Football hooliganism can be seen as something of an easy
target' for the media. With journalists present at every match across the
country, the chances of a story being missed are slim. TV cameras also mean
that disturbances within stadiums are caught on video. Since the 1960s, in
fact, journalists have been sent to football matches to report on crowd
behaviour, rather than just the game 1.
The British tabloid press in particular have an
enthusiastic' approach to the reporting of soccer violence, with
sensationalist headlines such as "Smash These Thugs!", "Murder on a Soccer
Train!" (Sun), "Mindless Morons" and "Savages! Animals!" (Daily Mirror) 2.
Whilst open condemnation of hooligans is the norm across the media, it has
been argued that this sensationalist style of reporting presents football
violence as far more of a concern than it actually is, elevating it to a
major social problem'. The problem of press sensationalism was recognised
in the 1978 Report on Public Dis
order and Sporting Events, carried out by
the Sports Council and Social Science Research Council. It observed that:
"It must be considered remarkable, given the
problems of contemporary Britain, that football hooliganism has
received so much attention from the Press. The events are certainly
dramatic, and frightening for the bystander, but the outcome in terms
of people arrested and convicted, people hurt, or property destroyed
is negligible compared with the number of people potentially
Furthermore, some critics argue that media coverage of
hooliganism has actually contributed to the problem . More recently, the
popular press has been criticised for it's pre-match reporting during the
1996 European Championships.
Press boxes were first installed at football matches in
the 1890s, although the reporting of football matches goes back
considerably further than this. The study by Murphy, Dunning and Williams 3
shows that disorder was a regular occurrenc
at football matches before the
First World War, and newspaper reports of trouble were common. However, the
style of reporting was a long way away from the coverage which hooliganism
Most reports before the First World War were made in a
restrained fashion. Little social comment was made and the articles were
small and factual, often placed under a heading such as Football
Association Notes' 4.
" ... Loughborough had much the best of matters and
the Gainsborough goal survived several attacks in a remarkable manner,
the end coming with the score:
The referee's decisions had caused considerable
dissatisfaction, especially that disallowing a goal to Loughborough in
the first half, and at the close of the game he met with a very
unfavourable reception, a section of the crowd hustling him and it was
stated that he was struck." 5
It is hard to imagine a present day report of an
incident such as this being written with such impartiality and lack of
During the inter-war years, the style of reporting began
to change. As newspapers gave more space to advertising, stories had to be
considered more for their newsworthiness' than before. What is interesting
to note about Murphy et al's study here is that they argue that the press
facilitated (consciously or not) the view that football crowds were
becoming more orderly and well behaved by underplaying, or just not
reporting, incidents which did occur. At the same time, however, a small
amount of concern and condemnation began to creep in to reports.
This trend continued for a decade or so after the Second
World War and it is this period which is often referred to as football's
hey-day: a time of large, enthusiastic, but well-behaved crowds. Murphy et
al argue that this was not necessarily the case and
that although incidents
of disorder were on the decrease, those that did occur often went un-
The roots of today's style of reporting of football
violence can be traced back to the mid 1950s. At a time when there was
widespread public fear over rising juvenile crime and about youth violence
in general, the press began to carry more and more stories of this nature
and football matches were an obvious place to find them. Although many
reports still attempted to down-play the problem, the groundwork was laid
as articles began to frequently refer to a hooligan minority of fans
By the mid-1960s, with the World Cup to be held in
England drawing closer, the press expressed dire warnings of how the
hooligans could ruin the tournament. The World Cup passed without incident
but the moral panic concerning hooliganism continued to increase.
By the 1970s calls for tougher action on trouble-makers
became common place in the tabloid's headlines: "Smash These Thugs" (Sun, 4
October 1976), "Thump and Be Thumped" (Daily Express, 25 November 1976),
"Cage the Animals" (Daily Mirror, 21 April 1976) and "Birch em!" (Daily
Mirror, 30 August 1976).
During the 1980s, many of these demands were actually
met by the British authorities, in the wake of tragedies such as the Heysel
deaths in 1985, "Cage The Animals" turning out to be particularly
prophetic. As these measures were largely short-sighted, they did not do
much to quell the hooliganism, and may have in fact made efforts worse. As
such, football hooliganism continued to feature heavily in the newspapers
and mass media in general and still does today.
The main bodies of work we will consider here are that
of Stuart Hall in the late 1970s and that of Patrick Murphy and his
colleagues at Leicester in the late 1980s.
Stuart Hall in
The treatment of football hooliganism in
the Press, identifies what he calls the amplification spiral' whereby
exaggerated coverage of a problem can have the effect of worsening it: 6
"If the official culture or society at large comes
to believe that a phenomenon is threatening, and growing, it can be
led to panic about it. This often precipitates the call for tough
measures of control. This increased control creates a situation of
confrontation, where more people than were originally involved in the
deviant behaviour are drawn into it ... Next week's confrontation'
will then be bigger, more staged, so will the coverage, so will the
public outcry, the pressure for yet more control..."
This spiral effect, Hall argues, has been particularly
apparent in the coverage of football hooliganism since the mid 1960s. The
press' technique of "editing for impact" is central to Hall's theory. The
use of "graphic headlines, bold type-faces, warlike imagery and
epithets..." serves to sensationalise and exaggerate the story.
This approach is supported by a later study by Patrick
Murphy and his colleagues7. They argue that the particular shape which
football hooliganism has taken since the 1960s, i.e. "regular
confrontations between named rival groups", has arisen partly out of press
coverage of incidents. In particular, the predictive style of reporting
which often appeared in the tabloids such as "Scandal of Soccer's Savages -
Warming up for the new season" (Daily Mirror, 20 August 1973) and "Off - To
a Riot" (People, 2 August 1970).
