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Football Hooliganism


Hooliganism has been associated with football since it began. In the early years of football as a professional sport so called roughs were regularly reported to be causing trouble at matches. The biggest rivalries were, and still are, between clubs from the same city or local area. Trouble was reported at these games as early as the nineteenth century. As well as attacking opposition fans, the roughs used to attack players and referees. After this period, and particularly between the two world wars, football gained a more respectable reputation and crowd violence, although not totally wiped out, started to decline. It was not until the early 1960s that hooliganism once again became a serious problem, particularly in the media. This was expressed as a part of the overriding culture of youth rebellion and moral panic at the time. This came about as a result of rising juvenile crime rates, uncertainty about the future and new movements like the Teddy boys. Along with other overriding themes that have been present when hooliganism is considered a problem there was racism in society that manifested itself in things like the Notting Hill disturbances. Football stadiums became identified as a place where fights could easily take place. It was around this time that football hooliganism began to take on the coherent structure of groups that it has today. Must of these groups emerged from the working class housing estates of the major cities. Loose alliances were formed amongst young men on match days and they occupied the terraces behind the goals at stadiums. This led to the development of a strong local feeling that had to be defended against other groups. As a result a national network of rival gangs was built up and fights regularly took place inside football grounds.

However, in recent times there has been a move away from this idea of fighting in stadiums and groups arrange to meet outside grounds, before or after matches. Football hooliganism has moved on even from the days of the firms of the 1970s and 1980s. At this time football hooligans thought they were having "a bit of a laugh." Activities like verbally abusing opposition fans and threatening them with attack. The hardcore that were violent cause most damage by causing fights between rival groups of supporters. Due to changes in the 1990s, particularly the introduction of all seater stadia after the Hillsborough disaster, hooligan activity has almost completely moved out of the stadiums. Although a hardcore does remain, most violence occurs outside the grounds. Modern technology is used to organise fights between different groups of hooligans. In particular the Internet and mobile phones have become the main weapon of the football hooligan. Mobile phones are used to finalise details and call in reinforcements. When fights do break out in football stadiums, the most common sight is someone on a mobile phone getting more hooligans to join in. Although there is not the coverage or hysteria regarding football that was seen in the 1980s. Hooliganism still takes place between rival sets of English supporters. Recently a prearranged fight took place in Rochdale between Manchester United fans, who are noted for their lack of passion and corporate approach to football, and Leeds United supporters. Local derby games often lead to violent battles between supporters; the most recent examples are in Burnley and Sheffield. On the Internet gangs from Queens Park Rangers and Arsenal taunted each other about fights after their FA cup game. Football violence occurs at all levels of the game. Bishop Auckland supporters recently staged pitch invasions and fought with police during an FA Trophy game against Burton Albion. At the other end of the scale, recent violence from England fans, most notably in Marseilles and Charleroi, shows hooliganism is a Europe wide problem.

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Created by James Rowlands on Dreamweaver for The Politics of Policing Transnational Crime, University of Exeter 2001. E-mail J.P.Rowlands@exeter.ac.uk