- Published: December 29, 2021
- Updated: December 29, 2021
- Language: English
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Football hooliganism can be seen as something of an easytarget’ for the media. With journalists present at every match across thecountry, the chances of a story being missed are slim. TV cameras also meanthat disturbances within stadiums are caught on video. Since the 1960s, infact, journalists have been sent to football matches to report on crowdbehaviour, rather than just the game 1.
The British tabloid press in particular have anenthusiastic’ approach to the reporting of soccer violence, withsensationalist headlines such as “ Smash These Thugs!”, “ Murder on a SoccerTrain!” (Sun), “ Mindless Morons” and “ Savages! Animals!” (Daily Mirror) 2.
Whilst open condemnation of hooligans is the norm across the media, it hasbeen argued that this sensationalist style of reporting presents footballviolence as far more of a concern than it actually is, elevating it to amajor social problem’. The problem of press sensationalism was recognisedin the 1978 Report on Public Disorder and Sporting Events, carried out bythe Sports Council and Social Science Research Council. It observed that:“ It must be considered remarkable, given theproblems of contemporary Britain, that football hooliganism hasreceived so much attention from the Press. The events are certainlydramatic, and frightening for the bystander, but the outcome in termsof people arrested and convicted, people hurt, or property destroyedis negligible compared with the number of people potentiallyinvolved.” Furthermore, some critics argue that media coverage ofhooliganism has actually contributed to the problem . More recently, thepopular press has been criticised for it’s pre-match reporting during the1996 European Championships.
HistoryPress boxes were first installed at football matches inthe 1890s, although the reporting of football matches goes backconsiderably further than this. The study by Murphy, Dunning and Williams 3shows that disorder was a regular occurrence at football matches before theFirst World War, and newspaper reports of trouble were common. However, thestyle of reporting was a long way away from the coverage which hooliganismreceives today.
Most reports before the First World War were made in arestrained fashion. Little social comment was made and the articles weresmall and factual, often placed under a heading such as FootballAssociation Notes’ 4.
” … Loughborough had much the best of matters andthe Gainsborough goal survived several attacks in a remarkable manner, the end coming with the score: Loughborough, noneGainsborough, noneThe referee’s decisions had caused considerabledissatisfaction, especially that disallowing a goal to Loughborough inthe first half, and at the close of the game he met with a veryunfavourable reception, a section of the crowd hustling him and it wasstated that he was struck.” 5It is hard to imagine a present day report of anincident such as this being written with such impartiality and lack ofconcern.
During the inter-war years, the style of reporting beganto change. As newspapers gave more space to advertising, stories had to beconsidered more for their newsworthiness’ than before. What is interestingto note about Murphy et al’s study here is that they argue that the pressfacilitated (consciously or not) the view that football crowds werebecoming more orderly and well behaved by underplaying, or just notreporting, incidents which did occur. At the same time, however, a smallamount of concern and condemnation began to creep in to reports.
This trend continued for a decade or so after the SecondWorld War and it is this period which is often referred to as football’shey-day: a time of large, enthusiastic, but well-behaved crowds. Murphy etal argue that this was not necessarily the case and that although incidentsof disorder were on the decrease, those that did occur often went un-reported.
The roots of today’s style of reporting of footballviolence can be traced back to the mid 1950s. At a time when there waswidespread public fear over rising juvenile crime and about youth violencein general, the press began to carry more and more stories of this natureand football matches were an obvious place to find them. Although manyreports still attempted to down-play the problem, the groundwork was laidas articles began to frequently refer to a hooligan minority of fansBy the mid-1960s, with the World Cup to be held inEngland drawing closer, the press expressed dire warnings of how thehooligans could ruin the tournament. The World Cup passed without incidentbut the moral panic concerning hooliganism continued to increase.
By the 1970s calls for tougher action on trouble-makersbecame common place in the tabloid’s headlines: “ Smash These Thugs” (Sun, 4October 1976), “ Thump and Be Thumped” (Daily Express, 25 November 1976),“ Cage the Animals” (Daily Mirror, 21 April 1976) and “ Birch em!” (DailyMirror, 30 August 1976).
During the 1980s, many of these demands were actuallymet by the British authorities, in the wake of tragedies such as the Heyseldeaths in 1985, “ Cage The Animals” turning out to be particularlyprophetic. As these measures were largely short-sighted, they did not domuch to quell the hooliganism, and may have in fact made efforts worse. Assuch, football hooliganism continued to feature heavily in the newspapersand mass media in general and still does today.
