Soccer violence and hooliganism

Discuss about soccer violance and  Hooliganism………….


This paper discusses the development of football violence and hooliganism in Europe and other parts of the world. It will later address the causes of hooliganism and the effect of soccer hooliganism to the football sport and the public at large. It will finalize by looking at ways of curbing this menace and highlighting the research methodology to adopt in this research.

  Development of football hooliganism

Soccer violence and hooliganism can be traced way back to the19th century albeit not under the name “football hooliganism”, (Gibbons, et al, 2008). However, the causes of football violence and hooliganisms have not been unilaterally agreed upon by the academicians.

According Gibbons, et al, (2008) much of hooliganism activities started gaining academic attention in 1960s especially in Britain where the sport was most popular. The emergence of youth subcultures that were different in behavior gained their entrance into football arenas in Britain creating segregation terraces in football stadiums.

The term football hooliganism became prevalent in the 1980s and attracted media and government attention in Britain and by late 1980s there were plans to initiate anti- hooliganism measures within the police forces to curb this menace. Most cases of football hooliganism and violence were perpetrated by groups of youths and were common in Middleborough in late 1980s, (Gibbons, et al, 2008). This clearly indicates how the problem had spread and filtered into public domain with emergence of hooligan gangs such as “Frontline service screw”.

Cases of violence in football has characterized many European nations for many years, for instance,  in Australian soccer has been termed as the sport beleaguered by hooliganism adopted from Britain and expounded by its growth development as  the most popular and admired sport in the country, (Gibbonsa, et al, 2008).

Football sport has been tarnished in many European countries as being a sport for organized violence and disorder stemming from ‘hooliganism disease’. Experiences of periodic soccer conflicts and rivalry between local Greek and Macedonia, or Serb and Croatia has generated a popular misconception for football fans that ethnic tensions are related football fandom, (Warren, et al, 2009).

Hooliganism and related activities comes in many forms which include disorderly and threatening behavior, throwing of ‘missiles’ at rival fans, racial and indecent chanting, drug and drink related offences and criminal damages. Warren, (2009) states other forms of hooliganism as being in possession of weapons, acts of assault and affray, running on the pitch, breach of peace and criminal damage among others.

Adoption of sustainable and efficient crowd management strategies especially in high- risk- fixtures is essential for the safety and reputation of the soccer game. However, Garland, (n. p) findings shows that much progress has been made to help prevent football violence and hooliganism especially at the scene of the event.

The desire to get rid of football violence and hooliganism has been the goal of the soccer governing body and this research is intended to unravel the causes and possible ways that will help eradicate the menace of hooliganism from the football arena and football sport.

The causes of football violence and hooliganism

Earlier research in Britain showed football violence and hooliganism as  being a working class matter dominated by male phenomenon that are opposed to the “advancing co modification” of the football game, (Gibbonsa, et al, 2008).  However this was protested later by many subsequent researchers.

The study Gibbonsa, et al, (2008) reveals that alienation to clubs based on social circumstance was the driving force behind the creation of hooliganism gangs in the football sport that perpetrated the menace in football stadiums. He also states that the innate need to release aggression by the working class male adolescents was observed to be the causes of most confrontations in the soccer stadia in the 1970s.

another psychological observation of 1980s by Gibbonsa, et al, (2008) pointed to the ‘quest for excitement’ a social need, as another cause of confrontation arguing that hooliganism may result from the search for emotional arousal especially after a long period of boredorm.The need to defend their club, town and firm’s reputation has been argued as part of the reasons for gangs to engage in football violence and hooliganism by academic researches of 1990s.

The support for particular club is seen as an opportunity to belong to a social group for competition and achieve honor even by way of inflicting shame to their rival opponents. The feelings of rejection and lack of authority in early age prompted many youths into forming and joining hooliganism gangs to regain the sense of belonging as they believed that belonging to a gang gave them  a sense of belonging, (Gibbonsa, et al, 2008, p.37, par.4). They join these groups to fulfill their need to belong.

In some cases poor officiating has been cited as the cause for spontaneous violence in and out of the football stadium with fans invading the pitch in anger, which end up causing fracas and pandemonium,  (Michael, 1991). However, there has been drastic improvement by the football governing body in relation to addressing this problem.

Ethnic rivalry and conflicts has been misconceived to go hand in hand with soccer fandom. Some incidents of football violence can be ascribed to long standing and provocative ethnic rivalry between supporters of two ethnic based soccer clubs. Violent incidences have in most cases been attributed to historic hostilities between rival clubs based on ethnic composition of their fans, (Warren, et al, 2009. Historical enmities between ethnic groups have found their expression through football.

An explanation of ethnic based soccer violence was unveiled in a report presented by an independent soccer inquiry onto incidence of violence between fans of Sydney United which is largely pre-dominated by Croatian supporters and Bonnyrigg whose supporters are of Serb origin. The report pointed out ethnicity and individual pathology as being the main cause of violence, (Warren, et al. 2009, P. 126, par. 2) stating long outstanding racial tensions as being the main cause of violence.

