Football Hooliganism Essay - Criminology
Info: 5421 words (22 pages) Essay
Published: 27th Oct 2022
Jurisdiction / Tag(s): UK Law
This report will look at Football hooliganism and how it has changed through the years. It will look at the early years of hooliganism and compare the hooliganism to today’s hooligan firms. It will identify the way in which the hooligan has changed through the years from being easily identified, to the casual years in which the hooligan was more accustomed to the casual lifestyle of designer clothes along with the violence. It will also discuss the media’s portrayal of a football hooligan and look at how football matches are policed with the use of CCTV to combat violence at football and how this has changed football hooliganism.
A hooligan is said to be a young violent, destructive or badly-behaved person. Hooliganism is said to be unruly aggressive behaviour that is associated with hooligans. Such behaviour is commonly associated with sports fans, particularly supporters of association football (Dunning at al, 1998)
The word hooliganism and hooligan began to be associated with violence in sports, in particular from the 1960s in the UK with football hooliganism.
Football hooliganism is unruly and destructive behaviour such as brawls, vandalism and intimidation by association football club fans (The Independent, 2004).
The term football hooligan has been created by the media to identify individuals carrying out criminal acts at football stadiums. In the mid-1960s the media was flexible and indeterminate in giving the hooligan label to different incidents. Football hooliganism is seen by most to mean violence or disorder involving football fans (Clarke, 1978)
Football hooligans are looked at as noisy, violent people who want to make trouble. Evidence suggests that most of these hooligans are in their late teens or early 20’s (Porter, 2002). In addition, it states that they come from mainly working class backgrounds It is also suggested that generally hooligans are from low-income occupations and some are unemployed or are working in a poor economy (Clarke, 1978)
There are specific types of disorder that have been labelled hooliganism. Spontaneous and usually low level disorder caused by fans at or around football matches is one type of incident where hooliganism has been labelled to the incident. In addition, the hooligan label has been given when there has been a deliberate and intentional violence involving organised gangs who attach themselves to football clubs and fight firms from other clubs (Sugden, 2003). Fights between supporters of rival teams may take place before or after football matches at pre-arranged locations away from stadiums, in order to avoid arrests by the police, or they can erupt spontaneously at the stadium or in the surrounding streets (Scott & Pearson, 2007).
Football hooliganism ranges from shouts to opposing fans to actual fist fights that can then lead to riots. In the most extreme cases, hooligans, police, and bystanders have been killed, and riot police have intervened with tear gas, armoured vehicles and water cannons (Reiner, 1985).
Football hooliganism has been seen as first occurring in the mid to late 1960’s, and peaking in the late 1970’s and mid 1980’s before calming down following the Heysel and Hillsborough disasters involving Liverpool supporters (Buford, 1992).
In the past stadium brawls have caused fans to flee in panic resulting in some fans being killed when fences or walls collapsed (Murphy et al, 1990)
The Heysel disaster on 29 May 1985 led to the deaths of 39 supporters and a ban of English clubs from European competition for five years. The 1985 European Cup Final was held at the Heysel stadium in Brussels. The ageing ground had been chosen as the venue for the final despite misgivings from both Liverpool and Juventus (Maguire, 1986). Trouble erupted between rival fans. A section of Liverpool fans stormed an area of Juventus fans, as the Juventus fans tried to escape a wall collapsed, many fans were crushed, thirty nine Italian and Belgian fans died and hundreds were injured. In the aftermath UEFA banned English clubs from European football for an indefinite period. The ban was eventually set at five years for English clubs and ten years for Liverpool. In the end Liverpool actually only served six years of the ban returning to European football one year after other English clubs.