TheoryThe main bodies of work we will consider here are thatof Stuart Hall in the late 1970s and that of Patrick Murphy and hiscolleagues at Leicester in the late 1980s.
Stuart Hall in The treatment of football hooliganism inthe Press, identifies what he calls the amplification spiral’ wherebyexaggerated coverage of a problem can have the effect of worsening it: 6“ If the official culture or society at large comesto believe that a phenomenon is threatening, and growing, it can beled to panic about it. This often precipitates the call for toughmeasures of control. This increased control creates a situation ofconfrontation, where more people than were originally involved in thedeviant behaviour are drawn into it … Next week’s confrontation’will then be bigger, more staged, so will the coverage, so will thepublic outcry, the pressure for yet more control…” This spiral effect, Hall argues, has been particularlyapparent in the coverage of football hooliganism since the mid 1960s. Thepress’ technique of “ editing for impact” is central to Hall’s theory. Theuse of “ graphic headlines, bold type-faces, warlike imagery andepithets…” serves to sensationalise and exaggerate the story.
This approach is supported by a later study by PatrickMurphy and his colleagues7. They argue that the particular shape whichfootball hooliganism has taken since the 1960s, i. e. “ regularconfrontations between named rival groups”, has arisen partly out of presscoverage of incidents. In particular, the predictive style of reportingwhich 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 – Toa Riot” (People, 2 August 1970).
In 1967, a Chelsea fan appearing in court charged withcarrying a razor said in his defence that he had “ read in a local newspaperthat the West Ham lot were going to cause trouble”. 8This predictive style of reporting is most apparent whenthe English national side is involved in international tournaments. Duringthe build up to the World Cup in Italy, 1990 the English Press gave outgrave warnings of violence in Italy. The Sun quoted anonymous English fansas saying there was going to be “… a bloodbath – someone is going to getkilled” (31 May 1990), while the Daily Mirror claimed Sardinians werearming themselves with knives for the visit of the English who were “ readyto cause havoc” on the island (27 May 1990). This anticipation of troublemeant that media presence at the tournament was very substantial, andcompetition for a story’ fierce, resulting in journalists picking up thesmallest of incidents. John Williams9 also claims that journalists may havepaid English fans to pose for photographs.
“ By defining matchdays and football grounds astimes and places in which fighting could be engaged in and aggressiveforms of masculinity displayed, the media, especially the nationaltabloid press, played a part of some moment in stimulating and shapingthe development of football hooliganism.” Furthermore, Murphy argues that the press have played arole in decisions over policy making to deal with football hooliganism, resulting in largely short-sighted measures which have in the main shiftedviolence from the terraces onto the streets and towns outside the footballgrounds.
Evidently, social explanations of football violence donot make great headlines and it is rare that a report of football violencein the popular press will include such an insight, if it does it tends tobe a short remark, buried away at the end of the article. Thus, as Hallpoints out, “ If you lift social violence out of it’s social context, theonly thing you are left with is – bloody heads.” In fact, the explanationsoffered to us by the popular press usually aim to dismiss the violence asirrational, stupid and ultimately animalistic – “ RIOT! United’s Fans AreAnimals” (Sunday People, 29 August 1975) and “ SAVAGES! ANIMALS!” ( DailyMirror, 21 April 1975).
This has serious consequences, as Melnick points out:“ The mass media in general and the national pressin particular can take major credit for the public’s view of thesoccer hooligan as a cross between the Neanderthal Man and Conan theBarbarian”. 10By labelling the actions of football hooligans likethis, it is easy for the tabloid press to make calls for tougher actionfrom the authorities. If the violence has no rationale or reason then whatcan be done but use force against it?“ Another idea might be to put these people inhooligan compounds’ every Saturday afternoon … They should be herdedtogether preferably in a public place. That way they could be held upto ridicule and exposed for what they are – mindless morons with norespect for other people’s property or wellbeing. We should make surewe treat them like animals – for their behaviour proves that’s whatthey are”. 11Contrasted with these calls for harsh punishments havebeen more blatant forms of glorification of hooliganism, most obviously inthe 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 matchplayed by 22 teams. The unique report compiled with the help of 17police forces reflects the behaviour of both home’ and away’ fans ateach ground. The record speaks for itself; Manchester United werebottom of the League of Shame by more than 100 arrests.” 12League tables were published in several othernewspapers, including the Daily Mail, during the mid 1970s. However, in1984, when a report by a working group in the government’s Department ofthe Environment, entitled Football Spectator Violence, recommended that thepolice should compile a league table of the country’s most notorioushooligan groups to help combat the problem, many newspapers replied withdisgust and outrage that this should be published (which it wasn’t going tobe), arguing that doing so could incite hooligan competition. Importantly, as Murphy et al assert, this shows that the press recognise that publicitycan influence football hooliganism.
