Journal of Sport and Exercise Studies/Business, Politics and Sport 2011/Hooliganism in Football

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Gauntarchie, 2011
Original copy

Introduction[edit | edit source]

Football is a past time in much of Europe. It is a culture a religion. People are prepared to die for their team. Although this passion can be somewhat healthy. There is a fog of unease over much of the European games. A select few supporters like to ruin the atmosphere and traditions of this beautiful game. Rivalries in sport are a typical and great part about sports. However in the European game some of these rivalries can be taken to the next level. Old firm derbies such as Rangers vs. Celtic in Glasgow or the El Clasico between Barcelona and Real Madrid frequently create a platform for violence and hooliganism. People who attend these derbies specifically to go and watch a game of football often get more than they bargained for. With riots, flares, fighting and disruptance in and around the ground it can often be hard to escape the self proclaimed “hardcore fans”. To them the result of the match comes second. As this creates a wave of unease and will make you think twice about before bringing your family to such games. The question remains why does football hooliganism still exist in a much more controlled society? Alcohol, testosterone and football loyalty. But why does the government not employ more policing leading up to and around the grounds. How do you stop violent people coming to the game? Should anyone with a violent or criminal history not be allowed access to the game? It has been suggested that football sets up an expectation of violence. Then does not settle in on the pitch. Whereas sports like boxing, rugby and NFL leave nothing in the stadium. The question still remains as to whether or not the FA and FIFA are doing all they can to prevent the violence.

History[edit | edit source]

1880[edit | edit source]

Stemming back years to where football Hooliganism in England all began. Started in the 1880’s much of the violence surrounding these games occurred between rivalling football teams. As travelling around the country to games was less common. These games tended to be quite violent and disruptive. It wasn’t until the 1970’s that the real hooliganism began. Football clubs started to create firms. Organised fighting groups “unofficially” tied to the club.

1970-1990[edit | edit source]

Depending on what part of the country you were from, you would have different ideas about the roots of football hooliganism. In the north there are two major footballing cities. Liverpool and Manchester. Some of the most iconic grounds, teams and supporters around the globe come from the two clubs only 35 miles away down the M62. The rich history between these football clubs came in the late 1970’s, Liverpool’s golden era. Between 1977 and 1984 Liverpool won four European cups. These were the glory days for supporters allowing to travel all around Europe for years. What occurred with this was unexpected. Fans would bring back memorabilia, old school jackets and t shirts that were stolen from various places around Europe. This fashion ware became a symbol for hooliganism. As it represented that you were here to fight. Wearing team colours to the game indicated that you were a supporter, not a hooligan. But what followed from these times were one of the most fierce rivalries in world football. As Manchester United’s firm the “red army” and Liverpool’s firm the “the urchins” frequently exchanged in heated battles. As the hooliganism increased so did the casualties. With the Heysel Stadium disaster in 1985, which resulted in 39 Juventus fans being crushed to death because a riot that broke out between Juventus and Liverpool. This resulted in a ban on English teams being allowed to play in Europe for the next 5 years.

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Hooligans of Spartak Moscow

Introduction of CCTV[edit | edit source]

In the south much of the London firms were gaining recognition as being hardcore thugs. Millwall, West Ham, Chelsea and Tottenham were notably some of the worst fans scouring up and down the country for violence and football. It was not until the 1980’s that CCTV footage was introduced in and around the grounds in a bid to prevent the violence. Huge football bans were introduced and lengthy prison terms were given to anyone committing acts of hooliganism around the ground. Although this did stop much of the violence it would still exist but this time in the streets around the stadium. Where the hooligans could say the violence was unrelated to the football.

2010[edit | edit source]

Nowadays firms still exist all around the country so does the hooliganism. Much of the implications and the laws that the FA, FIFA and the government have set in have done much to stop the violence. But this hooliganism still exists. In 2009/2010 season a match between Mill wall and West Ham in the Carling Cup resulted in frequent pitch invasions culminating in a mass pitch invasion at the end in which police struggled to contain.[1] There were violent scenes on the outside of the stadium in which many people were arrested and footballing bans were employed.[2]

Football As A Business[edit | edit source]

Security[edit | edit source]

Football is not just a sport it’s a business generating billions of dollars per year through merchandise sales, ticket sales, sponsorships and TV rights. It’s a global business. But much of there costs go toward security in and around the ground. Typically a policemen comes to the cost of about 250 pounds for a 5 hour shift. Hiring multiple stewards can halve the price of security costs. But this comes at a cost to the safety of the public. As stewards only have so many rights that they are allowed to enforce to the general public. They are essentially just “peace keepers”. As this is not such a problem for the richer clubs such as the Manchester United’s and the Barcelona’s of football. Having large numbers of police officers tend to be a problem for the lower league clubs. Extra cash needs to be handed by the FA to these lower league clubs for safety concerns. This was shown in a local match between York City and Luton Town. Where around 50 Luton players invaded the pitch shortly after the final whistle sparking violent scenes in which it took 10 minutes for riot police to come and sort out the matter. Luton Chairman Nick Owen stated that [3]“'I don't deal with the detail of stewarding and police numbers, but they certainly seemed to struggle with the swarming number of Luton fan heading towards the opposition end at the end of the game". This type of behaviour is obviously unacceptable in the sport, but can only be controlled with an influx of funding which is especially hard to come by at a local level.

Local to National[edit | edit source]

There is such a huge gulf within Europe clubs between the lower level clubs and the high profile clubs. It often makes it difficult to place the limited supply of police officers. The contrast of the business and the hooliganism stems from the fact that football clubs were not founded by rich guys trying to make a few extra bucks. They were a social organisation for the ethnic and religious groups that served as a community focal point. So when the wealthier and the poorer clubs meet, they fight.