However, other studies point to pre-existing social, political and cultural tensions between the rival ethnic groups as having contributed to football violence albeit to some little extent, (Warren, et al, 2009).  Social identity, youth masculinity and the longing to have fun have been identified as motivators for violent activity.

Despite there being many other causes of football violence and hooliganism, ethnic conflict and innate pathologies of football fans still remain as dominant reasons explaining why the behavior of soccer fans are different and more dangerous from those of fans supporting other forms of sports like rugby.

The bad conditions and lack of facilities at football pitches may ignite violence. This will lower self esteem on the part of fans who find themselves as being abused and assaulted by football authorities. Pre match entertainment is known to help cool down temper, (Mathias, 1991).

Effects of football hooliganism

Football is the sport that enjoys majority support all over the world and there is no doubt that it’s the most popular and attractive sport.  However, this game of football has been lethal particularly for its own spectators, (Warren, et al 2009). Various disasters and violence have befallen its supporters since inception.

The sport of football has experienced various types of violence that have resulted in massive distraction of properties in the surrounding environment the soccer venue. This has continued to elicit not only public fears but also moral panic. Cases of football related death are reported from many parts of the world and most them are due to football hooliganism and violence. The safety of fans is essential in any sporting event and football confrontations have resulted in loss of innocent lives (Garland, n.d).

A significant number of soccer fans have lost their life at soccer matches in many parts of the world. Initial soccer disasters happened at Glasgow rangers ibrox stadium in 1925 claiming 25 lives of soccer fans and leaving over 500 injured. Warren, et al (2009) states the cause of this disaster to be the collapse of a terrace during a match between Scotland and England. Four other significant football disasters occurred in Britain claiming a total of 251 deaths. Another disaster occurred in 1985 in Heysel stadium in Belgium involving British football fans.

The worst football disasters happened in Lima stadium in 1964 claiming the lives of 320 people and the Moscow disaster which occurred in 1982 resulting in 340 deaths. There have been other significant football disasters all over world in Argentina, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, Greece and more recently Egypt just to mention but a few.

While the occurrences have negatively impacted on the consciousness of the football game, several other supporters have also died in individual incidences, some from the consequence of crushing and violence by other fans. Most football disasters and violence have occurred in England than anywhere else; this can be explained by the ages of stadia many of which were constructed in late 18th century, (Warren, et al, 2009).

Ways of curbing football hooliganism

Crowd management in any sporting activity is crucial for the safety of fans.  This requires crowd observation, brief interviews with patrons and direct participation by the law enforcers in pre-event crowd management planning. Understanding crowd patterns is also essential for effective management of sporting crowd. The problem of hooliganism in football stadiums has persisted despite the introduction of far reaching and punitive anti-hooligan legislations, (Warren, et al. 2009). This was meant to deter the potential and current hooligans from engaging in acts of football violence.

The introduction of all-seater stadia was meant to bring order and ensure safety of fans and substantial price and membership increases were some of the measures taken to prevent further violence and hooliganism in stadia. However this has failed to eradicate this menace with statistics from British showing the occurrence of one hooligan incidence at one match in every twenty (20) matches played in England per week, (Warren, et al. 2009, P. 125, par. 1).

The use of intelligent gathering will help prevent violence in areas far from football venues just like is used in curbing other crimes. This is mainly because these events of hooliganism are coordinated giving the police the ability to control and prevent such disorders, (Garland, et al, n. p). The use of this strategy however, remains limited in unorganized and ad hoc violence.

Attempts to get rid of anti racist chanting and other forms of abusive language in stadia have helped reduce tempers and football violence. There has been a reduction in racist chanting in the recent past but still analysts believe that using technology and other means to detect offenders will substantially reduce cases of racist chanting in football pitch.

The use of CCTV cameras to capture those who engage in hooliganism has been hailed as one of the key factors that have helped reduce stadium violence and hooliganism. However, the use of CCTV has been criticized for being too slow in reacting to flashpoints of disorder, (Mathias, 1991). The use of technology in sharing information by the authorities in the country and abroad has been cited as having drastically reduced football violence. The use of CCTV cameras combined with the intelligence gathering has helped to prevent violence and other soccer related crimes.

There have been efforts by authorities to combat known football trouble makers by snapping travel bans to foreign countries to watch football game, stopping convicted hooligans from watching domestic games among other stringent penalties, (Warren, et al, 2009). Football spectating has been evolving in recent times especially with the frequent televising of live games making it possible to watch from bars and pubs. This has led prolonged drinking which when mixed with the passion aroused by the game has resulted in violence in different locations far from the stadia.