Some Liverpool fans claimed that Juventus supporters precipitated the violence by hurling stones and other missiles. Others have blamed poor organisation and lack of crowd control by the Belgian authorities, saying that there were insufficient police inside the stadium to prevent fans from clashing. In Italy, the perception of the English fan as hooligan’s remains, as a result of the Heysel disaster in 1985, and any large gathering involving drinking, chanting and singing even with normal staples of the English supporter are viewed as alien and threatening to Italians. Although the blame for the trouble that occurred at Heysel stadium is shifted between the fans and the policing, this incident was put down to hooliganism (Marsh, 1996)
With this tragedy hanging over the head of English football another stadium disaster occurred involving Liverpool fans. This disaster happened at Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield. On 15 April 1989, where 96 Liverpool fans were crushed to death and hundreds more injured on the steel-fenced terraces of Sheffield Wednesday’s stadium, which was hosting that year’s FA Cup semi-final (Jones, 1992)
Liverpool fans had to enter their designated stand at Leppings Lane through a small number of decrepit turnstiles. Once inside, many made their way on to the terraced lower stand which was ringed with blue-painted steel fences and laterally divided into five separate pens. Fencing had been put up by many football clubs during the 1970s and 80s to control crowds and prevent pitch invasions. Pens 3 and 4 that were directly behind the goal were full, but outside the ground thousands of fans were still waiting to get in. The pens official combined capacity was 2,200. It was later discovered that this should have been reduced to 1,600 as crush barriers installed three years earlier did not meet official safety standards. Police ordered a large exit gate to be opened to alleviate the crush outside the ground. Around 2,000 fans then made their way into the ground and headed straight for a tunnel leading directly to the already full pens. This influx caused severe crushing in the pens. Fans began climbing over side fences into the relatively less packed pens 1 and 5 to escape. It was later estimated that more than 3,000 supporters were admitted to the central pens which was almost double the safe capacity ((Jones, 1992).
When the game kicked off trouble occurred behind the goal in the Liverpool end. Five minutes into the game a crash barrier that was put up to prevent problems like this collapsed causing people to fall on top of each other. Supporters continued to climb perimeter fences to escape, while others were dragged to safety by fans in the upper tiers. When the problem happened, police instructed the referee to stop the game. Fire fighters with cutting equipment had difficulty getting into the ground, and although dozens of ambulances were dispatched, access to the pitch was delayed because the police were reporting crowd trouble.
The inquiry into the disaster led by Lord Chief Justice Taylor established that main cause was a failure of police crowd control. He wrote that the key element of police control at fault was the failure to close off the tunnel leading to pens 3 and 4 once Gate C had been opened. He went on to criticise police for their failure to handle the build-up of fans outside the ground properly, and their slow reaction to the unfolding disaster.
Taylor went on to criticise police commander, Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield, for failing to take effective control, and South Yorkshire police, who attempted to blame supporters for the crush by arriving at the ground late and drunk. Despite the Taylor report, which was also critical of Sheffield Wednesday Football Club and Sheffield City Council, in 1990 the director of public prosecutions decided not to bring criminal charges against any individual, group or body on the grounds of insufficient evidence. This disaster was firstly blamed on football hooligans but evidence suggests that it was the opposite of this. Reports have said that the disaster happened because of bad policing at the match and that the fans actions were because they were looking for safety whilst in the situation of panic.
After this disaster major changes occurred in English football. Football stadiums were ordered to take down the fencing surrounding the pitches that were put up top prevent crowd trouble after this disaster and all seated stadiums were planned.
