Hooliganism Essay Research Paper Introduction

Hooliganism Essay, Research Paper Introduction “Hundreds of English fans have been departed from Belgium after scenes of mass violence in Belgian cities and football authorities have threatened to expel the English team from the competition if there is another outbreak of the English Disease”

Hooliganism Essay, Research Paper


“Hundreds of English fans have been departed from Belgium after scenes of mass violence in Belgian cities and football authorities have threatened to expel the English team from the competition if there is another outbreak of the English Disease”

This was an article dated 20 June 2000 written by an English journalist. It is obvious from this article that world is facing a great problem nowadays.

Actually it would be wrong to use the term ‘nowadays’ because the ‘English Disease’ namely hooliganism have been a problem for many centuries.

There are many things to say on hooliganism but first it would be better to start with its definition. Hooliganism doesn’t have a standard definition. But it can be defined as destruction of properties or injury to persons, sometimes involving theft, whether by a gang or a small group of young people. Hooliganism is characterised as a lack of self-control, love of malicious mischief and idleness passing into dishonest and crime. Hooligans are usually made up of boys and young men, aged between 15 and 25 and their main targets are other groups, who only differ from them in their being composed of fans of another football team.

And another interesting fact about hooligans is that they consider themselves to be true fans: they support the team for better or worse, they create the highly praised ‘atmosphere’ inside stadiums. Their main interest does not seem much to see brilliant football but to see their team win.

As I mentioned in the beginning football hooliganism is known as the ‘English Disease’ but it has been a problem throughout Europe especially in Germany, Holland, Italy and Belgium as well as in the UK. Also Greece, Czech Republic, Denmark, Austria and Turkey witnessed these disturbances in football matches.

There are a lot of work done all around the world to avoid the harm hooligans give to the environment and themselves. European Parliament and the National Parliaments of the European Union made effort to avoid the violence throughout Europe. European Council issued a report on hooliganism September 1999 and tried to take further steps on this problem.

After all the work done by various sociologists and initiatives of the European Institutions still it is difficult to observe decline in violence in European Stadiums.

To make it clear that World is suffering enough from hooliganism for many years I will give some events that took place in various stadiums of the world. They are all violent and they are all dreadful. Then I will have a look at the background of the hooliganism. Then we will be able to study this subject within sociological perspective.

Past Violence Acts at Soccer Stadiums

1982 Moscow – 340 people are reported to be killed at a European Cup match between Soviet club Spartak Moscow and Haarlem of the Netherlands.

1985 Belgium – 39 people are killed at the European Champions Cup Final at Heysel Stadium when riots break out and a wall separating rival fans of England’s Liverpool and Italy’s Juventus of Turin collapses.

1989 England – 95 people are crushed to death at an English FA Cup semifinal game between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, when police open gates to alleviate crowding outside Hillsborough Stadium. The resulting rush of people onto the already filled terrace sections traps fans against riot control fences ringing the field.

1996 England – It led to some 200 arrests and 30 injuries after England’s Euro 96 semifinal loss to Germany.

1996 Zambia – At least nine soccer fans are crushed to death and 52 others injured in a stampede following Zambia’s victory over Sudan in a World Cup qualifying game.

1999 Belgrade – A 17-year-old fan was killed by a flare fired by rival supporters in a violent Belgrade soccer derby.

Background of hooliganism

Football has been associated with violence ever since its early beginnings in 13th Century in England. On those days the game involved some battle between young people of neighbour villages and towns. So those were the days when the roots of the modern football were being established in Ancient England. And at the same time it was going hand in hand with the violence.

Tolerance of football violence was not, however universal and as early as the 14th Century there were calls for controls on the game. But these measures taken were not because of the troubles in matches. It was driving ordinary citizens away from the market towns on match days and it was bad for the business.

Nicholas Farndon, the Mayor of London issued a proclamation in 1314. It was forbidding the games within frontiers of London. But the effect of this preventive measure was limited despite numerous arrests, the games continued. Further attempts to control the games were made by 1660 in England and Scotland but they were ineffective bans on the game.

