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How Hooliganism in Football has Changed

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Criminology
Wordcount: 5445 words Published: 27th Oct 2022

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This report will look at Football hooliganism and how it has changed through the years. It will look at the early years of hooliganism and compare the hooliganism to today’s hooligan firms. It will identify the way in which the hooligan has changed through the years from being easily identified, to the casual years in which the hooligan was more accustomed to the casual lifestyle of designer clothes along with the violence. It will also discuss the media’s portrayal of a football hooligan and look at how football matches are policed with the use of CCTV to combat violence at football and how this has changed football hooliganism.

A hooligan is said to be a young violent, destructive or badly-behaved person. Hooliganism is said to be unruly aggressive behaviour that is associated with hooligans. Dunning et al, (1998) suggests that behaviour such as this is widely associated with sports fans; however hooliganism is strongly linked with supporteres of football teams.

Hooliganism has been linked with violence in sports. The link was made in particular to the late 1960s in the UK with football hooliganism. Football hooliganism is behaviour that can result in incidents such as brawls, vandalism and intimidation by rival football fans (The Independent, 2004).

The term football hooligan has been created by the media to identify trouble makers during football matches. In the 1960s the media was flexible and indeterminate in giving the label to different types of incidents. Clarke, (1978) suggested that football hooliganism is seen by many people to mean violence or disorder involving football fans.

Football hooligans are thought of as being violent people who want to cause trouble. Evidence has suggested that most of the football hooligans are in the age range of their 18 – 25 (Porter, 2002). In addition, evidence has shown that most hooligans come from a working class background which suggests that they are generally from low paid occupations. Some may be of unemployment or are working within a poor economy therefor hooligansim in football could take place to let off steam (Clarke, 1978).

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Specific types of disorder have been associated with hooliganism. One incident where hooliganism has been labelled to the incident is spontaneous and low level disorder which is caused by rival fans at or around football matches. Another incident where the hooligan label has been given is when there has been a deliberate and intentional violence which involves organised groups consisting largely of men who attach themselves to different football clubs and fight rival firms from other clubs (Sugden, 2003).

Fights can break out between rival firms before or after football matches. In addition the main hooligans of the firms could pre-arrange locations away from stadiums in order to avoid any arrests by the police. The fights can happen without warning at the stadium or in the surrounding streets (Scott & Pearson, 2007).

Football hooliganism ranges from shouts to opposing fans to actual fist fights that can then lead to riots. In some major incidents people have been killed some of who may have been a by stander and just got caught up in the trouble. In cases that esculate out of control, riot police have stepped in with tear gas, armoured vehicles and water cannons to try and control the problems (Reiner, 1985).

Buford, (1992) stated that football hooliganism first occurred in the late 1960’s, which later peaked in later years of the 1970’s and the mid 1980’s. The problem seemed to subside following the Heysel and Hillsborough disasters involving Liverpool supporters.

In the past, stadium brawls have resulted in fans fleeing in fear which caused some fans to be killed when fences or walls collapsed (Murphy et al, 1990)

29 May 1985 is a date that will be sat in the memory of many football fans. This date is significant because it was a day that resulted in the deaths of 39 Juventus supporters and a ban being placed upon English clubs. This ban from European competition was set for a period of five years. The European Cup Final took place in Brussels at the Heysel stadium. The stadium was old but still had been chosen to hold the final regardless of doubts and worries both stressed from both Liverpool and Juventus (Maguire, 1986). Problems occurred during the game between the rival fans. Liverpool fans ran into an area that was occupied by the Italian Juventus fans and as the Juventus fans tried to flee from the disorder a part of the stands wall collapsed. This resulted in many of the fans being crushed. UEFA, as a result of the incident placed a ban on all English clubs taking part from European competition football for an indefinite time. The ban was set for five years for English clubs but a ten year ban was placed on Liverpool. This ban was not completed as they only served six years of the ban and returned to European competition one year after later than the other English clubs.