This occurrence of violence far from the stadia has been increasing with the most recent being felt after the exit of England from the world cup by the Germany football team. This dislocation of violence away from the stadium has been causing sleepless nights to most authorities and the police because it is hard to precisely predict where the violence will occur. These stringent measures have substantially reduced cases of hooliganism. However, hooligan behaviors have been displaced from the football stadia with more than half of the incidences occurring on the way to and from the soccer venues, (Warren, et al, 2009).

This has also raised legal issue on what football violence really is from other forms of violence that might occur around the pubs. Although there has been an improved policing strategy to curb organized form of football hooliganism, this new evolving type raises the question of the police ability to tackle football violence. In this new form of violence it becomes hard for the authorities to tell who is a hooligan

The acts of hooliganism have attracted fines and penalties on clubs as a way of curbing this menace and avoid their recurrences. In some cases clubs have been banned from participating in football matches to restrain their supporters to engage in hooliganism (Garland, n.d). This is because most hooligan gangs have shown loyalty to their clubs hence the use of this method has helped to deter hooliganism perpetrated by loyal fans.

Imposing punitive sanctions against clubs whose supporters engage in acts of violence and hooliganism including their expulsion from soccer league have been used to deter future similar cases, (Mathis, 1991). Legislation criminalizing football violence and hooliganism in 1991 and 200 alongside tighter bans and heightened procedures targeting hooliganism and violence were undertaken to curb the menace. In some cases where violence in football grounds is rampant, some football matches were played in empty stadia to avoid and deter the menace. This has helped in reducing the acts of violence and hooliganism.

The heightened security in and around the stadium have helped reduce football hooliganism. There has been a significant increase in security deployment especially for those football clubs whose fans are known to cause chaos and this has helped in reducing the cases of hooliganism across Europe.

Empirical research on football violence

The increased cases of soccer violence and hooliganism across Europe have attracted much public attention in recent days prompting the writing of many research articles, (Gibbonsa, et al, 2009). A number of research articles have been advanced to help promote safety in this exciting sporting activity.

Previous research on causes of football hooliganism is still disputed despite unveiling numerous academic theories. Sociologists have employed different methodological approaches researching this phenomenon including the use of ethnography from1990s. However, the increasing use of ethnographic methods in recent times have been seen as dangerous for researchers hence the need for alternative methods, (Gibbonsa, et al, 2008).

However some of the academic studies on football hooliganism have been criticized as being ‘insufficiently theorized’ and not being closely engaged with the empirical subject of analysis, (Gibbonsa, et al, 2008, p. 30, par 3).In his review essay on the popular British soccer, Redhead (1991) in School of Sport and Outdoor Studies, (n.d) divided soccer culture into 3 versions as journalistic, novelistic and academic which created market for the ‘hit and tell’ accounts.

Most review essays on journalistic confessions were written based on accounts of confessions by former hooligans and this greatly transformed the football writing in the UK and Europe and helped to advance the sociology of football fan culture. Fiction novels were used to describe and paint a picture of the history of football hooliganism and violence better than ethnographic work being used by sociologists, (School of Sport and Outdoor Studies, n.d).

The recent demand for empirical and academic literature on soccer violence and hooliganism (School of Sport and Outdoor Studies, n.d) guides me to the use narratives in my study which will involve high depth interviews and testimonies from hooligans and ex hooligans to better understand the causes of hooliganisms. Gathering information from ex- hooligans who are currently engaged in helping youths and crime convicts in their churches will be used because they will give in-depth information regarding their experience in hooliganism and will also be the safe method of collecting data.

Rationale for the use of narratives

This is a valid method of collecting data for academic research. It has been successfully used in health research where it’s been used to gain a detailed insight into experiences of illness and disabilities. The use of meta-narratives by federal writer’s project in 1936-1938 was a significant milestone in the use of narratives given the emotions that were attached to slavery.

This method is aimed to provide insight into the football violence and hooliganisms the same way as in slavery, illness and disability. I believe this narrative method will help improve the validity of existing theories that relate to football hooliganism and possibly generate new ones.


Gibbonsa, Tom. Kevin, Dixons. and Stuart, Braye. (2008) ‘The way it was’: an account of soccer violence in the 1980s, A Sports & Exercise Section, School of Social Sciences and Law, University of Teesside, UK;

Ian, Warren. and Roy, H. (2009) ‘Fencing them in’: the A-League, policing and the dilemma of public order. School of History Heritage and Society, Deakin University, Victoria, Australia. Soccer & Society, Vol. 10, No. 1, January 2009, 124–141Soccer & Society, Vol. 9, No. 1, January 2008, 28–41

John, Garland and Michael, Rowe.(n.d): The hooligan’s Fear of the Penalty. The future of football

Mathias, Paul. (1991) Football fans; fantasies or false. New Scotland Yard, Broadway, London SWIH OBG. Journal Of community & Applied Psychology, Vol, 1, 29-32 (1991)

School of Sport and Outdoor Studies, St. Martin’s College, UK Soccer & Society. Vol. 9, No. 1, January 2008, 28–41

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