Throughout the 17th Century there were hundreds of football fans destroying work places and causing trouble in the towns. By the 18th Century the game took a more political significance. The transformation of the game from an unregulated battle on an ill-defined field of play was as a result of urbanisation and industrialisation.

The modern, professional version of soccer was created during 1840’s. In the early days of professional soccer violent rivalries were common and spectator violence were regular during the 1880’s.

Football in the early 1900’s remained a working class pastime with the new grounds built close to the heart of working class communities. The workingman merged his heart and soul with the effort and staked his reputation on the outcome of the game.

During the period after World War I and through World War II there was a decline of crowd violence and misbehaviour. Between the period of 1914-1940 there was individual violence but hooliganism in the collective and contemporary sense did not take place at football matches. During this period number of women attending football matches increased significantly.

After the interwar period we observe the rise of the ‘New Hooligans’. The postwar years were boom years for the English game and this was reflected in record ticket sales and attendances at the professional soccer games. However the glow of victory in the Second World War and the small economic growth created rising public concern about the problem of working class youth, rock and roll and especially the ‘Teddy Boys’. The incidences of football violence doubled in the first five years of the 1960’s compared to the previous 25 years.

Teddy Boys was the name given to a youth sub-culture of the late 1950’s. They had a particular style of dress, hairstyles, and dancing. There was reputation of violence and bad behaviour among them. They were also blamed for the rise in crowd disturbances at soccer games. Teddy Boys were in a number of quarrels with opposing fans at the soccer matches. Teddy Boys was a very crucial moment for the development of the soccer hooliganism. However in this early stage, hooliganism has not yet become a household item in Britain.

The next important stage for hooliganism occurred with the emergence of the skinhead craze during the late 1960’s. Skinheads cropped up all over working class council estates, in public housing and throughout the towns and cities of Britain. They displayed loyalty and pride in their community. Heavy drinking and fighting were ways of life for these young men from the rough working class. These soccer gangs went to soccer matches to support their local teams and soccer matches were the best places for the skinheads to display their ‘aggressive ways of life’ such as heavy drinking and fighting.

The mid 70’s saw the emergence of the fighting crews who have become known as the early predecessors to the early hooligans of the 1980’s and 1990’s. The most notorious of these fighting crews were the ones supporting London team Millwall Football Club. They had a reputation of being hard and crazy fans. They were organised according to their fighting abilities and ages. The Millwall Fans disbanded during the late 1970’s when the key members were jailed and government took more preventive measures at the stadiums. However the organisation of the activities of the Millwall fans started to be associated with the super hooligans of the teams such as Liverpool, Chelsea and Leeds.

During 70’s skinhead gangs slowly disappeared from the terraces but the hooligans remained. And it was possible to observe hooligan behaviour in other European countries so continental youth was influenced by the British hooligans.

With cooperation of the police, Football Associations and the owners of the soccer clubs there was an attempt to stop the invasions of hooligans. Building of the barricades in various stadiums was an important step for the prevention of the invasions. But this resulted in a tragedy because 95 Liverpool supporters were pushed and squeezed between the barricades. And this event resulted with the removal of these barriers.

By the mid-1970’s British authorities began to take soccer hooliganism more seriously and they started to use more serious penalties. During those years there was a slight drop in hooliganist movement but time showed that measures were not efficient enough.

By the time the invention of the circuit TV made identification of the hooligans easier and hooligans began to do their activities at the pubs and at the side streets of Britain.

In short the real expansion of hooliganism was felt in the 1970’s. In the world there was an image of ‘ beer-drinking crazy British football hooligans’ and hooligans were willing to keep this image. Another important fact was the growth of the English Nationalism with the English Hooliganism. Hooligans were seeing themselves as the hardest national bloc in Europe.