Firms[edit | edit source]

At the other end of the spectrum many footballing clubs have organised hooliganism groups that are tied “unofficially” to the club. These groups are called ”firms” and the owners of these clubs realise it would be financial and possibly real suicide to eject these fans from fighting around the club. They bring in too much profit for the lower league clubs as these fans do represent a high proportion of the fans of one club. The business, politics and sport all tie into this one subject. Making a “catch 22”. Without the sport you don’t have the hooligans, without the hooligans you don’t have a business and the politics remain. Should non-violent supporters be at risk of violence because football clubs cannot function without these firms?[4]

Euro 2000[edit | edit source]

In euro 2000 the match of the tournament that every fan was waiting for was England vs Germany in Belguim. There was a large expectation before the match that there would be some sort of hooliganism. What occurred on the night of November 10th 2000. Has lived long in the memory of many English supporters and brought a new level of politics to the world of football. Rioting occurred in the streets of the Belgium capital Brussels. Where as many as 40,000 English supporters without tickets to the game were expected to travel to the stadium. What occurred were not fights between rival nations England and Germany. The fights occurred between firm rivalries in the pubs. Stating[5] “You could walk down that group and go Middlesbrough, Leeds, Tottenham, Bristol, Shrewsbury, Newcastle and walk down that group and pick out the people that were known trouble makers”. Over 200 people were arrested, luckily much of the footage and media coverage of the riots were not recorded and thus were not shown around the world. The following day in the city of Charleroi once again riots occurred. But this time it was broadcast to the world the prime minister of England Tony Blair stated [6]I regret that a small group, that aren’t really football fans at all, they’ve disgraced this country”.

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Ball From the 2006 World Cup In which England Narrowly Missed out on Hosting

The result of these riots impacted the politics and businesses all around the country. It effectively ruined England’s bid for the 2006 world cup. Ultimately going to Germany. As a football hooligan this was a win for them. They have no desire to attend the world cup in their own country. It’s something you build up for and want to travel. One hooligan stating [7] “the more damaging our actions, the better it is”. "As the FIFA world cup is the most popular sporting event on the planet. It brings a huge amount of impact economically and socially to a country. As well as new infrastructure, business opportunities and huge tourism increases." As football hooliganism is having such a large impact on England’s opportunities to get global competitions. The FA needs to bring in harder and faster laws in order to police it. Recently they took a huge step to preventing overseas hooliganism by banning convicted hooligans passports.

Racism[edit | edit source]

Compounding all of this is the hooligan’s attitude to racism. In 2001 in Oldham, England there was growing tension regarding Asians and Englishmen. Two young Asian men aged 12 and 13 were said to have caught and bashed an elderly man. There was outrage around Oldham because of this occurrence and a lot of the Englishmen wanted to get back at the Asians. As football tends to be a focal point of their community that represents them. It was a football match which sparked the violence on April 28th. Between Stoke City and Oldham Athletic, huge crowds swarmed the streets before the game. Afterwards large swarms of Stoke City and Oldham fans banded together and proceeded on the housing commissions where much of the Asian community lived. Riots throughout the night subsequently occurred resulting in fires, bashings and lots of general damage. Costing the community millions of dollars to housing, business, policing and hospital bills. This political unrest around the community once again culminated from a league two football game, not enough police and old firm groups. This time banding together. Proving the point that much of these fans do not come for the football, but for the violence. The football ends up just being a meeting place and a common interest other than violence.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

Although hooliganism is a blight on the sport of football. It is also a part of its history. In one sense of the matter it is violent, disruptive, dangerous and intimidating. But on the other side of the scale it creates a vibrant atmosphere for supporters. Much of the attraction about English premier league football is obviously the high quality level that it represents. But also the fans, the noise and atmosphere of going to a local derby around Britain is seldom seen anywhere else in the world. And this is a great attraction for many fans globally and nationally. There is obviously such a huge gap in English football between lower tier clubs and higher profile clubs.[8] But many of these fans view that the level that they can compete on is not on the football pitch it’s in the stands. It’s the passion, the exhilaration and the chance that your team might go one goal up. Obviously a lot of the violence is unnecessary. But for many of these hooligans it is how they have been brought up, it is a culture they have lived in and for many there firms are there families. This hooliganism does still exist around all of England. But it is somewhat controlled. These firms are large scale businesses for many clubs. Publishing books, introducing new fans to the clubs and of course ticket sales. Many of these hooligans are seen as celebrity figures around Britain. There is obviously a lot of racial tension that occurs among rival fans and firms. The FA must realise that although violence should not be tolerated. There is a certain history that it represents, a tradition that many fans do not want to see die. That is why it still has its place in society and will still in many years to come.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. The Guardian,, viewed 29th October 2011, Police Investigate West Ham-Millwall Violence
  2. Youtube,, viewed 27th October 2011, The real Football Factories
  3. Mail Online,, viewed 29th October 2011,York players come under attack from Luton fans in chaotic play-off semi-final
  4. SIRC,, viewed 25th October 2011, Football Hooliganism in Europe
  5. BBC England Football Hooligans,, viewed 30th October 2011, BBC England Football Hooligans
  6. BBC England Football Hooligans,, viewed 30th October 2011, BBC England Football Hooligans
  7. BBC England Football Hooligans,, viewed 30th October 2011, BBC England Football Hooligans
  8. "aHighlight". 6 October 2023. Retrieved 6 October 2023.