In 1967, a Chelsea fan appearing in court charged with
carrying a razor said in his defence that he had "read in a local newspaper
that the West Ham lot were going to cause trouble". 8
This predictive style of reporting is most apparent when
the English national side is involved in international tournaments. During
up to the World Cup in Italy, 1990 the English Press gave out
grave warnings of violence in Italy. The Sun quoted anonymous English fans
as saying there was going to be "... a bloodbath - someone is going to get
killed" (31 May 1990), while the Daily Mirror claimed Sardinians were
arming themselves with knives for the visit of the English who were "ready
to cause havoc" on the island (27 May 1990). This anticipation of trouble
meant that media presence at the tournament was very substantial, and
competition for a story' fierce, resulting in journalists picking up the
smallest of incidents. John Williams9 also claims that journalists may have
paid English fans to pose for photographs.
"By defining matchdays and football grounds as
times and places in which fighting could be engaged in and aggressive
forms of masculinity displayed, the media, especially the national
tabloid press, played a part of some moment in stimulating and shaping
the development of football hooliganism."
Furthermore, Murphy argues that the press have played a
role in decisions over policy making to deal with football hooliganism,
resulting in largely short-sighted measures which have in the main shifted
violence from the terraces onto the streets and towns outside the football
Evidently, social explanations of football violence do
not make great headlines and it is rare that a report of football violence
in the popular press will include such an insight, if it does it tends to
be a short remark, buried away at the end of the article. Thus, as Hall
points out, "If you lift social violence out of it's social context, the
only thing you are left with is - bloody heads." In fact, the explanations
offered to us by the popular press usually aim to dismiss the violence as
irrational, stupid and
ultimately animalistic - "RIOT! United's Fans Are
Animals" (Sunday People, 29 August 1975) and "SAVAGES! ANIMALS!" ( Daily
Mirror, 21 April 1975).
This has serious consequences, as Melnick points out:
"The mass media in general and the national press
in particular can take major credit for the public's view of the
soccer hooligan as a cross between the Neanderthal Man and Conan the
By labelling the actions of football hooligans like
this, it is easy for the tabloid press to make calls for tougher action
from the authorities. If the violence has no rationale or reason then what
can be done but use force against it?
"Another idea might be to put these people in
hooligan compounds' every Saturday afternoon ... They should be herded
together preferably in a public place. That way they could be held up
to ridicule and exposed for what they are - mindless morons with no
respect for other people's property or wellbeing. We should make sure
we treat them like animals - for their behaviour proves that's what
Contrasted with these calls for harsh punishments have
been more blatant forms of glorification of hooliganism, most obviously in
the publishing of league tables of hooligan notoriety':
"Today the Mirror reveals the end-of-term arrest'
record of First Division Clubs' supporters covering every league match
played by 22 teams. The unique report compiled with the help of 17
police forces reflects the behaviour of both home' and away' fans at
each ground. The record speaks for itself; Manchester United were
bottom of the League of Shame by more than 100 arrests." 12
League tables were published in several other
newspapers, including the Daily Mail, during the mid 1970s. However, in
1984, when a report by a working group in the government's Department of
the Environment, entitled Football Spectator Violence, recommended
police should compile a league table of the country's most notorious
hooligan groups to help combat the problem, many newspapers replied with
disgust and outrage that this should be published (which it wasn't going to
be), arguing that doing so could incite hooligan competition. Importantly,
as Murphy et al assert, this shows that the press recognise that publicity
can influence football hooliganism.
Criticism has also been aimed at the tabloid press for
the attitude it takes in its build-up to major international matches. Two
days before England's semi-final match against Germany in this year's
European Championships, the Mirror carried the front page headline
"Achtung! Surrender. For you Fritz ze Euro 96 Championship is over" while
the editorial, also on the front page, consisted of a parody of Neville
Chamberlain's 1939 announcement of the outbreak of war with Hitler: "Mirror
Declares Football War on Germany". Elsewhere, the war metaphors continued:
"Let's Blitz Fritz" (Sun) and "Herr We Go" (Daily Star).
Condemnation of the tabloids was widespread, but in fact
they had done it before. Before England played the Federal Republic of
Germany in the semi-final of the 1990 World Cup, The Sun printed the
headline "We Beat Them In 45 ... Now The Battle of 90"
Following the disturbances across Britain after the
match, in which a battle between English fans and police broke out in
London's Trafalgar Square and a Russian student was stabbed in Brighton,
mistakenly being identified as a German, some critics were keen to point
the finger at the xenophobia of the tabloid press in encouraging racist and
violent action. A report produced by the National Heritage Select
Committee, led by Labour MP Gerald Kaufman, concluded that the tabloid
press coverage "may well have had it's effect in stimulating the deplorable
Even without considering whether the disturbances that
constituted deplorable riots' or not, this claim is highly debatable.
What is clear, however, is that certain double standards exist within the
tabloid press. On the one hand they are keen to label the actions of
hooligans as moronic' and evil' whilst at the same time they encourage the
jingoistic and xenophobic views so prevalent within the national hooligan
scene. A study by Blain and O'Donnell, involving 3,000 newspaper reports
from 10 countries covering the 1990 World Cup claimed that "There is
nothing elsewhere in Europe like the aggressiveness towards foreigners of
the British popular press."13.
It is not just in the international context that one
finds this aggressive style of reporting but also in general football
journalism. Headlines such as "C-R-U-N-C-H", "FOREST'S BLITZ", "POWELL
BLAST SHOCKS STOKE", and "Doyle's Karate Gets Him Chopped" were found in
the sports pages of just one edition of the Sunday People14. Stuart Hall
claims that if football reporting is shrouded in violent, war metaphors and
graphic imagery then one should not be surprised that this spills over on
to the terraces.
"...the line between the sports reporter glorying
in the battles on the pitch, and expressing his righteous moral
indignation at the battle on the terraces is a very fine and wavery
one indeed" 15.
The role of the media in other European countries
Studies of media reporting of football hooliganism
elsewhere in Europe have been rather limited. This may be due to the more
benign' reporting of fans in other countries or to the relative novelty of
the football violence phenomenon in some cases. The most significant
studies have been conducted in Italy and the Netherlands, with less
substantial work in Denmark and Austria. Work on Scottish fans by
Giulianotti, however, is also relevant in this section.