The serious problem of football violence in Europe mainly in England made social scientists to study this issue in detailed some sociologists considering it’s long history mentioned hooliganism as a sub-culture in their writings. Now I will try to detail the theoretical perspective’s of different social scientists on hooliganism.

Theoretical Views on Hooliganism

Since the 1960’s many researches were done on hooliganism. Social Scientists, journalists and academicians made many researches on this issue especially in England the work on hooliganism was held in a very detailed research.

Various schools were formed on the sociological perspective of hooliganism. They tried to explain the causes and patterns of the football violence in detail. They started their historical researches from the beginning in the late 1960’s when hooliganism became a major concern in Britain. They usually saw hooliganism as a continuation of groups such as Teddy Boys, Rockers and Skinheads.

John Clarke and Stuart Hall were the sociologists who argued specific sub-cultural styles enabled young working class people and males to resolve essential conflicts in their lives. Post war sub-cultures such as Teddy Boys and Skinheads have been examples of these kinds of people.

According to John Clarke Skinheads as an earliest exponent of hooliganism reflected working class traditions. There was a magical recovery of community through different patterns of behaviour and these behaviours included violence. While generations of working class youth had inherited the traditional ties to football and the pattern of supportership characteristics of the previous generation; they failed to inherit sociol controls which went with the supportership behaviour. Violence became known as demonstrating loyalty and supporting their local teams. And also the reason for this behaviour was considered as the wider shift in the class structure of British Society.

Other then the sociological studies made on hooliganism there were studies on observed behaviour of hooligans and accounts provided by fans themselves. They just didn’t treat hooligans as subjects to understand their behaviour. The methos was simply asking them. So by this way they tried to have an insider view on hooliganism. And they realised that there were social rules among hooligans. Being a ‘football hooligan’ enabled young males to achieve a sense of personal young males to achieve a sense of personal worth and identity at school or work. Violence was a part of route to success and it was an alternative way of having a career.

One of the influential studies done on hooliganism is the one that is about the lower working class and their alienation. Lower working class communities are characterised by a positive feedback cycle, which encourage aggression in many areas of social life. The capacity to consume alcohol in large quantities and fighting was a highly valued attribute among males of the lower working class. And they denied the educational and occupational status as a major source of identity. So this kind of a view on hooliganism was mainly based on a social class and the values of this class. Lower working class members especially the ones emerging after the reindustrialisation period of the 1970’s caused hooliganism to expand according to this view.

It is a big problem for sociologists name and interpret the behaviours of the hooligans. For one investigator a specific incident involving rival fans might be classed as ‘a serious violence’, a second observer might describe the same event as ‘a harmless display’ or a journalist might use the term ‘mindless thuggery’. So there is no objective way of describing these behaviours. So because of this lack of objectiveness sociologists had different views on hooliganism. Some of them treated hooligans as the members of hell and some insisted on their sociological and historical background and blamed the society for their patterns of behaviour. And another author claimed that it was media and the police who were responsible for the behaviours of the hooligans. So it is clear that there is no Europe-wide explanatory framework developed for the hooliganism. Also the sociological and the psychological factors which lie at the root of football violence differed in each European country. But there is a reality that football stadium is a convenient arena for all kinds of collective behaviour. Whether the background of the hooligans is different or not, young men who use the stadiums in different countries are all playing the same game. In the countries like Italy, Germany and Holland there were domestic kind of explanations according to the theoreticians of those countries. And they just didn’t rest their theories on British models.

Of course there are some specific factors common to fan groups throughout Europe but these factors are rarely applicable to all of the European Countries.

Up to this point we observed that English fans are the leaders of the hooliganist behaviour and there is imitative behaviour of European fans. Now I will try to discuss the extreme anti-social behaviour in other countries.

Hooliganism in Europe

It is clear that disorderly behaviour occurred in every country in which football is played. But the disorder and violence associated with football is not of the same nature or do not have same casual factors. And also the actions taken against football violence may not be effective in football-related disorder in different cultures.

