Arresting News of (Dis)organised Crime and Corruption


Spectator editor caught offside in false claims about Chelsea FC.

THEY say start as you mean to go on. And so it was with Toby Young, associate editor of The Spectator magazine and super-spreader of fake news about coronavirus.

The 57-year-old lockdown sceptic began his national media career with a major piece of fake journalism about Chelsea Football Club, The Upsetter can reveal.

In June 1985, Young, then a 21-year-old Oxford undergraduate, penned an article about a new ultra-violent group of Chelsea thugs called the Anti-Personnel Firm (APF) who were terrorising terraces and the British public.

The article appeared on the front page of The Observer, the UK’s oldest Sunday newspaper, was syndicated worldwide and later featured in an academic paper.

Heysel Stadium Commemoration at Anfield

The splash entitled ‘Saturday Afternoon Fever’ had maximum impact coming just days after 39 people died following a clash between Italian and British fans at Heysel stadium in Brussels.

Young, whose father was an eminent sociologist, constructed 1500 words of pseudo-sociological baloney about hooliganism in the age of Thatcherism while claiming his revelations about the feared APF showed the media’s understanding was “out of date” .

The only problem was the APF didn’t exist.

Young had been fed the story by mischievous Chelsea fans who could smell his desperation for an edgy inside track on a subject well out of his comfort zone among Oxford contemporaries David Cameron and Boris Johnson.

Simple checks with the police, football clubs and rival supporters’ groups would have undermined the APF yarn.

The Observer June 2 1985

Instead, Young mixed the well-known with breathless claims that there was “a direct correlation between smartness and violent excess” among this new group of “semi-affluent” well-dressed APF thugs who’d turned their back on designer sportswear.

“The APF kit themselves out at upmarket High Street menswear shops now, places like Woodhouse, Nickleby, Reiss and Kingsly, where the range changes every month.”

That’s because:

“Chelsea’s Anti-Personnel Firm mainly come from affluent London suburbs, places like Croydon, Harlow, Slough and new towns like Bracknell and Milton Keynes.”

But don’t for a second think the APF can’t hold their hands up.

Young went on:

“The APF are hard, they’ve got a reputation. A lot of people have tried to take the APF and most of them have got the stitches to prove it. When the APF have taken out one of their victims they leave a little calling card – nothing cheap, mind, but an expensive vellum, gold-embossed card [that] says, “Nothing Personal – You Have Been Serviced By The Anti-Personnel Firm.”

These calling cards were a “perversion” no less of their “bourgeois” symbolism. And in a final flourish, the son of a Labour peer claimed the APF’s very existence was an “indictment” of Thatcherism.

This would have been nonsense even had the APF existed. But they didn’t as one of its ‘members’ gleefully explained to The Upsetter.

“As I recall Young was doing a story on hooligans and asked a friend of mine at Oxford University if they knew any football firms. He said, ‘We know the APF’ at Chelsea and we spun him this story.”

No one expected Young’s revelations to appear on the front page of The Observer’s Weekend section. But the Heysel disaster gave the phoney content heft and Young much need street cool.

YoungBack then he was already well connected among the metropolitan media elites of the left and right, he just hadn’t decided yet which way he was going.

That soon became clear and the rest is history.

More recently, Young lost his government job in student education regulation within weeks of being appointed by the Boris Johnson chumocracy in 2018.

The toadmeister, as he calls himself on Twitter, resigned over a series of lame lad, sad dad tweets about cleavage.

At the beginning of 2021, Young looked every bit the tit over more serious pseudo-epidemiological claims about the pandemic.

The press regulator ruled as “significantly misleading” his suggestion last summer in The Telegraph that London was approaching herd immunity and catching a cold could protect people against coronavirus.

Further humiliation came days later on the BBC where he apologised for claiming that coronavirus had “all but disappeared”. 

More recently, as the man behind the Free Speech Union, he lost an important battle in the culture war when students fled from any affiliation with his right wing FSU, which has yet to file accounts about who really funds it.

Young did not comment on his fake Observer story.

However, he recently returned to the subject of football in The Spectator, where readers were told how much during lockdown he has missed going to see West London side Queens Park Rangers with his 12-year-old son. Young vowed “to go to every single game next season”.

At least they will be safe from the APF ruffians. Less so others.