Alessandro dal Lago16 analyses the coverage of football
the Italian media. He identifies two phases in reporting
football matches by the press. Before the 1970s each match was covered at
most by two articles. The attention of the reporters was more focused on
the players than on the terraces, when violence occurred it was reported as
a secondary event in the context of the article. The second phase comes
from the mid 1970s. Now attention was focused on the ends' ( the terraces
behind the goals favoured by the Italian ultras) and outside the stadium.
Football incidents were given the honour' of separate articles independent
from the reports of football matches.
Dal Lago recognises the amplifying role which the media
plays and claims that the ultras are aware of it to the extent that banners
displayed in the ends' frequently include messages to journalists. For
example in June 1989, a week after a Roma supporter had died and three
Milan fans arrested, a banner displayed by the Milan ultras was directed at
Biscardi, a presenter of a popular sports programme Il Processo del Lunedi
(The Monday Trial). It read "Biscardi sei figlio di bastardi" (Biscardi you
are a son of bastards).
Dal Lago states that widespread hatred exists on the
part of both groups, with expressions such as beasts' and stupid' used by
the ultras to describe the media and by the media to describe the ultras.
A study by van der Brug and Meijs set out to see what
the influence of the Dutch media coverage of hooliganism is on the
hooligans themselves. A survey was conducted in which there were 53
respondents from different sides' (groups of fans so called after the
section of the ground in which they are usually located) in Holland. Put to
them were a series of statements to see whether
they agreed / disagreed
etc. Statements which featured the strongest levels of agreement among the
respondents were "It is fun when the side is mentioned in the newspaper or
on television", "Side supporters think it is important that newspapers
write about their side" and "When I read in the newspaper that there will
be extra police, it makes the coming match more interesting". 17
The authors conclude that:
"There is no doubt whatsoever that the media have
some effect on football hooliganism."
We have seen earlier that the media has played a large
part in the shaping of the present day view of football hooligans in
England. It is interesting, therefore, to consider the example of Scottish
fans and their transformation, in the public's eyes, from British
hooligans' to Scottish fans'. Since 1981 the Scottish Tartan Army' has
consciously sought to acquire an international reputation for boisterous
friendliness to the host nation and opposing fans through carnivalesque'
behaviour 18. The media has played a very important role in this. By
organising themselves into very large groups at matches abroad, the
Scottish fans attract a great deal of media attention, but by displaying
themselves as nothing more than friendly, albeit drunken, fans their press
coverage is predominantly positive. The Scottish media has been behind this
transformation, namely by representing English fans as hooligans and by
underplaying any trouble which has occurred involving Scottish fans.
A similar story exists in Denmark where the Roligans'
(see section 4) have an impeccable reputation as the antithesis of the
English hooligan'. Peitersen and Skov19 identified the role that the media
played in forming this reputation:
"The Danish popular press were an active force in
support of the Danish roligans and the fantastic reputation that they
have achieved in the international press ... the Danish popular press
came to have a
similar role to that played by the English popular
press for the hooligans, but with reversed polarity. While the Danish
press supported recognisable positive trends encompassing
companionship, fantasy, humour and pride, the English press helped to
intensify and refine violence among English spectators by consciously
focusing on and exaggerating the violence and the shame."
Roman Horak20 also claims that a spate of de-
amplification of football violence in the Austrian press occured in the mid
to late 1980s As a result hooligans lost the coverage which they had
previously thrived upon, and the number of incidents decreased.
It is evident that the media plays a very significant
role in the public's view of football hooliganism. By far the biggest
problem lies in the sensationalist reporting of the British tabloid press.
We have seen how the press has helped form the modern phenomenon of
football hooliganism, how it has shaped public opinion of the problem, and
how it may directly influence the actions of fans themselves.
There is considerable evidence to support the claim that
football hooligans enjoy press coverage and positively attempt to obtain
coverage of themselves and their group. In fact, a hooligan group's
notoriety and reputation stems largely from reports in the media. The
following conversation between two Milwall supporters talking to each other
in 1982, is somewhat revealing :
"C - keeps a scrapbook of press cuttings and
everything, you should see it, got this great picture from when
Milwall went to Chelsea. Great, this Chelsea fan photographed being
led away from the shed, with blood pouring out of his white tee shirt.
He's clutching his guts like this (illustrates), got stabbed real
"You see that thing in the Sun on Violent Britain'?
No? Well I was in it. Well not directly like. I had this Tottenham
geezer see. Sliced up
his face with my blade - right mess." 21
In Football hooliganism: The Wider Context, Roger Ingham
recommended that the media should reduce their tendencies to:
" ... sensationalise, inflate, exaggerate and
amplify their stories", advocating "more accurate reporting of events,
more careful choice of descriptive terminology, greater efforts to
place the events themselves in appropriate contexts".
Ingham also called for the press to think before
printing anticipations of disturbances, going so far as to recommend that
the Press Council "play a more active role in attempting to ensure accurate
and responsible reporting".
However, 18 years on from Ingham's writings we are still
faced with the same situation and it is one which looks unlikely to go
away. As Melnick 22 points out " ... in the newspaper business, bad news is
good news'". A glimmer of hope perhaps stems from the Scottish example
talked about earlier, demonstrating that football fans can produce good'
stories in the press, although it may be fair to say that many of the
stories have only been deemed newsworthy' because of the emphasis on the
contrast with English fans.
Horak's claim is also encouraging, indicating that media
de-amplification (i.e. playing down stories of football hooliganism) can
lead to reductions in levels of violence. In this sense, therefore, Euro 96
could prove to be a turning point in press coverage of football.
Apart from the disturbances in London following the
England - Germany match, the European Championships provided almost nothing
in the way of hooliganism stories for the press and, as such, stories
concentrated on the English team, rather than the fans.
The role of the media was raised in a recent report to
the European Parliament on football hooliganism by the Committee on Civil
Liberties and Internal Affairs. In this the committee recognises that:
"The media act as magnifiers
- they magnify acts of
violence and provoke further acts of violence. The media show social
problems - the violence in and around football, xenophobia and the
racism which is its expression - as if under a magnifying glass. What
is nasty becomes nastier because it seems to appear anonymously."