The Football Supporters Association, said that change can be traced back to 1985, after 39 Italian fans were killed at a European Cup final during rioting by Liverpool supporters (Perryman, 2002)
The tragedy prompted a great deal of soul searching among football fans, and English teams were given a five-year ban in Europe. Their return in 1991 came in the form of a European Cup Winners’ Cup final between Manchester United and Barcelona, in Rotterdam. About 26,000 United fans travelled to Holland and there were just 28 arrests, mostly just for drunkenness. Brown said that there’s no doubt the tone of football has changed (Humphries, 1995)
The old hooligans have grown up and those young enough to replace them often can’t get into matches. Capacity is down because stadiums are all seater, tickets have shot up in price and getting into a match is no longer a case of queuing up outside the ground and paying at the gate. It all conspires to make life very difficult for the young, casual fan who was your typical hooligan (Scott, 2003)
A report by the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS) has revealed arrests for football hooliganism in England and Wales were up 8% in 2007. It also showed that while violence inside stadiums is rare, the problem has moved to areas such as pubs and train stations. The Football Supporter’s Association (FSA), however, has stressed that the overall trend for football related violence is down. Although the general agreement is that there has been a huge improvement from the situation in the 1970s and 1980s, the NCIS figures are sure to reopen the debate on football hooliganism (Sleap, 1998)
Football hooliganism has been reported to have first occurred in England. This media labelled English disease has proved highly contagious. Europe these days, hooligan culture is a far greater problem than in its country of origin. Supporters in Holland, Germany and Italy can all claim to have picked up England’s bad habits. And as those countries begin to clamp down, a new wave of violence is washing over the former Eastern-bloc countries such as Poland and Hungary. In England, the traditional Saturday afternoon punch-up that blighted domestic football during the 1970s and ’80s is largely a distant memory (Giulianotti, 1994)
The legendary super hooligan armies, such as Manchester United’s Red Army and West Ham’s Inter City Firm, have become less publicised under the combined forces of severe legislation, all seater stadium, supporter segregation and closed circuit television (O’Neill, 2005)
The change of the typical hooligan through the years has shown that hooligans are now hard to identify. The change came in the late 70’s. The term casual is one that tends to stick the most, but there were also ‘Perry’s’ from Manchester and ‘Scallies’ from Liverpool and numerous more other regional names for a similar type of football fan (Brimson, 2007)
The casual scene originated from Liverpool in the late 70’s. Liverpool travelled to Europe and a number of fans started to pick things up on their travels. Before long, expensive sportswear and designer labels found on the continent were soon also finding their way onto the terraces (Brimson, 2003). Sergio Tacchini, Fila and Lacoste tennis shirts were quite popular around this time. Many firms were going on shopping trips to Europe to loot a number of German, French and Swiss designer sportswear stores, as security was far more negligent than in the UK. Over the course of a few years, everybody was wearing the brands, with each individual firm showing preference to particular brands (Brimson, 2006)
The UK may have been the breeding ground for football violence through the 70’s and 80’s with firms like Manchester United’s Red Army, West Ham’s Inter City Firm (ICF), Millwall’s Bushwhackers and Chelsea’s Head hunters but the European’s and South American’s have taken the violence to new levels. Weapons such as knives, bats and even firearms have created a new culture of football hooliganism. Since the redevelopment of football grounds, CCTV and higher levels of policing at football matches in the UK, the number of arrests have fallen and most games pass without incident. But football hooliganism is alive and well in many countries, especially in places of high unemployment (Dunning et al, 2002)
England has one of the biggest following of supporters in the world, whether it is the national side who regularly take 100,000 fans to major tournaments or club sides in European competition. England also has a fierce reputation for violence with an unprecedented number of incidents spanning three decades (Kerr, 1994)
Disorder in and around English stadiums has reduced since the 1970s and 80s, and English football grounds are now safer than the average town centre on a Saturday night (Hargreaves, 1986)
With the problem of hooliganism showing signs of control, trouble occurred during a carling cup match between West Ham United and Millwall in 2009. Violence surrounding Millwall’s visit to West Ham led to 13 arrests. This brought about the question of should we fear the return of hooliganism? Pitched battles with police, groups of angry young men chasing rivals through city streets and drunken violence on public transport are scenes familiar to trouble during football matches through the 1970s or 1980s. It is much different from the image that the English Premier leagues have projected over recent time (2009)
A report published in 1999 revealed that football hooliganism in Britain had increased, for the first time in six years. The report, by the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS), shows that arrests for violent disorder at football matches almost doubled over the last season. Drew (1999), said that while the number of people involved in football related violence remained relatively small, they were well organised, and often used football matches as a cover for other criminal activity.
