F-Troop, Treatment & The Half-Way Line
During the 1977/78 football season the BBC aired a Panorama documentary highlighting hooliganism as the main problem within British football and society. The programme focused on the supporters of a lower-division football club from south-east London named Millwall. Millwall were, at this time, one of the most notorious teams in Britain and synonymous with off-field violence and hooligan firms. Entitled F-Troop, Treatment & The Half-Way Line - after the name of the three prominent hooligan firms within the club - the documentary was informative and, for it’s time, ground-breaking. The popularity of the documentary unwittingly created a mythology that surrounded the club’s hooligan element. Such was the importance of violence at Millwall that within the stadium ‘Millwall hooligans were organized on the terraces according to [their] fighting abilities and age’*. Comprised of F-Troop (one of the most notorious football gangs in England), Treatment (a firm associated with calling cards, surgical masks and sporadic violence) and The Half-Way Line (a youthful collective gathered within an infamous covered part of the ground on the half-way line) the firms achieved ‘small-scale status’ and were ‘celebrated as anti-heroes in the intervening years’**of football violence.
Named The Den - a play on the club’s nickname The Lions - Millwall’s stadium housed the distinct, but united, firms in different areas of the ground. The Den had national notoriety and, more notably, a design and weathered construction that helped reinforce their hostile reputation. Constructed in 1910, the stadium featured terracing throughout. During the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, The Den marked a variety of violent encounters inside the stadium with terrace charges (en masse charges toward opposing fans) accumulating in causalities. The stadium itself gained the nickname ‘The Dirty Den’ and was considered too archaic with it’s poorly surfaced terraces, overflowing toilets, inadequate floodlights and outdated crash barriers. Despite a budgeted ground improvements in 1986 in September 1993, and aided by The Taylor Report (a document overseen by Lord Taylor of Gosforth concerning the aftermath of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster), The Den was demolished and Millwall were relocated to a new all-seater stadium (originally called The New London Stadium but later changed to The New Den) only a mile away.
The project takes its name from the Panorama documentary - F-Troop, Treatment & The Half-Way Line - and focuses on the spatial and temporal elements of the original sight of the stadium. Research was carried out through detailed investigations into the terrace locations of the firms - via photographs from the 1970s and 1980s - and presented alongside present-day Googlemap imagery. The photographs for the project were taken on a Kodak Tri-X PAN film stock, with a development date of September 1978. The significance of the film stock relates to the date of the documentary and helps suggest more than just the chronotopic nature of the landscape. Not only does the weathered aesthetic of the 1978 film narrate a time lost to violence but it also suggests an idea of the landscape through the same medium used during the making of the documentary. By taking the name of the original programme the project helps highlight a mostly forgotten space, giving it a significance and history that it possibly does not deserve.
* N, Ireland (2009) The Popondetta Butterfly. (p.146)
** E. Walsh (2009) Hooliganism: Football’s Ugly Truth - Panorama, BBC
BBC Panorama - F-Troop, Treatment & The Half-way Line (1977)
BBC Panorama documentary, F-Troop, Treatment & The Half-way Line (1977)