It then goes on to recommend that the media:
" ... participate in the promotion of respect for
fair play in sport, to help promote positive sporting values, to
combat aggressive and chauvinistic behaviour and to avoid any
sensationalism in treating information on violence at sporting
Short of outright censorship, however, it is hard to
imagine how legislation can reduce sensationalism and exaggeration in the
5. Leicester Daily Mercury, 3 April 1899
11. Daily Mirror, 4 April 1977
12. Daily Mirror, 6 May 1974
14. Sunday People, 3 April 1977
Racism and football fans
Racism is a problem for football across Europe and is an
important factor in the problem of football hooliganism itself. The actual
extent of racism is virtually impossible to measure as detailed statistics
in this context are almost non-existent. Nevertheless, acts of football
disorder, especially on the international scene, have frequently been
referred to as 'racist', or perpetrated by racist groups, and some clubs
are now viewed as having an inherently racist support.
In this section the various forms of racism will be
considered, with emphasis on the role of extreme right-wing groups, as
these have frequently been reported to be involved in football-related
violence. The various campaigns and schemes designed to combat racism will
also be considered.
The first professional black player in Britain is
believed to have been Arthur Wharton, who signed for Darlington FC in 1889.
Nowadays, a black player is by no means unusual. In fact, around 25% of
professional players are black. However, in the 1993/94 season Carling
of Premier League fans, only 1% of fans described themselves as 'non-
white'. It is argued that this is due to a prevalence of racism amongst
traditional soccer fans.
In an attempt to redress the problem, the Campaign for
Racial Equality (CRE), the Football Supporters Association (FSA) and the
Professional Footballers Association (PFA) have all launched initiatives to
try and rid football grounds of racism and encourage more people from
ethnic minorities to attend matches. Their techniques and levels of success
will be discussed later, but let us start by examining the actual types of
racism that exist in football stadiums.
Forms of Racism
Racist chanting in the 1970s and 1980s often took the
form of members of the crowd making monkey noises at black players on the
pitch. Other abuse has been more specific. For example, after the Deptford
fire in 1981 when 13 black youths were burnt to death, a chant that could
be heard at Millwall was:
"We all agree
Niggers burn better than petrol"
Anti-Semitic chants have also been heard. Tottenham
Hotspur supporters have often been the target for this:
"Those yids from Tottenham
The gas man's got them
Oh those yids from White Hart Lane"
Other chants are more closely linked to patriotism and
as such the national team:
"Stand by the Union Jack
Send those niggers back
If you're white, you're alright
If you're black, send 'em back"
The 1991 Football (Offences) Act made racist chanting at
football matches unlawful, but is largely inadequate as chanting is defined
as the "repeated uttering of any words or sounds in concert with one or
more others". As a result an individual shouting racist abuse on his own
can only be charged under the 1986 Public Order Act for using "obscene and
foul language at football grounds". This loophole has allowed several
offenders to escape conviction for
racism at football matches.
The level of influence that far-right groups have
amongst football fans is a highly debatable issue but over the years they
have been present in many football grounds across Britain. Garland and
Rowe1 suggest that far-right groups have targeted football fans since at
least the 1930s, when the British Union of Fascists tried to attract the
young working class male supporters into their brigade of uniformed
'stewards'. In the 1950s the White Defence League sold their newspaper
Black and White News at football grounds in London.
It was the 1970s, however, that saw far-right groups
rise to prominence as the problem of football hooliganism grew in the
national conscience. The National Front (NF) was the most active group in
the 1970s, giving regular coverage in its magazine Bulldog to football and
encouraging hooligan groups to compete for the title of 'most racist ground
in Britain'. Copies of Bulldog were openly sold at many clubs and, at West
Ham, club memorabilia was sold doctored with NF slogans. Chelsea, Leeds
United, Millwall, Newcastle United and Arsenal, as well as West Ham United,
were all seen as having strong fascist elements in the 1970s and 1980s.
After the Heysel stadium tragedy when a wall collapsed killing 39 people
fleeing from Liverpool fans, British National Party leaflets were found on
It seems that in the 1990s, however, the problem is
waning. It is now uncommon to see the open selling of far-right literature
or memorabilia at football matches and an incident such as the John Barnes
one would be unlikely to happen now. But this does not mean to say that the
problem has gone away, especially amongst the support for the English
national side. During the 1980s, far-right groups were often in attendance
at England's matches abroad. Williams and
his colleagues2 identified a
presence of NF members in the English support, especially amongst the
Chelsea contingent, at the 1982 World Cup in Spain.
As recently as 1995, far-right groups have been involved
in disturbances abroad, namely at the England vs. Republic of Ireland
'friendly' match at Lansdowne Road, Dublin when fights between rival fans
caused the game to be abandoned after half an hour. Supporters of the
British National Party (BNP) and a militant group called Combat 18 were
said to have been involved after racist literature was found at the scene.
Anti Republican chanting could clearly be heard at the match and some claim
that the violence was actually orchestrated by an umbrella group called the
National Socialist Alliance.
The attractions of football matches to far-right groups
are obvious. Football grounds provide a useful platform for the groups to
make their voices heard. From them their views can be directed into
millions of homes. It also seems as if football grounds can be a means to
recruit young support. As Dave Robins3 points out:
"The hard-man, though, lives in a more dangerous
and unchanging world. Permanently sensitised to 'trouble' in his
environment, his paranoid fantasies about defending his 'patch'
against outsiders make him ripe for manipulation by the politics of
the extreme right"
Their actual influence amongst club support, however, is
believed by many to be minimal, a view held by the National Football
"We are aware that certain right-wing parties have
been looking at football hooligans because they see them as an
organised group and try to recruit them for this purpose with, I have
to say, fairly limited success ... It has been seen as an opportunity
by many, but I don't think it has been a dramatic success, there is no
evidence for that."
Some debate also exists as
to whether right-wing groups
deliberately target soccer fans as recruits or whether soccer fans are
drawn into the groups because of the opportunities they offer for violence.
