It was going to happen sooner or later. Added to the already-present plague of soccer hooliganism was a new form, also sports-related.
It started when some middle class yobs congregated in a Manchester pub to have a pint or three or perhaps a glass of single-malted. It so happened that another group of the same type, these from Leeds, were in the same pub. At first there was a good-nature trading of insults, then voices rose and challenges were offered. The pub gatherers decamped for the outside, where they rudely drove wickets and pegs into the ground, and brought mallets to this at hoc setting for intercity conflict. Unfortunately, the bobbies were nowhere in site to disperse this unruly assembly!
The matched started tamely enough, despite the participants being inappropriately dressed for an outdoor sport. However, the joint presence of more pints of ale and the heat of an impromptu intercity conflict soon brought things to the boiling point! It was sure to happen. A Leeds solicitor rudely laughed when a Manchester physician got a sticky wicket. Now the Manchester contingent thought this was dirty croquet manners; so insults and eventually fisticuffs were traded. Ultimately, the police finally arrived and arrested six brawlers, some of whom unsportingly used their mallets in debating the pros and cons of this departure in manners.
Anyway, from this single catalytic event croquet hooliganism was born! The croquet players adopted uniforms, and their followers wore specific colors and traveled en masse to cricket matches. Their feminine supporters went to matches wearing risqué clothing and body paint, and egged their teams on. I'm sad to say that these new yobbos engaged in quite a bit of aggro; and the line from Gilbert and Sullivan was well apt: "When constablatory work is to be done, the lot of a policeman is not a happy one."
This disorder spread to other parts of England, even Cornwall and Northumberland. The croquet hooligans spread from Knightsbridge and Sloan Square to East London and thence to Hastings. St. John's Wood was defaced with graffiti. Stockbrokers and Members of Parliament showed up on the tube wearing black eyes and scratches. The English middle class, when suitably aroused, could be as anarchistic as those of other orders.
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