The falling arrest rates at matches over 20 years, suggest troublemakers are a rogue minority. Pearson (2009) said that the West Ham trouble does not represent a resurgence of the high-profile clashes of the past. He goes on to say that while the annual number of arrests dropped from more than 6,000 in the mid-80s to fewer than 4,000 now, the problem has never really gone away. The police are constantly trying to stop groups of supporters fighting each other but it usually takes place away from the football stadium, between railway stations and pubs (Downes and Rock, 2005)
Greater regulation of matches and ticketing policies requiring names and addresses have made it easier to identify troublemakers, who can be banned from matches for up to 10 years by courts. Pearson (1998) also stated that we need to be worried about going back to the dark days of hooliganism. While gangs with football allegiances still organise violence, the numbers involved are smaller. Away from the grounds, fewer fans are likely to be drawn in. Williams (2009), agrees that trouble at one game does not represent resurgence in football violence. But he says it would be dangerous to think we are in a post hooliganism era, particularly for fixtures with a history of violence such as West Ham United and Millwall.
Football hooliganism is a highly visible phenomenon, as journalists and TV cameras are present at virtually every match. Since the 1960s, journalists have been sent to football matches to report on crowd behaviour as much as on the game itself. As a result, media coverage of football-related disorder and violence is extensive, and the British tabloid press in particular devote apparently unlimited column inches to any incident that occurs, complete with sensationalist headlines (Cohen, 1970)
Although there is no direct equivalent of the British tabloid extremes in other European nations, most researchers have identified problems relating to media coverage of football hooliganism (Ingham, 1978). In all of the countries with significant levels of football-related disorder, researchers have found that hooligans relish the media coverage they receive, and often positively seek it – with rival groups actively competing for column inches and mentions in sensational headlines (Armstrong, 1998). The influence of the media was highlighted in a recent European Parliament report on football hooliganism, which recommended that the media avoid sensationalism and promote fair-play and sporting values (Greenfield 2006)
The media portrayal of football hooliganism has been glamorised by documentaries and films such as The Football factory and Green Street which include West Ham United fans. This media portrayal gives a bad name for football fans. West Ham’s firm is known as the Inter City Firm (ICF) which derived from there use of the rail network to travel to matches to meet with rival firms. The ICF would leave a calling card after they had caused trouble at matches, which usually involved fighting opposition fans and smashing up there pubs (Scott and Pearson, 2006)
The Inter City Firm’s reputation has been glamorised and brought to the public eye by the films and books that have been devoted to the subject. Films such as the firm which follows the leader of the ICF in a brutal look at football violence and urban frustration, and Rise Of The Foot soldier which follows the life of Carlton Leach and his rise up the criminal underworld beginning with West Ham’s hooligan element (Ward, 1986).
Cass Pennant is the most well known figure to evolve from West Ham’s firm writing many books and being the subject of his own movie in the film Cass. Cass Pennant’s story is remarkable given the level of racism that was prevalent during the 1970’s and 80’s in Britain. Cass managed to rise to the top and become one of the generals of the ICF despite being black. With Pennant being the leader of the ICF during times of high levels of racism, this shows how much influence violence has on football because he became the main leader of the firm and was well known and respected around the country because of his reputation.
Football Hooliganism has been called the ‘English Disease’ on many occasions (Mason, 1979). However, it is not limited to England, and many other countries have serious hooligan problems. In Italy, violent groups within the Ultra factions have recently been involved in a number of serious violent incidents including attacks on English fans. (Greenfield, 2006)
The risks of problems in Italy are particularly high in Rome, and in 2007 hooliganism resulted in the death of a police officer. In the same year Manchester United fans were involved in trouble with the police during a match against AS Roma. After a goal was scored by AS Roma, Manchester United fans retaliated to the home fans who threw objects such as bottles into the Manchester United away end of the stand.
When the two groups of supporters come together they were separated by perspex barrier. Police stepped in to stop the trouble but were heavy handed and assaulted Manchester United fans with police batons. The police tried to control the problem but were the main reason for the disorder. Many people said that Manchester United Hooligans were to blame for the trouble but footage shows that police could not control the problem correctly resulting in many Manchester United fans being injured.
The Sun newspaper wrote “Riot police baton-charged Manchester United fans during the 2-1 defeat in Roma tonight. Supporters were beaten back as they reacted angrily to being taunted by rival fans. One man was left nursing a bloodied head at Italian side Roma’s Olympic Stadium. United followers were barracked after a goal after 44 minutes into the Champions League quarter-final first-leg match. Italian fans ran at a plastic partition separating them from the United terrace. In response, some of the United crowd breached the line of stewards and hurled objects over the partition”.