Robins is drawn towards the former argument, citing the leafleting
campaigns of the 1980s, while David Canter5 argues that the right-wing
groups merely cash in on soccer violence, rather than instigate it. One
would have to conclude that there are elements of truth in both theories.
Recent years have seen a number of attempts by various
groups and organisations to combat racism in football. These have come from
the club level, supporter level and from organisational bodies such as the
Campaign for Racial Equality (CRE), the Professional Footballers
Association (PFA) and the Football Supporters Association (FSA).
In 1993 the CRE and PFA launched the Let's Kick Racism
Out of Football campaign, "with the aim of highlighting anti-racist and
equal opportunities messages within the context of football" .6
It aimed to encourage clubs and supporters groups to
launch their own campaigns to combat racism at their clubs. A ten point
action plan was laid out for clubs:
1. Issue a statement saying that the club will not
tolerate racism, and will take action against supporters who engage in
racist abuse, racist chanting or intimidation.
2. Make public announcements condemning any racist
chanting at matches, and warning supporters that the club will not hesitate
to take action.
3. Make it a condition for season ticket holders that
they do not take part in racist abuse, racist chanting or any other
4. Prevent the sale or distribution of racist literature
in and around the ground on match-days.
5. Take disciplinary action against players who make
racially abusive remarks at players, officials or supporters before, during
or after matches.
6. Contact other clubs to make sure they understand the
club's policy on
7. Make sure stewards and the police understand the
problem and the club's policy, and have a common strategy for removing or
dealing with supporters who are abusive and breaking the law on football
8. Remove all racist graffiti from the ground as a
matter of urgency.
9. Adopt an equal opportunities policy to cover
employment and service provision.
10. Work with other groups and agencies - such as the
police, the local authority, the PFA, the supporters, schools, etc. - to
develop initiatives to raise awareness of the campaign and eliminate racist
abuse and discrimination.
The campaign stated that:
"If football is to be played and enjoyed equally by
everyone, whatever the colour of their skin, and wherever they come
from, it is up to us all, each and every one of us, to refuse to
tolerate racist attitudes, and to demand nothing less than the highest
standards in every area of the game."
A magazine, Kick It!, was produced with funding from the
Football Trust and 110,000 copies of a fanzine, United Colours of Football,
were given out free at grounds across the country on the opening day of the
Initial reaction to the scheme was not entirely
positive. Some thought that it may only serve to bring negative publicity
to the game, by highlighting the problem of racism in football. Others
claimed that racism was not a problem at their ground and therefore they
had no need for such a campaign. Despite this, the first season of the
campaign had the support of all but one of the professional clubs and all
In a survey conducted by Garland and Rowe in December
1994, 49 fanzine editors from a wide range of clubs were asked to comment
on levels of racism at their club. Many were skeptical about the
Let's Kick Racism Out of Football, with only 32% citing the campaign as a
factor in the perceived decrease in racism at football matches in the last
Garland and Rowe suggest that this lack of support may
stem from mistaken expectations of the campaign. As mentioned earlier, the
aim of the CRE and PFA was to encourage clubs to launch their own
initiatives, rather than control the whole campaign themselves. In this
sense it has been largely successful, as it prompted many clubs to launch
their own campaigns.
The most ambitious of these have been Derby County's
scheme Rams Against Racism and Charlton Athletic's Red, White and Black at
the Valley. Derby County went so far as to dedicate a home match day in
1994 to the cause of combating racism after liaisons between club
officials, the club's Football and Community Development Officer and the
Racial Equality Council. Anti-racist banners were displayed, campaign
messages printed in the match day programme and players involved. Two-
hundred and fifty free tickets were also given out to local children. A
long term aim of the scheme was to encourage the local Asian community to
attend more games as well as encouraging local Asian footballing talent.
Red, White and Black at the Valley was a leaflet
launched by Charlton Athletic in conjunction with the police, the local
Racial Equality Council, Greenwich Council and the supporters club. The aim
was to present Charlton Athletic as being a club that people from all
disadvantaged minorities could come and watch without fear of harassment
from other supporters. After the leaflet had been distributed the club
continued by producing posters and issuing statements in the programmes.
Players also visited local schools and colleges.
Garland and Rowe point out that it is difficult to
calculate how effective these schemes
have been, although a drive by the
police (acting on a tip-off from the club) was successful in removing
racist fans from one end of the Valley ground.
The first fan-based group set up specifically to fight
racism was Leeds Fans United Against Racism And Fascism (LFUARAF). This was
formed in 1987 to combat the influence of far-right groups at Elland Road,
especially the most visible displays of paper selling etc. The first step
was to distribute anti-racist leaflets outside the ground, then in 1988 it
contributed to Terror On Our Terraces, a report on the involvement of the
far-right amongst the Leeds crowd. This prompted the club to recognise the
problem and they issued an anti-racist statement signed by both management
and players. Within a few months the number of far-right paper sellers
decreased significantly and the campaign is still active today.
In Scotland, supporters have formed a national campaign
to combat racism in football. SCARF (Supporters' Campaign Against Racism in
Football) was formed in 1991 in response to an increase in far-right
activity at Scottish grounds, mainly involving the BNP. Most of the
campaign consists of leafleting the worst affected grounds, Rangers and
Hearts being two examples, but it has not been without its problems. As
well as- one female campaigner being threatened and others abused, SCARF
say that they have had a problem in getting clubs and officials to
recognise that there is a problem at all.
Fanzines started in the mid 1980s and have offered an
alternative, positive view of football fans in the post-Heysel era. Now
almost every club has at least one fanzine and Garland and Rowe claim that
these are almost exclusively anti-racist. Some are actually produced by
anti-racist groups themselves such as Marching Altogether (LFUARAF) and
Filbo Fever (Leicester City Foxes Against Racism). Other
fanzines actively support anti-racism campaigns include Everton, Celtic,
Manchester United, Cardiff City, Leyton Orient and Chelsea. One criticism
levelled at fanzines is that they are simply preaching to the converted as
the fans who buy them will already be anti-racist. Nevertheless, fanzines
have enjoyed increasing popularity over the last few years which should be
recognised as a positive sign and the LFUARAF recognises this problem and
for this purpose gives away Marching Altogether free at matches.