Liverpool fans had argued that Juventus supporters started the violence by throwing stones and other missiles such as bottles. Other fans have said that inadequate organisation for the match and a lack of crowd control by the Belgian authorities was the reason why this problem occurred. They blame insufficient numbers of police inside the stadium and feel if this problem was sorted it would have prevented fans from clashing. The Heysel disaster is still a reminder for people in Italy and the perception of an English fan as a hooligan still remains. As a result of the Heysel disaster, any large gathering that involves drinking and chanting are viewed as threatening to Italian fans even if the English fans are normal fans. Even though there is only a minority of football fans that cause trouble at games English fans have been labelled as hooligans who give a bad name for the normal, family and friendly fan. Although the blame for the trouble that occurred at Heysel stadium is shifted between the fans and the policing, this incident was put down to hooliganism (Marsh, 1996)

With this tragedy hanging over the head of English football there was another stadium disaster again involving Liverpool fans. This disaster happened at Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield in 1989. There were 96 Liverpool fans that were crushed which resulted in death and hundreds more fans were injured on the security fenced terraces of Hillsborough (Jones, 1992).

Before the match Liverpool fans had to enter the stadium at their particular stand at Leppings Lane. This end of the stadium along with a large majority of the rest of the stadium was structurally bad and fans entered through a small number of dilapidated turnstiles. Many of the Liverpool fans entered on to the terraced area in the lower stand. This part of the stadium was surrounded with steel fences and was divided into five separate pens. The Fencing around the pitch had been put in place during the 1970s and 80s to control large crowds and to prevent pitch invasions and to separate rival fans. The pens that the fans were occupying behind the goal were full and outside the stadium there were still thousands of fans who were trying to get in. The official capacity of the pens was 2,200. It was later exposed that this capacity should have been reduced to 1,600 because the barriers that were installed three years before the incident did not meet the official safety standards. The police have come into blame for the disaster because they had ordered a large exit gate to be opened to ease the crush outside the ground. When the gate was opened, around 2,000 fans made their way into the stadium and headed towards an entrance tunnel that lead straight to the already full pens. This incursion of fans had caused major overcrowding and resulted in severe crushing in the pens. The Liverpool fans began climbing over the side fences into the comparatively less occupied pens to escape. It was suggested that more than 3,000 supporters were placed in the central pens behind the goal which was almost double the safe capacity (Jones, 1992).

When the game kicked off trouble occurred behind the goal in the Liverpool end. Five minutes into the game a crash barrier that was put up to prevent problems like this collapsed which resulted in people falling over and on top of each other. Liverpool supporters tried to climb the perimeter fences to escape to safety, and while others were pulled out of danger by other supporters in the upper tiers of the stand, many fans had already been crushed and many died. Bodies were being removed by surviving fans in an attempt to save anybody in danger but despite their efforts many of the fans were already dead. Fans used all manner of equipment to try and save other fans. Advertising boards were used as stretchers as ambulances and first aid were over run. When the problem occurred the police instructed the referee to stop the game. Ambulances with first aid equipment and fire fighters with specialist cutting equipment had difficulty getting into the stadium. Although many ambulances were sent to the incident, the access to the pitch was deferred because the police were reporting crowd trouble. This action could have caused more deaths than was necessary and therefore if the police had been quick enough to perceive the problem then many lives could have been saved.

There was an inquiry into the disaster which was led by Lord Chief Justice Taylor. He recognized that the main cause of the disaster was a breakdown of police crowd control. He stated that the key factor of police control was the problem and the failure to close off the tunnel leading to pens behind the goal caused the crushing. He went on to condemn the police for their inability to deal with the accumulation of fans outside the ground properly and for their slow reaction to the disaster.

The commander of police, Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield was criticised by Taylor for failing to take effective control of the situation that occurred. South Yorkshire police attempted to blame supporters for the crush because they arrived at the stadium late and drunk. Regardless of the Taylor report, which was also very critical of Sheffield Wednesday Football Club as well as the Sheffield City Council, in 1990 the executive of public prosecutions decided not to bring any unlawful charges against any individual, group or body due to inadequate evidence. This disaster had been firstly blamed on football hooligans but evidence suggests that it was the opposite of this. Reports have said that the disaster happened because of bad policing at the match and that the fans actions were because they were looking for safety whilst in the situation of panic.