This shows that Manchester United fans were not the only fans to blame. Although they reacted badly to the situation, the Italian fans started the disorder and the Italian police continued to cause problems.
The Sun newspaper went on to say “Before the game, seven United fans had been injured in clashes with Roma supporters outside the stadium.” (The Sun, 2007)
This continued serious disorder between factions of Ultras has led to ground closures and also possibly Italy’s failure to host the 2012 European Championships.
After the disorder in Italy, the return match at Old Trafford in Manchester was set to be heavily policed because of the fear that trouble would occur. Just as the police thought, fighting broke out between Manchester United fans and AS Roma fans. This incident was better policed and arrests were made with no heavy handed policing situations. Although trouble occurred out side the stadium before the match, no trouble occurred within the stadium and Manchester United came away 7 -1 winner on the night.
Research has shown that Eastern Europe, Belgium and Holland all have greater problems in terms of hooliganism than the UK, where disorder in and around stadium is very rare (James, 2006)
Holland is one of the most tolerant and liberal countries in the world but has some of the most violent football hooligans (Marsh, 1996). Firms were formed and they became more organised and violent. The biggest four hooligan firms in Holland belong to Feyenoord from Rotterdam, Ajax from Amsterdam, FC Den Haag and FC Utrecht. The rivalry between these firms is intense, with the biggest hooligan elements belonging to Ajax and Feyenoord who have the largest following. Ajax’s F-Side and Feyenoord, who come from the second largest city in Holland, have been at the forefront of hooligan violence and have been at war for years.
In 1989 a match between Ajax and Feyenoord made world news after two homemade bombs exploded injuring nineteen, nine of them seriously. Ajax’s stadium was turned into a war zone and it was a miracle nobody was killed. The growing reputation of Dutch hooligans went global and the authorities started to look at measures that could be introduced to contain them. Like the measures taken in England, all seater stadiums and CCTV was introduced but this didn’t change anything, the violence just went from the stadium into the streets (Loweson, 1995)
In 1997 the top boy from Ajax was murdered when the F-Side clashed with hooligans from Feyenoord. They were not even playing each other on the day of the fight. They met on the side of the motorway just outside Amsterdam. The F-Sides leader was battered to death. The government conceded that hooliganism was out of control and called in the army to police football matches and help control the situation.
FC Den Haag’s hooligans are called North Side, which comes from the end of the ground that they congregate in. Den Haag is an old fashioned football club. They have been dubbed the Millwall of Holland and there main rivals are Ajax. There hatred dates back to the late 1980’s where Den Haag threw bombs and flares into the Ajax end (Walvin, 1986) The game was stopped after 45 minutes as police fought running battles with fans in all four sides of the ground. Footage shows numerous motionless bodies being carted out of the stands. The hatred took a new twist in 2005 when Den Haag Hooligans set fire to Ajax’s supporters club in the middle of the night. A year later 70 of Ajax’s firm attacked Den Haag’s clubhouse, stabbed two of there firm as well as burning down there clubhouse. They also tried to set two members of Den Haag’s firm on fire. This led the police to block the motorways between Den Haag and Amsterdam, the government declared a state of emergency (Bale, 1993)
FC Utrecht firm is Bunnikzijde, again after the side of the ground they are situated. There younger firms members have been brought into the hooligan world in Holland at a time when weapons are used in every single fight. They don’t know any different but because of the security at matches today they are forced into pre arranged battles away from the stadiums. The viciousness of these battles has left the media repeatedly stating that more football related deaths are inevitable in Holland. Despite the governments attempt to stamp out football violence it doesn’t seem to be going away (Holt, 1990)
A number of different approaches have been used by the police in order to police football hooliganism. One of the key approaches has been the use of undercover operations. The use of plain clothes officers to infiltrate groups of hooligans has been used in the UK since the 1960s (Pratt et al, 1984)
It is unlikely that football will ever be totally free of crowd disorder. Whenever large groups get together, often under the influence of alcohol, there is the potential for disorder, regardless of whether there is a football match taking place or not. All manner of legal means and policing tactics have been tried to control hooliganism, including deterrent sentencing, legislation such as the Football Offences Act (1991) and the creation of the Football Intelligence Unit. During the perceived height of football hooliganism in the 1970s and 80s, successive governments implemented a series of aggressive policies that contained little evidence of an understanding of hooliganism. Many served only to worsen the problem, create an increasingly confrontational attitude between fans and police, and drive the violence away from the immediate environment of the football ground (Taylor, 1971)
Attempts to prevent hooliganism have seen legislation such as the Football Disorder Act (2000) introduced to prevent suspected hooligans travelling abroad. Such moves obviously have serious consequences for innocent fans. There are concerns about whether banning orders have any serious effect in reducing disorder involving English fans abroad in the light of evidence suggesting it is not known hooligans who actually become involved (Stott and Pearson 2007).