The CRE and PFA also believe that the 'civilisation' of
football grounds - seating, family enclosures, executive boxes etc. - will
encourage more blacks and Asians to attend football matches. They may be
right but this has not occurred yet in England. Every football ground in
the Premier League is now all-seater yet, as mentioned before, white people
constitute 99% of the attendance.
The European dimension
Throughout Europe, racism figures prominently in
football related violence. Neo-nazi and neo-fascist groups target football
grounds in Europe in the same way as their English equivalents do here.
Among the worst affected clubs are Lazio and AC Milan in Italy, Paris Saint-
Germain in France, and Real Madrid and Espagnole in Spain.
In Italy, a Jewish player, Ronnie Rosenthal, was unable
to play even one game for Udinese because of massive pressure from neo-
fascist circles and Aaron Winter, a native of Suriname of Hindustani
extraction was subject to attacks at Lazio involving cries of 'Niggers and
Jews Out'. More recently, Paul Ince, a black English player for Inter Milan
, has expressed his anger at the way he has been treated by the Italian
Germany has one of the worst reputations in Europe for
far-right influence amongst its fans, with frequent displays of Hitler
salutes, particularly at international matches. Professor Volker Rittner of
the Sports Sociology Institute in Cologne,
however, believes that these are
no more than provocative displays designed to get the fans into the papers,
but some reports of right-wing activity in Germany have been disturbing. In
1990 there were reports of skinheads barracking the small number of black
players in the Bundesliga and in 1992 similar reports were made of neo-nazi
groups in Germany using football matches as occasions to plan and organise
attacks against local ethnic communities and East European refugees. An
analysis of the political attitudes of German fans revealed that 20% feel
close to neo-nazis. Whilst it is not clear how active these fans would be,
this is nonetheless a disturbing figure.
Some European countries have initiated similar schemes
to the British Let's Kick Racism Out of Football campaign. The Netherlands
uses the motto When Racism Wins, the Sport Loses which is displayed on
posters at train stations and at tram and bus stops. Players in the
Netherlands even went on strike in protest against racism. Players have
also led the way in Italy by threatening to walk off the pitch if black
players continued to be abused by racists. This resulted in a day of action
in December 1992 when all players in the top two divisions displayed the
slogan No Al Razzismo! (No To Racism). In Switzerland, footballers from the
national team are involved in 'street football' competitions for young
people, held in a different town each weekend.
A more general campaign is the All Different - All Equal
campaign against racism, xenophobia and intolerance, organised by the
Council of Europe. Football players from many countries have been involved,
most notably in Sweden where the national team appeared in a short video,
shown several times on national TV, to promote the campaign.
Although actual levels of racism are extremely hard to
statistics thin on the ground, it seems apparent that the last
decade has seen a reduction in the levels of racism at football matches in
England. Garland and Rowe's survey revealed that 84% of the fanzine editors
who responded felt that levels of racism had decreased over the past five
years, with over half of these claiming a significant decline. Only 6% felt
that racism had increased during this time. Garland and Rowe also claim
that this view was backed up by nearly all of the administrators, players
and officials interviewed in addition to the survey.
The role of fan-based groups and the growth of fanzine
culture were the two most cited reasons for the decline in racism, although
this may not be surprising given that the respondents were all fanzine
editors. Perhaps more important, therefore, is the fact that 57% believed
that the increase in the number of black players was a major factor for the
decrease in racism.
As mentioned earlier, only a third of the respondents
felt that the campaigns by the CRE and the FSA were a factor. Nevertheless,
all of the respondents were aware of the Let's Kick Racism Out of Football
Campaign and 44% felt that it had raised public awareness of the problem.
As Garland and Rowe point out, however, less public
forms of racism may still be present and support for the national team
seems still to have distinct racist factions to it, as last year's
Lansdowne Road disturbance indicated. In any case, the lack of support from
ethnic minorities suggests that clubs, authorities and fans still need to
go a long way in convincing people that they will not encounter racism at
Racism in other parts of Europe does not look as if it
is decreasing and in some parts
may be increasing. In Germany, the neo-nazi
and neo-fascist movements continue to increase their support and the Front
National in France, led by Jean Marie Le Pen, holds public support across
the board, football supporters being no exception.
The issue of racism in football has been raised this
year in a report to the European Parliament on football hooliganism,
drafted by the German Green Group MEP Claudia Roth and presented in April.
(See also Section 8) The committee was said to be:
" ... shocked at the racist demonstrations and
attacks perpetrated on players who are black or Jewish or come from
different national or ethnic backgrounds"
" ... concerned at the ways in which extremist
organisations deliberately exploit violence connected with sport
including the manipulation and infiltration of hooligan groups".
The report goes on to suggest that players should take
an active role in combating racism by refusing to play if "violent, racist,
xenophobic or anti-Semitic behaviour" occurs. It also calls for a Europe-
wide ban on any racist or xenophobic symbols being displayed at football
matches. Perhaps most importantly, the report calls for a European day of
anti-racism and fair play in sport to be held throughout Europe in 1997
(the European Year Against Racism) and involving sports personalities to
help promote the campaign.
According to the Labour MEP Glyn Ford (Kick It Again,
1995), UEFA has so-far not adopted any specific measures to combat racism
in football. They argue that their 'Fair Play' scheme is adequate in
tackling the problem. In this, behaviour both on and off the field is
evaluated, and negative marks are given for racist chanting or the display
of racist slogans. At the end of the season the three national associations
with the best records are awarded an extra place in the UEFA Cup for one
their clubs. Whilst this may provide some sort of incentive for fans not to
be racist, critics argue that this is not enough.
In an international context, the media, in particular
the English tabloid press, it is argued, play a part in encouraging racism
and xenophobia at football matches and this was also recognised in the
European Parliament report. In the report's explanatory statement the
committee states that the media frequently present international matches as
'warlike confrontations' which thus give rise to jingoism and sometimes
acts of violence. The committee recommends that the media should endeavour
to bring the sporting aspect back into sport.