After this disaster major changes occurred in English football. Football stadiums were ordered to take down the fencing surrounding the pitches that were put up top prevent crowd trouble after this disaster and all seated stadiums were planned.

The Football Supporters Association said that change in football hooliganism and policing of matches could be traced back to 1985 when problems resulted in 39 Italian fans being killed at a European Cup final during rioting by Liverpool supporters (Perryman, 2002).

A great deal of soul searching among football fans had been encouraged after the tragedy and English teams were given a five year ban in European competition. English teams returned to Europe in 1991. A game between Manchester United and Barcelona was to be played for the European Cup Winners’ Cup in Rotterdam. Approximately 26,000 Manchester United fans travelled to Holland and reports suggested that there were just 28 arrests of which the majority was for drunkenness. Brown said that there was no doubt that football has changed (Humphries, 1995).

Past hooligans have grown up and retired from any kind of hooliganism in football. New sets of hooligans and those young enough to replace them find it difficult to get into matches because of the increased policing of the situation. Capacity at a football match is down because new stadium regulations state that they must be all seated. Along with this, tickets have increased in price and getting into a match is harder as you can no longer pay at the turnstile gate. All tickets are purchased prior to the game and can only be bought if you are a member of the club. Although some games have tickets spare in which they are put on general sale. Even when this is the case tickets are to be bought in the official membership offices therefore tickets can be tracked down to their owner. This change in football was set to try and prevent the young, casual fan who was your typical hooligan (Scott, 2003)

The National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS) produced a report that exposed the number of arrests for football hooliganism in England and Wales. Their findings suggested that problems occurring at matches were up 8% in 2007. It also demonstrated that violence inside stadiums is now rare but the problem had moved to different areas away from the stadium and away from the majority of police to places such as pubs and train stations where intelligence was unaware of the happenings. The Football Supporter’s Association (FSA) believed that the tendency for football related violence in general is lower. The broad agreement was that there has been a vast development from the circumstances in the 1970s and 1980s. The NCIS statistics are certain to reopen the discussion on football hooliganism (Sleap, 1998).

Football hooliganism has been reported to have first occurred in England. This media labelled English disease has proved highly contagious. In Europe the hooligan tradition is a much bigger predicament than in its country of derivation. Supporters of teams in Italy and Germany as well as other nations can all say to have caught England’s hooligan crisis. As these countries began to tighten up on hooliganism, new firms were being organised and violence started in the in countries such as Poland and Hungary.

The legendary super hooligan armies, such as Manchester United’s Red Army and West Ham’s Inter City Firm, have become less publicised under the combined forces of severe legislation, all seated stadium, supporter segregation and closed circuit television (O’Neill, 2005)

The change of the typical hooligan through the years has shown that hooligans are now hard to identify. The change came in the late 70’s. A different style of hooligan was identified and the term casual was placed upon many. There were also other names given to hooligans depending on where they came from. Perry boys from Manchester and scallies from Liverpool where two of numerous other regional names given for a similar type of football fan (Brimson, 2007)

The casual scene was created from Liverpool fans in the 1970’s. When Liverpool travelled to Europe for European competition a number of Liverpool fans started to steal clothes from designer shops. The expensive sportswear and designer labels found in Europe then found their way onto the terraces which resulted in the term “casuals” (Brimson, 2003).

Many firms were going on trips to Europe to places such as Germany and France in order to steal from designer sports shops. They found this easy because security in European countries was much more negligent than back in the UK. Over a few year period, many football fans were wearing the expensive sport brands, with individual firms showing preference to particular brands such as Fila, Lacoste and Sergio Tachini (Brimson, 2006).

England was said to have been the hotbed for football hooliganism through the 70’s and 80’s. Firms such as Manchester United’s Red Army, West Ham’s Inter City Firm (ICF), Millwall’s Bushwhackers and Chelsea’s Head hunters were among the big named firms in England. European and South American teams have developed hooligan firms and the problem have been identifies and reports suggest that they have caused the problem of football violence to escalate. Weapons which include items such as knives, bats and firearms have produced a fresh culture of football hooliganism.