Criticism has also been aimed at the tabloid press forthe attitude it takes in its build-up to major international matches. Twodays before England’s semi-final match against Germany in this year’sEuropean Championships, the Mirror carried the front page headline“ Achtung! Surrender. For you Fritz ze Euro 96 Championship is over” whilethe editorial, also on the front page, consisted of a parody of NevilleChamberlain’s 1939 announcement of the outbreak of war with Hitler: “ MirrorDeclares 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 factthey had done it before. Before England played the Federal Republic ofGermany in the semi-final of the 1990 World Cup, The Sun printed theheadline “ We Beat Them In 45 … Now The Battle of 90” Following the disturbances across Britain after thematch, in which a battle between English fans and police broke out inLondon’s Trafalgar Square and a Russian student was stabbed in Brighton, mistakenly being identified as a German, some critics were keen to pointthe finger at the xenophobia of the tabloid press in encouraging racist andviolent action. A report produced by the National Heritage SelectCommittee, led by Labour MP Gerald Kaufman, concluded that the tabloidpress coverage “ may well have had it’s effect in stimulating the deplorableriots”.
Even without considering whether the disturbances thatnight constituted deplorable riots’ or not, this claim is highly debatable.
What is clear, however, is that certain double standards exist within thetabloid press. On the one hand they are keen to label the actions ofhooligans as moronic’ and evil’ whilst at the same time they encourage thejingoistic and xenophobic views so prevalent within the national hooliganscene. A study by Blain and O’Donnell, involving 3, 000 newspaper reportsfrom 10 countries covering the 1990 World Cup claimed that “ There isnothing elsewhere in Europe like the aggressiveness towards foreigners ofthe British popular press.” 13.
It is not just in the international context that onefinds this aggressive style of reporting but also in general footballjournalism. Headlines such as “ C-R-U-N-C-H”, “ FOREST’S BLITZ”, “ POWELLBLAST SHOCKS STOKE”, and “ Doyle’s Karate Gets Him Chopped” were found inthe sports pages of just one edition of the Sunday People14. Stuart Hallclaims that if football reporting is shrouded in violent, war metaphors andgraphic imagery then one should not be surprised that this spills over onto the terraces.
“…the line between the sports reporter gloryingin the battles on the pitch, and expressing his righteous moralindignation at the battle on the terraces is a very fine and waveryone indeed” 15.
The role of the media in other European countriesStudies of media reporting of football hooliganismelsewhere in Europe have been rather limited. This may be due to the morebenign’ reporting of fans in other countries or to the relative novelty ofthe football violence phenomenon in some cases. The most significantstudies have been conducted in Italy and the Netherlands, with lesssubstantial work in Denmark and Austria. Work on Scottish fans byGiulianotti, however, is also relevant in this section.
ItalyAlessandro dal Lago16 analyses the coverage of footballhooliganism in the Italian media. He identifies two phases in reportingfootball matches by the press. Before the 1970s each match was covered atmost by two articles. The attention of the reporters was more focused onthe players than on the terraces, when violence occurred it was reported asa secondary event in the context of the article. The second phase comesfrom the mid 1970s. Now attention was focused on the ends’ ( the terracesbehind the goals favoured by the Italian ultras) and outside the stadium.
Football incidents were given the honour’ of separate articles independentfrom the reports of football matches.
Dal Lago recognises the amplifying role which the mediaplays and claims that the ultras are aware of it to the extent that bannersdisplayed in the ends’ frequently include messages to journalists. Forexample in June 1989, a week after a Roma supporter had died and threeMilan fans arrested, a banner displayed by the Milan ultras was directed atBiscardi, a presenter of a popular sports programme Il Processo del Lunedi(The Monday Trial). It read “ Biscardi sei figlio di bastardi” (Biscardi youare a son of bastards).