While one must recognise that the problem of racism is
different in each country, a Europe-wide initiative to combat the problem
must surely be welcomed.
Football violence and alcohol
Little research on football hooliganism has included a
specific focus on the role of alcohol. Work by John Williams1 and Richard
Giulianotti2 includes discussion of the possible 'aggravating' effects in
the case of English and Scottish fans, but few empirical data are presented
concerning consumption rates or specific effects of alcohol. For most
researchers and theorists, the issue of alcohol is, at best, peripheral and
in Italian work it is, as we might expect, not considered at all.
The 'alcohol- violence connection'
This is in stark contrast to media coverage of football
fan behaviour, particularly in the UK. Here 'drunkenness' is by far the
most often reported cause of violent disorder, even in circumstances where
there is no evidence of excessive drinking. In line with this populist
view, most official enquiries into football hooliganism have dwelt on the
'problem' of alcohol and urged its restriction at football matches. Even
government sponsored publications concerning Crime Prevention Initiatives
include sweeping conclusions about the 'dangers' of alcohol consumption by
"Some offences are alcohol-related by
drink-driving for example. But these are by no means the only ones
where alcohol plays a large part. Public disorder, including football
hooliganism and vandalism is particularly associated with it."
Controls on the availability of alcohol at football
matches have now existed for some time in Britain3 and the European
Parliament has recently included a Europe-wide ban on alcohol in its
recommendations. Much of the EP debate, however, was driven by British and
German MEPs and it is clear that alcohol is seen as a significant factor in
this context only by northern Europeans.
Consideration of the association between drinking and
football hooliganism lies within a much broader debate concerning the role
of alcohol in the generation of violent and criminal behaviour. This issue
has been reviewed at length in other publications and we will not dwell
here on the complexities of the issue.4 It is clear, however, that the
perceived alcohol-violence connection is primarily restricted to Northern
European and Anglo Saxon cultures. Elsewhere in the world quite contrary
perceptions exist. Where alcohol can be shown to have a direct impact on
levels of aggression and anti-social behaviour, the effect is largely
mediated by immediate social factors and more general, pervasive cultural
Culture and alcohol
The cultural nature of the relationship between alcohol
and football is evident from a rare 'natural experiment' involving Aston
Villa fans attending a European Cup Final against Bayern Munich in the
Feyenoord Stadium in Rotterdam. This took place in 1982 at a time when
concern about the drinking behaviour of English fans was at a peak. The bar
at the back of the terraces occupied by Villa fans served lager which,
unknown to them, was alcohol-free. (Bayern fans had access to 'normal'
lager). John Williams comments on this 'trick' in Hooligans Abroad:
" ... Villa supporters who
made the endless trek
back and forth to the bars, carrying six cartons with the aid of a
specially designed cardboard tray, believed themselves to be en route
to getting well and truly 'steaming' ... To get drunk in the Villa end
that night, one would need to drink more than the 'lager' on sale to
English fans. What officials later described as the 'big con' was in
full swing. While fans in other sections of the ground were sinking
the real thing, Villa fans were the subject of a non-alcoholic
Ambivalence about alcohol
While most observers of this 'con' noted with interest
the apparently 'drunken' behaviour of Villa fans, Williams is more
ambivalent about the extent to which the effects of alcohol are
psychologically mediated. He suggests, for example, that the drunkenness in
some cases might have been 'real' and due to drinking prior to the game - a
suggestion for which he offers no evidence. Elsewhere in Williams' writing
the ambivalence concerning alcohol is replaced with self-contradictory
stances. Take, for example, his view expressed at a conference in 1989:
"We are regularly told that it is drink which
releases the full force of this natural wickedness, and that curbs on
drinking will bottle it up. Someone should inform the Danes and the
Irish of these findings. Supporters from these countries were among
the most drunken and the most friendly fans in West Germany. The
message might also reach UEFA who sanctioned a major brewer as the
This dismissal of the relevance of alcohol by Williams
is followed, three years later, by a non sequitor call for restrictions on
the availability of alcohol to British fans abroad:
"We recommend that for the foreseeable future, and
with the support of the continental authorities concerned, an alcohol
ban should operate for all
England matches on the continent."6
Other inconsistencies are evident in Williams' work and
it is, perhaps, ironic that he should make such recommendations given his
insistence that football violence derives from deeply entrenched social
factors within British society rather than from immediate situational or
The Danish fans, about whose 'drunken but friendly'
behaviour Williams makes favourable comment, are an interesting example.
The Danish 'Roligans' are fanatical football supporters who are renowned
for their levels of beer consumption. They are also Northern European and
might be expected, therefore, to be among those for whom group drinking
sessions often end in belligerence and fighting. Their conduct, however, is
quite different from that associated with English fans and, to a lesser
extent with their German and Dutch contemporaries. The analysis provided by
Eichberg of the Danish Sport Research Institute sums up their
"The roligan displays a feature which links him
with his counterpart, the hooligan: excessive alcohol consumption.
English, Irish and Danish fans compete for the position of being the
most drunk - yet fundamentally different behaviour patterns arise.
Where the heavy drinking of English hooligans impels aggression and
violence, the roligan is characterised by the absence of violence and
companiable cheerfulness." 7
The behaviour of Danish fans at Euro '96, has also been
the subject of much favourable comment by the media and the police.
Commenting on the amusing and good-natured antics of the Danes in
Sheffield, Cathy Cassell and Jon Rea 8 noted:
"Such characteristics endeared Sheffielders towards
them. No matter how much lager they consumed, and how badly the team
performed, the atmosphere wherever they congregated was nothing short
of a party. The city did well out of it ... Numerous pubs ran dry. The
police and council officials expressed their amazement that such
amounts of beer could be consumed by so
many football supporters with
no trouble at all."
