In 2004, Chelsea F.C. football supporters' fanzine cfcuk produced a special edition - "cfcuk - The Football Factory" to coincide with the release of the film.
Tommy Johnson (Danny Dyer) is a member of a violent Chelsea hooligan firm. His friends and fellow hooligans include Tommy's best friend Rod King (Neil Maskell), the hot-tempered Billy Bright (Frank Harper), and impulsive younger members Zebedee (Roland Manookian) and Raf (Calum MacNab). Tommy spends his days drinking, using drugs, womanising and fighting, much to the disappointment of his grandfather Bill Farrell (Dudley Sutton), a pensioner and veteran who plans to move to Australia with his best friend Albert (John Junkin).
Tommy has an epiphany about his lifestyle during a fight with the Tottenham hooligan firm. Tommy, Billy and Rod are arrested for assaulting two Stoke City fans whilst travelling to an away match. These actions draw the fury of Harris (Tony Denham), the leader of the Chelsea firm, whose attempts to keep order are thwarted by Billy's aggressive outbursts.
Rod begins a relationship with Tamara (Sophie Linfield), the court clerk at their arraignment, and she pressures him to skip his weekend meets. Zebedee and his friend Raff accidentally burgle Billy's house and are forced to stand in his living room, whilst Billy's children throw darts at them. Billy deals with his increasing loneliness after he overhears Harris discussing his irrelevance. Bill's plan to retire to Australia are postponed when Albert dies the night before they are to leave.
Early in the film, Tommy is caught and held hostage by the brother of Shian (Michele Hallak), a girl he picked up at a club. He is saved when Rod hits the man on the head with a cricket bat. Sian's brother turns out to also be the brother of the rival Millwall firm's leader, Fred (Tamer Hassan), who then hunts Tommy down throughout the entire film. The film culminates in a pitched battle between the Chelsea and Millwall firms. Rod (after a few espressos and a line of cocaine), leaves a dinner with Tamara's parents after offending them, and attends the "meet". Tommy is severely beaten by Fred and a group of Millwall hooligans, and ends up in the hospital with Bill, who, in the meantime, has suffered a heart attack.
A recurring sub-plot concerns a racist taxi driver (Jamie Foreman), whom the characters encounter at various points throughout the film.
At the end of the film, Tommy decides that his place is at the firm with his friends, Bill moves to Australia and Billy Bright is incarcerated for seven years after being arrested at the Millwall meet (ironically, whilst saving Harris from being arrested). Zebedee is killed by a drug dealer whom he had previously mugged, fulfilling a recurring bad dream that tormented Tommy throughout the film.Danny Dyer — Tommy Johnson, a disillusioned twenty-nine-year-old, who lives for the weekend football matches. The thrill of the big Millwall versus Chelsea meet leaves his life scrambled as he tries to pull himself out of his nightmare.
Frank Harper — Billy Bright is a man around forty, part of the older generation of the Firm. He is full of anger, and blames the system in his country for the failures in his life. Away from the crowds, where he commands an audience to impress the younger guys, he's a depressed outcast, whose life is increasingly spiralling out of control.
Neil Maskell — Rod, Tommy's best friend and sidekick, carelessly strolling along the path led by his mates.
Roland Manookian — Zebedee, younger breed coming through the ranks of Chelsea, his life has already run into a cul-de-sac of crime and drugs. With nothing to lose and no one to look out for him, Zebedee aspires to be a future top boy; unfortunately his naivety gets him into trouble.
Calum McNab — Raff, Zebedee's best friend.
Tamer Hassan — Millwall Fred, the volatile head of the rival Millwall hooligan firm, an arch enemy of Chelsea. The trouble begins when Tommy accidentally crosses paths with Fred, and retribution is wanted.
Dudley Sutton — Bill Farrell, a representative of the older generation from a bygone era, a D-Day veteran in his late seventies, who lives out the remainder of his days with childhood friend Albert Moss; they plan to retire in Australia.
John Junkin — Albert Moss.
Jamie Foreman — A racist taxi driver, who is never afraid of letting his customers know his true feelings about society.
Tony Denham — Harris, the Chelsea firm's head, who runs it like a military team.
Sophie Linfield — Tamara, a court clerk who becomes Rod's girlfriend.
Michele Hallak — Sian, a girl at a nightclub who is picked up by Tommy and is revealed to be Fred's sister.
Kara Tointon — Tameka, Shian's friend at the nightclub.
Danny Kelly — Radio announcer.
Pete Stevens — Radio announcer
The Football Factory trilogy consists of three novels by John King: The Football Factory, Headhunters, and England Away. Though the film shares a title with the first novel in the trilogy, the film deviates significantly from the source material. The most significant differences are changes to characters appearing in both works and the omission of plots or characters in the novel.
Tommy Johnson is arguably the main character in the novel but is absent from many chapters. In the film he is undeniably the main character and the few scenes that he does not appear in or narrate all involve characters he is close with (e.g. Billy Bright, the second-in-command of his firm or Rod, his "best mate"). Bright and Rod are also examples of characters that have the same name in both the film and novels but are substantively different. Additionally, the film omits some characters and plot lines entirely (only those plot lines actually appearing in the first novel are discussed below) .
Examples of differences with characters having the same name:
In the novels, Billy Bright is not married, has a crippled arm, is overtly racist (except in the presence of "Black Paul", a Chelsea hooligan of African descent), and is an orphan. By contrast, in the film he is married with children, has no physical deformity of his arm, is xenophobic but not explicitly racist, and is portrayed in a flashback as a young boy chasing recent immigrants out of his neighborhood with his father. The film never mentions whether Bright is adopted and it is neither mentioned nor implied that this is not his birth father.
In both the novels and film Rod is portrayed as a close friend of Tommy Johnson, but rather than being "best mates" as in the film the novel portrays them as part of a close-knit group of four or five members of the firm. This group, including Johnson, commonly berate him for his bachelor party held several years before the events of the novel, where he had sex on stage with a stripper while heavily intoxicated. This incident is never discussed in the film because Rod is portrayed as single though a subplot involves him potentially settling down.
The violent rivalry between the Chelsea firm (commonly known outside the works as the "Headhunters") and the Millwall firm ("Bushwhackers") plays a central role in both works. However, in the film Millwall's firm is made up largely of people of Turkish descent, whereas in the novel the firm is portrayed as primarily working-class White Britons (and indeed the narrators complain about Millwall's ties to neo-Nazism.)