Dal Lago states that widespread hatred exists on thepart of both groups, with expressions such as beasts’ and stupid’ used bythe ultras to describe the media and by the media to describe the ultras.
The NetherlandsA study by van der Brug and Meijs set out to see whatthe influence of the Dutch media coverage of hooliganism is on thehooligans themselves. A survey was conducted in which there were 53respondents from different sides’ (groups of fans so called after thesection of the ground in which they are usually located) in Holland. Put tothem were a series of statements to see whether they agreed / disagreedetc. Statements which featured the strongest levels of agreement among therespondents were “ It is fun when the side is mentioned in the newspaper oron television”, “ Side supporters think it is important that newspaperswrite about their side” and “ When I read in the newspaper that there willbe extra police, it makes the coming match more interesting”. 17The authors conclude that:“ There is no doubt whatsoever that the media havesome effect on football hooliganism.” ScotlandWe have seen earlier that the media has played a largepart in the shaping of the present day view of football hooligans inEngland. It is interesting, therefore, to consider the example of Scottishfans and their transformation, in the public’s eyes, from Britishhooligans’ to Scottish fans’. Since 1981 the Scottish Tartan Army’ hasconsciously sought to acquire an international reputation for boisterousfriendliness to the host nation and opposing fans through carnivalesque’behaviour 18. The media has played a very important role in this. Byorganising themselves into very large groups at matches abroad, theScottish fans attract a great deal of media attention, but by displayingthemselves as nothing more than friendly, albeit drunken, fans their presscoverage is predominantly positive. The Scottish media has been behind thistransformation, namely by representing English fans as hooligans and byunderplaying any trouble which has occurred involving Scottish fans.
DenmarkA similar story exists in Denmark where the Roligans’(see section 4) have an impeccable reputation as the antithesis of theEnglish hooligan’. Peitersen and Skov19 identified the role that the mediaplayed in forming this reputation:“ The Danish popular press were an active force insupport of the Danish roligans and the fantastic reputation that theyhave achieved in the international press … the Danish popular presscame to have a similar role to that played by the English popularpress for the hooligans, but with reversed polarity. While the Danishpress supported recognisable positive trends encompassingcompanionship, fantasy, humour and pride, the English press helped tointensify and refine violence among English spectators by consciouslyfocusing on and exaggerating the violence and the shame.” AustriaRoman Horak20 also claims that a spate of de-amplification of football violence in the Austrian press occured in the midto late 1980s As a result hooligans lost the coverage which they hadpreviously thrived upon, and the number of incidents decreased.
ConclusionIt is evident that the media plays a very significantrole in the public’s view of football hooliganism. By far the biggestproblem lies in the sensationalist reporting of the British tabloid press.
We have seen how the press has helped form the modern phenomenon offootball hooliganism, how it has shaped public opinion of the problem, andhow it may directly influence the actions of fans themselves.
There is considerable evidence to support the claim thatfootball hooligans enjoy press coverage and positively attempt to obtaincoverage of themselves and their group. In fact, a hooligan group’snotoriety and reputation stems largely from reports in the media. Thefollowing conversation between two Milwall supporters talking to each otherin 1982, is somewhat revealing :“ C – keeps a scrapbook of press cuttings andeverything, you should see it, got this great picture from whenMilwall went to Chelsea. Great, this Chelsea fan photographed beingled away from the shed, with blood pouring out of his white tee shirt.
He’s clutching his guts like this (illustrates), got stabbed realbad.”“ You see that thing in the Sun on Violent Britain’? No? Well I was in it. Well not directly like. I had this Tottenhamgeezer see. Sliced up his face with my blade – right mess.” 21In Football hooliganism: The Wider Context, Roger Inghamrecommended that the media should reduce their tendencies to:” … sensationalise, inflate, exaggerate andamplify their stories”, advocating “ more accurate reporting of events, more careful choice of descriptive terminology, greater efforts toplace the events themselves in appropriate contexts”.
Ingham also called for the press to think beforeprinting anticipations of disturbances, going so far as to recommend thatthe Press Council “ play a more active role in attempting to ensure accurateand responsible reporting”.
However, 18 years on from Ingham’s writings we are stillfaced with the same situation and it is one which looks unlikely to goaway. As Melnick 22 points out ” … in the newspaper business, bad news isgood news’”. A glimmer of hope perhaps stems from the Scottish exampletalked about earlier, demonstrating that football fans can produce good’stories in the press, although it may be fair to say that many of thestories have only been deemed newsworthy’ because of the emphasis on thecontrast with English fans.