The police view
The 'surprise' expressed by the police about the good-
natured drunkenness of Danish fans is understandable given their
assumptions about alcohol and hooliganism in the UK. We should note,
however, that the police are less ready to blame drink than some newspaper
reports have suggested. A study was conducted of the views of Police
Commanders who were responsible for crowd control at all 92 English League
clubs. They were asked "How serious an influence is heavy drinking in
contributing to football-related disorder in your town?". Concerning Home
fans, only 11% saw it as being the 'single most serious influence', while a
further 20% rated it as 'serious'. Almost half of the Commanders felt that
alcohol was an influence, but not a serious one, while the remainder felt
that it was not an influence at all. Their views regarding visiting Away
fans, however, were a little different. Here 18% felt that alcohol was the
most significant influence while 35% rated it as serious.
These are, of course, views rather than empirical facts
and based upon, we presume, observations that many fans in the UK, and away
fans in particular, tend to consume alcohol prior to engaging in acts of
hooliganism. Despite the implicit assumptions, however, this does not mean
that acts of hooliganism would necessarily be less frequent if alcohol were
less readily available, or likely to increase in frequency when drinking
levels were higher.
Take, for example, the extensions to licensing hours in
Manchester and elsewhere during Euro '96. At the time Commander John
Purnell, head of policing for the championships, was concerned about such
'liberalising' of drinking: "History shows that a tiny minority will drink
more than they can handle and, while under the influence of alcohol, will
behave badly." The Home
Secretary, Michael Howard, also joined the debate,
claiming that the magistrates and Licensing Justices in Manchester were
acting "incongruously and inappropriately".
The fears of Commander Purnell and Michael Howard were
largely unfounded. There were very few reported incidences of trouble
during the tournament. The only event of significance took place in London,
where licenses had notbeen extended.
Unexpected consequences of alcohol bans
Increasing restrictions on the availability of alcohol
at football matches may not only be inappropriate but possibly have
negative side-effects. There is increasing evidence that such restrictions
are already prompting some fans to substitute a variety of drugs for lager.
John Williams has already noted an increase in the use of cannabis as a
direct consequence of the potential penalties for being in possession of
alcohol in a British football stadium. Others note the increased use of
MDMA (ecstasy) in such contexts. Evidence of a more concrete kind
concerning unanticipated effects of restrictions comes from a study in the
United States, the implications of which are generalisable to other
countries and settings. Boyes and Faith conducted a detailed study of the
impact of a ban on alcohol at (American) football games at Arizona State
University. They hypothesised that such a ban would lead to 'intertemporal'
substitution of the consumption of alcohol - i.e. fans would increase
their consumption immediately prior to, and after leaving the football
games. Such substitution, they argued could more more damaging than the
effects which might arise from intoxication within the stadium and such
negative consequences could be measured in, for example, increased numbers
of fans driving before and after the match while over the legal BAC limit.
The authors argued that there were three reasons to expect such a
"First, alcohol in the body does not dissipate
quickly ... Thus the effects of increased drinking in the
to the regulated period may carry over into the regulated period.
Second, the level of intoxication, during any period depends on the
rate of consumption as well as the volume. Thus, even if there is not
a one-for-one substitution of consumption from the restricted period
to the adjacent unregulated periods, average intoxication taken over
the adjacent and unregulated periods can increase. Third, studies
indicate that the probability of having a traffic accident increases
at an increasing level of intoxication. Thus, the social costs of
drinking and driving in the unregulated periods may increase." 9
Boyes and Faith examined police data concerning alcohol-
related driving accidents, detected DWI (Driving while intoxicated) cases
and other measures for the periods before and after the restrictions on
alcohol in the stadium. They found significant increases of up to 40% in
blood alcohol concentrations in drivers stopped by the police. This is
despite an increase in the penalties for DWI and an increase in the legal
driving age in the postban period.
The implications of this study are very relevant to
restrictions on alcohol at British football stadiums. They also suggest
that the recent proposals from European Parliament committees for a Europe-
wide ban on alcohol at football matches may be misguided. If alcohol is a
significant determinant of anti-social behaviour, directly or indirectly,
the effects of intertemporal substitution of drinking, which alcohol bans
are likely to generate, will tend to increase the likelihood of aggression
both prior to and shortly after the games. Such behaviour, of course, is
also likely to occur outside of the stadiums where, it is more difficult to
police and control.
The case of the Scots
If total bans on alcohol at football games are
inappropriate, for the reasons discussed above, alternative means need to
be explored for modifying alcohol-related behaviour among football
and English fans in particular. This may seem an impossible prospect. The
change in the behaviour of Scottish fans, however, is of interest in this
context. We noted earlier in Section 3 that although Scottish fans are
often 'heavy' consumers of alcohol, the belligerent behaviour which used to
be associated with their drinking has changed quite substantially over the
last ten to fifteen years. As Giulianotti 10 has noted, the Criminal
Justice (Scotland) Act of 1980, which prohibits the possession of alcohol
at, or in transit to, a football match, has done little to dent the degree
to which alcohol is very much part of the football experience. Nonetheless,
it is generally agreed that the 'drunkenness' of Scottish fans now presents
far less of a threat to law and order than it might once have done.
This transformation of Scottish fan behaviour, according
to Giulianotti, has come about through their desire to distance themselves
from their English rivals and to present an image of themselves throughout
Europe as the 'friendly' supporters. In pursuit of this aim the meaning of
alcohol has been substantially altered and now, instead of being a
precursor to aggression and fights, is the 'liquid' facilitation of
positive social affect and good humour.
Although some 'traditional' drunken fighting remains
among Scottish fan groups, the majority seem to have moved away from the
English 'hooligan' model to one which is more characteristic of the Danish
roligans. If this radical change of behaviour can occur among the Scots,
without any apparent decline in their consumption levels, then we must
assume that similar shifts are possible in English fan culture. While
drinking among Dutch and German fans generally presents less of a problem,
we might also anticipate the possibility of further change in these groups
Dr Peter Marsh et al
(1996) Football Violence in Europe.
The Amsterdam Group.
3. e.g. Football (Offences) Act 1991
4. See, for example, P. Marsh and K. Fox, 1992; M. Sumner and H. Parker,
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