As I mentioned in the previous section there is no universal explanation for all off the cross national variations of hooliganism. For example the major concerns on the background of hooliganism is social class in Glasgow it is religious sectarianism, in Spain it is linguistic sub-nationalism and in Italy it is the divisions between north and the south.

Despite the fact that national characteristics reflecting different historical, social, political and cultural traditions have affected the nature and scale of football violence in different European countries, there are significant cross-national similarities among them. In most of the countries there is increase in violence inside the stadium, there is increase in aggression among fans and the police within the stadium and also there is significant increase in violence outside the stadium including battles between the rival groups of fans in the streets, railway stations, car parks and bus terminals. These are known as the common three-stage process of hooliganism. The amount of these stages is different in each country but each country suffering from football violence go through these stages.

In most European countries , football violence is an internal problem. Majority of incidents occurs at club level matches; supporters of the national teams are better behaved. But of course English football supporters are exceptions to this rule. Rivalries with Germany, Netherlands and at last Turkey led to violence. But the thing common is that fans cause more trouble at away matches than when supporting their team at home. This is known as a common pattern across Europe.

Other than Britain; Italy, Germany, Netherlands and Belgium are known with the level of violence in their stadiums. The available data shows that %10 of the supporters is known as violent supporters in those countries.

Austria, Sweden and Denmark also suffer some problems with football related violence but this level of violence has a smaller scale. In Denmark a new style of non-violent fan culture known as ‘roliganism’ is popular nowadays. It is a tide against hooliganism and rolig means peaceful.

France, Spain, Portugal and Switzerland suffer some problems but football violence is not a major concern in those countries.

There is a seldom violence in Greece, Czech Republic, Albania and Turkey. There are violent supporters in those countries but they are in the early stages of hooliganist behaviour. But during the UEFA cup semi-final games we witnessed the rival of English fans and the Turkish fans known with their nationalistic character. And this took Turkey in to the discussions about hooliganism.

In this paper I based my concern in Britain and other European countries. It is possible to observe violent behaviours of the supporters in America, Africa, and Asia or elsewhere in the world. But they are not that common as it is in the European continent.

So in the view of above we can say that hooliganism is not clearly an English Disease and we would be mistaken if we hold British supporters as entirely possible for the violent behaviours in the stadiums.

Preventing Football Hooliganism

After talking about the background, theories and cross-national basis of hooliganism, it is now clear that hooliganism is a very big social problem in Europe. What can Europeans do to overcome this problem? In this section I will try to find the answer to this question. And I will try to introduce the future plans of European initiatives for preventive measures enough to tackle hooliganism.

The most important measures were taken for United Kingdom. As I mentioned before it had the earliest and most severe problems with football hooliganism. And United Kingdom was the only nation that had received expulsion from all European competitions. This expulsion and the other important preventive measures were taken after the Heysel Stadium disaster in which 39 Juventus fans died after the clashes with Liverpool supporters. The British Police and the British Government took many measures by using technological developments using closed-circuit television and computer databases.

The advance of technology after 1990’s helped the police and officers to tackle hooliganism. But during 60’s and 70’s the measures taken were only limited by the use of plain-clothes officers in domestic games and police escorting some on horseback and some with police dogs.

The nineties saw a shift away from using police to control fans inside the ground with clubs relying more and more on ‘stewards’. The clubs themselves employed stewards. It was the principal reason for the decline of the ratio of police to fans in 90’s. Clubs such as Chelsea and Leicester had relied on stewards to police the stadium. Police officers called only to take away individuals from grounds if they were breaking the law where as Stewards called follow a particular clubs agenda and reject people for breaking club rules.

Another important change in field of measures against hooliganism was the use of closed-circuit television Closed-circuit television was introduced into football grounds around the middle of the 80’s. By this way football supporters were being subjected to camera surveillance and this helped the police to make a distinction between the hooligans and the ordinary football supporters. With the invention of closed-circuit television the use of hand-held video cameras became common. This became a feature of police tactics to deter violence, gather information and monitor the efficacy of crowd control.