The progress of development on football grounds, CCTV and elevated levels of policing at football matches have resulted in the number of arrests for hooliganism falling and during most games incidents of crowd trouble pass without any confrontation. Although, Dunning et al (2002), believe that football hooliganism is still experienced in many countries, especially in places of high unemployment.

Whether it is the national side or club sides, England always have a strong following of supporters. England also has a reputation for violent behaviour with an extraordinary number of incidents occurring over three decades (Kerr, 1994).

Disorder in and around English stadiums has reduced since the 1970s and 1980s. Hargreaves (1986) believed that English football stadiums are safer than if you were to go to a regular town centre on a Saturday night out.

The problem of hooliganism showed signs of control, but trouble occurred during a carling cup match between West Ham United and Millwall in 2009. Violence surrounding Millwall’s visit to West Ham led to 13 arrests. This suggested the question of “should we panic about the chance of a return of hooliganism”?

Fighting on the football pitch between police and groups of angry young men, fighting rivals through the surrounding streets and drink fuelled aggression on public transport are sights that are recognizable to problems that were witnessed during football matches through the 1970s and 1980s. The problem that occurred at West Ham United is much different from the representation that the English leagues have proposed over recent years.

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A report published in 1999 revealed that football hooliganism in Britain had increased, for the first time in six years. The National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS) reported that arrests for violent disorder at football matches almost doubled over the last season. Drew (1999), said that while the number of people involved in football related violence remained relatively small, they were well organised, and often used football matches as a cover for other criminal activity.

The declining arrests at matches over a 20 year period suggest troublemakers are a minority. Pearson (2009) said that the trouble at West Ham does not correspond to a revival of the clashes in the past. While the annual number of arrests plummeted in excess of 6,000 in the mid-80s to less than 4,000 at present, the predicament of football hooliganism has by no means disappeared. The police are continually challenging to stop the progress of the compilation of supporters fighting with each other but the problem occurs more often than not away from the football stadium, between railway stations and pubs (Downes and Rock, 2005).

Better guidelines of matches and ticketing policies requiring the names and the addresses of the ticket holder have made it easier to categorize hooligans. This knowledge of hooligans can result in the person being excluded from entering stadiums for up to a period of 10 years by courts. Pearson (1998) stated that “we should be concerned about going back to the dark days of hooliganism”. While there are still groups that associate themselves with football hooligan firms and still systematize aggression, the statistics involved are less significant. Away from the stadiums, smaller quantities of fans are expected to be implicated in disorder. Williams (2009), agrees that turmoil at one game does not correspond to reappearance in football violence but goes on to say that “it would be dangerous to think we are in a post hooliganism era, particularly for fixtures with a history of violence such as West Ham United and Millwall”.

Hooliganism in football is an extremely evident occurrence. This is due to journalists and TV cameras being in attendance at the matches. Journalists have been sent to football matches since the 1960s to account crowd activities as much as on the game itself. Media coverage of football correlated disorder and violence is widespread as a result and the British tabloid press especially offer unrestrained column inches to any incident that transpires along with scandalous headlines (Cohen, 1970).

Although there has been no direct comparable of the British journalist limits in other European counties, research has recognized inconvenience relating to media exposure of football hooliganism (Ingham, 1978).

In the countries with high levels of disorder at football matches, research has established that hooligans enjoy the media exposure they obtain, and often seek it. Rival firms enthusiastically battle for column inches in papers and mentions in exciting headlines (Armstrong, 1998).

The media manipulate football hooliganism greatly. This has been publicized in a recent football hooliganism report produced by the European Parliament. The report suggested that the media should steer clear of sensationalism and should encourage fairness and sporting principles (Greenfield 2006).

