Ham supporters inside the stadium.
He denied going to a rival supporter who had hit a West Ham fan and claimed he followed his friends because he didn’t want to get lost at an unfamiliar stadium. But his explanation was dismissed by the district judge, who said: “I didn’t believe his evidence that this was just a harmless route to the game and he was confused as to where to go.”
The latest incident happened at another away game at Frankfurt, the court heard, where he was said to have been part of a group of fans who were involved in a fight with the opposing team.
Handing him the ban order, Mr Law said: “Nine times in eight years he has been in the midst of or involved in violent riots at football matches, accompanied by identified West Ham risk supporters. Aware of these procedures, he went to Lyon with the risk group of friends.
“In May he went to Frankfurt and was involved in fights. The constant is that he stayed with a group of friends who were identified as being at risk and there is reason to believe that based on his evidence he continued to be associated with those people and it’s a pattern.”
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