Football hooliganism domestically has changed significantly since the Taylor Report (1990). All-seater stadiums, Football Intelligence and Closed Circuit Television in particular have meant that incidents of violence inside football grounds are rare. In addition, arrests for football related crimes have reduced dramatically since the late 1980’s whilst attendances have risen (Morris, 1981). However, this does not mean that football hooliganism has necessarily reduced. Much football disorder has been pushed from the stadium itself to other meeting places, with groups needing to be better organised (Marsh, 1978). It also now has the potential to be more violent. The location of most serious disorder means that violence is rarely reported and that the police will be less able to control it and make arrests (Hayward, 1995)
Often the extent of the disorder is exaggerated by excessive media reporting and in many cases English supporters are the victims of attacks by local fans or police rather than the aggressors. The press has typically claimed such disorder is the result of hooligans travelling with the intention of fighting and being able to draw drunken English fans into disorder. However, analysis of incidents by Stott and Pearson’s (2007) criticised this view and suggested that external factors such as indiscriminate policing and the presence of aggressive local youths were usually the cause of rioting involving English fans abroad.
UK police have to deal with the problem of organised firms trying to confront each other on a regular basis, although the disorder is rarely reported due to the lack of coverage of incidents and as it usually takes place far from the ground, normal fans do not tend to be directly affected by it (Dunning et al, 1988)
In conclusion, Football Hooliganism is a well conceived, presented subject that discusses a great deal on the subject of anti-social behaviour, which is a problem that seems to get larger and larger in organised societies (Downes and Rock, 2005).
Football hooliganism is detrimental to the sport. As a result of safety measures and controlling of supporters, hooliganism has changed (Neurberge, 1993). To avoid excesses in hooliganism in future, fierce measures will have to be balanced by a social preventive approach. From research, several elements are critical to avoid excesses in hooliganism (Hutchinson, 1982)
The UK has been perceived as having the biggest and longest problem with hooliganism and has as a result taken the lead in the policing of this problem Hooliganism still presents a problem for the Police. Although there is a serious problem from domestic hooliganism, it seems to be a greater problem on a Europe-wide basis (Hall, 1978)
The prevention of football hooliganism depends on the efforts of a variety of institutions (Pearson, 1983). The prevention of football hooliganism requires a concentrated and continuous response. Despite resemblances, football hooliganism is nested within particular fan cultures. Prevention strategies should therefore be designed to fit local needs (Dunning et al, 1993)
Football violence has been a problem in Britain since the creation of the game, and despite the steps and significant progress that has been made to tackle the situation, in all likelihood it will still be a problem for the remainder of time (Ferguson, 1993).
Fans who stopped going ten years ago due to the violence should now feel safe to return to matches as it is certainly not the problem it once was, but despite the assurances we get from football authorities and the government, most fans still walk to games with one eye glancing over their shoulder which suggests that hooliganism in football is still active (Pearson, 2009)
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Rookwood, J., & Pearson, G. (2012). The hoolifan: Positive fan attitudes to football ‘hooliganism.’ International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 47(2), 149–164. https://doi.org/10.1177/1012690210388455
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