Advances in technology have also aided the police in surveillance operations. The ‘Hoolivan’ was launched at the beginning of the season of 1985. This high-tech machinery enabled police to maintain radio contact with all officers inside and outside the ground and to be linked with the closed circuit television cameras in and around the stadium. The hoolivan tended to be used at high tensional matches or when the police were concerned about a particular group of supporters.

After the tragedy in Heysel Stadium in the spring of 1985 and the incident in Bradford were 56 people were killed by a fire in the ground, more serious actions were taken at the governmental level. In 1989 government responded to the disorderly incidents of 1985 with the introduction of Football Spectators Act. Football Licensing Authority was established under this act and it was responsible for awarding licenses to premises that admit spectators to watch football matches. The main proposal of the act was the introduction of compulsory identity cards for the supporters at every league; cup and international matches played in England. After the incident in 1989 where 95 Liverpool fans were crushed to death at Hillsborough Stadium, Lord Taylor published 43 separate recommendations, which were designed to be immediately implemented by all football leagues at the following season. And the final report on hooliganism was published in January 1990, which included Lord Taylor’s recommendations. There was an emphasis on the lack of communication between the fans of the football authorities and the poor conditions of the football grounds. The main recommendations of this report were conversion off all football league grounds to all-seater stadia by the end of millennium, ticket-touting to become a criminal offence and introduction of new laws to deal with offences inside football stadiums.

It was after 1985 (Heysel Tragedy) that a real cooperation was made in Europe between police forces and football authorities to tackle hooliganism. After 1985 there were four major European initiatives addressed the issue of football violence. Firstly, the Council of Europe adopted the European Convention on spectator violence and misbehaviour at sport events, secondly European Council called on all member countries to deal with violence, thirdly European Parliament proposed a number of different measures to combat football hooliganism and fourthly it was the report of Committee on Culture and Education of European Assembly which introduced new preventive measures for football hooliganism. International cooperation, active involvement of clubs, Investing information about fans and hooligans, excluding hooligans attending matches and communicating with fans, hooligans by police, clubs, stewards or fan coaches were the several elements of this report to avoid excesses in hooliganism. In this report also there were final agreements reached with UEFA on Euro 2000 matches and the ticketing system. So this report included measures to prevent violence in Euro 2000.


As I was doing my research on hooliganism I read many articles and visited many websites about hooliganism. The fact was the same everywhere, hooliganism was not declining and it was getting to be a bigger social problem each day.

Especially the events in Turkey and Copenhagen that we witnessed a few months ago and the events in Euro 2000 in Belgium are enough to show us the size of this social problem.

I talked about initiatives done about hooliganism just before Euro 2000. There were many measures taken to avoid hooliganism during these games. But we saw that the measures were not able to stop the football violence. They couldn’t go beyond than being initiatives of European officers

So it is the time for Europe to take more preventive and decisive measures like banning Britain from football games. I want to end my essay with an article written by Graham L. Jones in 26.06.2000. This article will be helpful in making a summary of the works about hooliganism.

‘The time for talk is over: Ban the Brits! Don’t wait another minute. Forget the possible quarterfinal game. Send Britain from Euro 2000 back to home. Yes, it’s my own country I’m talking about. And yes, it’s the team and players that I want to see pay the price for the absolute ineffectiveness of English Government and English judiciary doing nothing about hooliganism’

HOLT R. 1989.Sport and the British. Oxford: Oxford University Press

KERR H. 1994.Understanding Soccer Hooliganism. Buckingam: Open University Press

TAYLOR R. 1992.Football and its Fans. Leicester: Leicester Universty Press

Resources from Internet



bbc.com- Hooliganism made in England but big abroad-26.02.1998


thesportjournal.com- A developmental view of soccer hooliganism by A.J Harley

intorminc.co.uk- Hooliganism-a political football

eserver.org- Playing for England by Paul Smith