The term ‘football hooliganism’ dates back to the 1960’s where the UK in particular had many issues with fans acting disorderly and violent at football games. Recently a video surfaced online in which an Everton fan was seen joining in a brawl against the Olympique Lyonnais players on the pitch, it’s also worth mentioning that this fan had a child in his hand as he swung for the players – which is quite frankly disgusting behaviour.
You have probably heard and seen that many sets of fans still practice this brainless act and teams such as Millwall and Leeds United are still notorious for it. It remains a big problem and is something I’d like to go into more detail about.
The first question I’d like to ask is how did this happen in the first place? How did a fan get anywhere near the players on the field? I can only put it down to the lack of policing at football games in this day and age. I know you shouldn’t mix sports with politics but London football clubs alone cost £6.7 million to police over a typical season, this has been called a “farce” by Andrew Dismore of the Labour party. This coupled with the fact that up north the chief constable of Northumbria police has hinted that the police’s patience is wearing thin after the funding cuts of 23% since 2010 and the loss of 800 jobs in that time. It was also reported that his staff’s annual leave was cancelled in order to police the Great North Run, which would not happen if they already had the staff to cover this event.
The only solution to helping the policing problem is to make football clubs pay for their own security costs, which in my opinion is a terrible idea. This would no doubt filter down to the fans and making supporters pay higher ticket prices in an already inflated market is absurd. The government should look at football matches as a priority in policing matters considering the historical stereotype the UK has with violence relating to football matches. Football matches are no different to a music event or a parade and people already pay their taxes to make sure they are in a safe environment during these gatherings.
I believe that the journalists reporting on the news should also take part of the blame for an increase in football violence. This is because they are giving light to the situation in their news reports and in some ways this could be promoting the football hooliganism lifestyle. The ‘Gow and Rookwoods 2008 study’ was conducted with examples from the Heysel Stadium Disaster, in which 39 Juventus fans died and 600 more were injured because of rioting from Liverpool FC hooligans. English clubs were banned from European competitions for five years until 1990. The report suggests that based on interviewing the fans involved that the main cause for the violence is newspaper reports on the “casuals” lifestyle.
The way in which some newspapers report on football hooliganism just adds petrol to the fire. For example when ‘The Sun’ newspaper reported that hooliganism was the cause for the fatal Hillsborough disaster in 1989 there was absolute uproar from the fans of football clubs up and down the country. The newspapers were assuming facts just to make the stories more popular or try to cause a problem which wasn’t necessarily a big issue in the disaster. This links to Herman and Chomsky’s propaganda model which is the idea that the mass media try to manufacture a particular issue and manipulate a situation for economic gain.
This undoubtedly leads to backlash from fans and especially in the direction of the police at games. So I would say that recent crowd troubles or groups of individuals who go out to cause trouble are actually protesting against the police because of what the newspapers have reported in the past. They see these people as the enemy because of the apparent lies they have told previously and because of the emotional bond the supporters have they will support each other against such lies, especially at Liverpool, who have now banned the Sun newspaper from Anfield.
But have the fans not learned their lessons? There are countless injuries and deaths from football related violence – and for what? Supporting eleven men on a field who kick a ball for a living? It’s stupidity at its finest and I believe the FA is doing a good job under the resources that they have to combat the problem. The ‘FA Respect’ campaign has worked really well to stop racism within the sport, especially from ‘The National Front’ members. Now we have 33% of black minority players playing in the Premier League which is a great thing to stop the game from being inclusive and it encourages more support from ethnic minorities and most importantly sensible support at football games.
There will be exceptions and like ex Manchester United hooligan Colin Blaney said in his autobiography, many use hooliganism as a substitute for more serious crimes like theft and burglary. There is no other way to deal with these people other than the football clubs giving them lifetime bans. The man with the child at Everton has been banned for life at the club and I think this is a positive move to combat violence in football. It sends a strong message and will deter those who are just at football games to cause trouble and filter them out of the equation.
In conclusion I believe it is very important for the longevity of the game that the troublemakers are pushed out as it will result in a more family friendly atmosphere which will attract more support and generate more revenue for football clubs. Historically I would say that football is a gentleman’s sport played by thugs, but this is slowly changing thanks to the good work by the FA and Premier League football clubs. There is still work to do an in my opinion, the government should support the initiative with funding and the media should do their bit by not widespread reporting the incidents. I hope my words are taken into account by authorities and we can start building a positive environment for all.