The media portrayal of football hooliganism has been glamorised by documentaries and films such as The Football factory and Green Street which include West Ham United fans. This media representation gives an appalling name for football fans. West Ham’s firm is known as the Inter City Firm (ICF) which came from their use of the rail network to travel to and from matches. When using the trains they would meet in pre arranged locations with rival firms to fight. After any meeting with rival fans, The ICF would leave a calling card to show they had caused trouble at matches, which frequently implicated hostility between themselves and opposition fans and by destroying their pubs (Scott and Pearson, 2006).

The Inter City Firm’s reputation has been glamorised and brought to the public eye. This has been accomplished by films and books that have been committed to the subject of hooliganism at football matches. A film called “The firm” follows the main leader of the ICF and is an example of these films. The firm is a vicious look at football violence and other related films such as the Rise Of The Foot soldier show the problems that occurred during the 1970’s and 80’s and also a look at how hooliganism works nowadays. Rise of the foot soldier is a film which follows the life of Carlton Leach and his rise up the criminal underworld beginning with West Ham’s hooligan element. This shows that hooliganism can lead to a much worse life of crime.

Cass Pennant is a renowned figure that developed from West Ham’s ICF firm. He has writing many books on his life in football hooliganism and has been the focus to his own movie in the film “Cass”. Cass Pennant’s story is extraordinary given the high levels of racism common during the 1970’s and 80’s in Britain. Cass worked his way to the top of the firm and he later went on to become one of the generals of the ICF despite being black. With Pennant being the leader of the ICF during times of high levels of racism, this shows how much influence violence has on football because he became the main leader of the firm and was well known and respected around the country because of his reputation.

Football Hooliganism has been labelled the ‘English Disease’ on many occasions (Mason, 1979). This label has not been limited to England as other countries also have grave hooligan problems, possibly worse than in England. In Italy, vicious groups within the Ultra factions have in recent times been subjective to a large quantity of severe brutal incidents including attacks on English fans. (Greenfield, 2006).

The risks of problems in Italy are particularly high in Rome, and in 2007 hooliganism resulted in the death of a police officer. In the same year Manchester United fans were involved in trouble with the police during a match against AS Roma. After a goal was scored by AS Roma, Manchester United fans retaliated to the home fans who threw objects such as bottles into the Manchester United away end of the stand.

When the two groups of supporters come together they were separated by a Perspex barrier. Police stepped in to stop the trouble but were heavy handed and assaulted Manchester United fans with police batons. The police tried to control the problem but were the main reason for the disorder. Many people said that Manchester United Hooligans were to blame for the trouble but footage shows that police could not control the problem correctly resulting in many Manchester United fans being injured.

After the incident the Sun newspaper stated that “Manchester United fans were charged by police with batons during the 2-1 defeat in Roma”. They went on to say that “Manchester United Supporters had been compressed back away from the police as they reacted heatedly to being taunted by rival Roma fans.” In the column where the story was published the reporter said that “One supporter was hit over the head and needed treatment for a bloodied head”. United followers had been barracked after a goal went in just before half time in the Champions League quarter-final first-leg match. The Roma fans charged towards a plastic partition that separated the both set off fans. In response, some of the United fans broke the line of stewards that were the security for the match and hurled objects back over the partition towards the AS Roma supporters.

This shows that Manchester United fans were not the only fans to blame. Although they reacted badly to the situation, the Italian fans started the disorder and the Italian police continued to cause problems.

The Sun newspaper went on to say “Before the game, seven Manchester United fans had already been injured when they clashed with AS Roma supporters outside the ground.” (The Sun, 2007)

The severe disarray between sections of Ultras has led to stadium closures and resulted in matches being played with no fans within the stadium. It could also result in the failure of Italy’s attempt to hold the 2012 European Championships in their country.

After the disorder in Italy, the return match at Old Trafford in Manchester was set to be heavily policed because of the fear that trouble would occur. Just as the police thought, fighting broke out between Manchester United fans and AS Roma fans. This incident was better policed and arrests were made with no heavy handed policing situations. Although trouble occurred out side the stadium before the match, no trouble occurred within the stadium and Manchester United came away 7 -1 winner on the night.

A number of different approaches have been used by the police in order to police football hooliganism. One of the key approaches has been the use of undercover operations. The use of plain clothes officers to infiltrate groups of hooligans has been used in the UK since the 1960s (Pratt et al, 1984)

Football hooliganism will never disappear from the game. This is because whenever there are large groups of people together, of whom consume large amounts of alcohol, there is the possibility that disorder can occur whether or not there is a match taking place. Many types of lawful resources and policing tactics have been attempted to control hooliganism, including prevention sentencing, laws such as the Football Offences Act (1991) and also the formation of the Football Intelligence Unit. During the apparent stature of football hooliganism in the 1970s and 80s, consecutive governments put into practice a succession of aggressive policies that enclosed a small amount of evidence to suggest an understanding of hooliganism. they served only to make the problem worse and created an ever more argumentative approach between football fans and the police. Other methods have driven the violence away from the instantaneous surroundings of the football ground (Taylor, 1971)

Attempts to prevent hooliganism have seen legislation such as the Football Disorder Act (2000). This was set up to put a stop to alleged hooligans travelling abroad. This method has serious penalties for the normal innocent fans. There is apprehension concerning banning orders and whether the bans would have any effect in dropping the rates of disorder in football that involve English fans when playing abroad, taking into consideration the evidence that suggests that it is not the recognized hooligans who are caught up in the incidents (Stott and Pearson 2007).

Since the Taylor report (1990) Football hooliganism has changed considerably.All-seated stadiums have been introduced and all teams must make an attempt to rectify any underlying problems in relation to standing areas at stadiums. Football Intelligence and Closed Circuit Television have helped to deal with the situation because the trouble makers can’t get away with the incident as they would have done before the CCTV was put into operation. This means that incidents of aggression within football stadiums are rare. Additionally, arrests for football related offences have reduced radically since the late 1980’s. At the same time, attendances have increased (Morris, 1981).

The extent of the disorder is often inflated by unnecessary media reporting and many times English supporters have been the victims of attacks by neighbouring fans or the police to a certain extent than being the provokers. The press has characteristically claimed such disorder is the consequence of hooligans travelling with the purpose of hostility and being capable to expose the drunken English fans into disarray. Stott and Pearson’s (2007) criticised this observation and recommended that outside issues such as unsystematic policing and the attendance of hostile neighbouring youths were typically the source of rioting relating to English fans abroad.

UK police have to handle the problem of prearranged football hooligan firms aiming to face up to each other on a expected foundation. The disorder is seldom accounted as a result of the lack of exposure of the occurrence and as it generally occurs far from the stadiums and normal fans do not affected by it (Dunning et al, 1988)

In conclusion, Football Hooliganism is a well conceived, presented subject that discusses a great deal on the subject of anti-social behaviour, which is a problem that seems to get larger and larger in organised societies (Downes and Rock, 2005).

Football hooliganism is detrimental to the sport. As a result of safety measures and controlling of supporters, hooliganism has changed (Neurberge, 1993). To avoid excesses in hooliganism in future, fierce measures will have to be balanced by a social preventive approach. From research, several elements are critical to avoid excesses in hooliganism (Hutchinson, 1982)

The UK has been perceived as having the biggest and longest problem with hooliganism and has as a result taken the lead in the policing of this problem Hooliganism still presents a problem for the Police.

The prevention of football hooliganism depends on the efforts of a variety of institutions (Pearson, 1983). The prevention of football hooliganism requires a concentrated and continuous response. Despite resemblances, football hooliganism is nested within particular fan cultures. Prevention strategies should therefore be designed to fit local needs (Dunning et al, 1993)

Football violence has been reported to have been a problem in Britain since the formation of the game. Regardless of the major development that has been made to tackle the state of affairs, in all probability it will still be a predicament for the remainder of time (Ferguson, 1993).

Fans who stopped going to watch football matches years ago due to the violence involved in football hooliganism, should now feel safe to return to matches as it is not the concern it once was. In spite of the guarantee we get from football authorities and the government, most fans will still walk to games with a thought in the back of their mind and a glance over their shoulder to make the


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