Horak’s claim is also encouraging, indicating that mediade-amplification (i. e. playing down stories of football hooliganism) canlead to reductions in levels of violence. In this sense, therefore, Euro 96could prove to be a turning point in press coverage of football.
Apart from the disturbances in London following theEngland – Germany match, the European Championships provided almost nothingin the way of hooliganism stories for the press and, as such, storiesconcentrated on the English team, rather than the fans.
The role of the media was raised in a recent report tothe European Parliament on football hooliganism by the Committee on CivilLiberties and Internal Affairs. In this the committee recognises that:“ The media act as magnifiers – they magnify acts ofviolence and provoke further acts of violence. The media show socialproblems – the violence in and around football, xenophobia and theracism which is its expression – as if under a magnifying glass. Whatis nasty becomes nastier because it seems to appear anonymously.” It then goes on to recommend that the media:” … participate in the promotion of respect forfair play in sport, to help promote positive sporting values, tocombat aggressive and chauvinistic behaviour and to avoid anysensationalism in treating information on violence at sportingevents.” Short of outright censorship, however, it is hard toimagine how legislation can reduce sensationalism and exaggeration in themedia.
picFootnotes5. Leicester Daily Mercury, 3 April 189911. Daily Mirror, 4 April 197712. Daily Mirror, 6 May 197414. Sunday People, 3 April 1977Racism and football fansIntroductionRacism is a problem for football across Europe and is animportant factor in the problem of football hooliganism itself. The actualextent of racism is virtually impossible to measure as detailed statisticsin this context are almost non-existent. Nevertheless, acts of footballdisorder, especially on the international scene, have frequently beenreferred to as ‘ racist’, or perpetrated by racist groups, and some clubsare now viewed as having an inherently racist support.
In this section the various forms of racism will beconsidered, with emphasis on the role of extreme right-wing groups, asthese have frequently been reported to be involved in football-relatedviolence. The various campaigns and schemes designed to combat racism willalso be considered.
The first professional black player in Britain isbelieved 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% ofprofessional players are black. However, in the 1993/94 season Carlingsurvey 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 amongsttraditional soccer fans.
In an attempt to redress the problem, the Campaign forRacial Equality (CRE), the Football Supporters Association (FSA) and theProfessional Footballers Association (PFA) have all launched initiatives totry and rid football grounds of racism and encourage more people fromethnic minorities to attend matches. Their techniques and levels of successwill be discussed later, but let us start by examining the actual types ofracism that exist in football stadiums.
Forms of RacismRacist chanting in the 1970s and 1980s often took theform of members of the crowd making monkey noises at black players on thepitch. Other abuse has been more specific. For example, after the Deptfordfire in 1981 when 13 black youths were burnt to death, a chant that couldbe heard at Millwall was:“ We all agreeNiggers burn better than petrol” Anti-Semitic chants have also been heard. TottenhamHotspur supporters have often been the target for this:“ Those yids from TottenhamThe gas man’s got themOh those yids from White Hart Lane” Other chants are more closely linked to patriotism andas such the national team:“ Stand by the Union JackSend those niggers backIf you’re white, you’re alrightIf you’re black, send ’em back” The 1991 Football (Offences) Act made racist chanting atfootball matches unlawful, but is largely inadequate as chanting is definedas the “ repeated uttering of any words or sounds in concert with one ormore others”. As a result an individual shouting racist abuse on his owncan only be charged under the 1986 Public Order Act for using “ obscene andfoul language at football grounds”. This loophole has allowed severaloffenders to escape conviction for racism at football matches.
The level of influence that far-right groups haveamongst football fans is a highly debatable issue but over the years theyhave been present in many football grounds across Britain. Garland andRowe1 suggest that far-right groups have targeted football fans since atleast the 1930s, when the British Union of Fascists tried to attract theyoung working class male supporters into their brigade of uniformed‘ stewards’. In the 1950s the White Defence League sold their newspaperBlack and White News at football grounds in London.
It was the 1970s, however, that saw far-right groupsrise to prominence as the problem of football hooliganism grew in thenational conscience. The National Front (NF) was the most active group inthe 1970s, giving regular coverage in its magazine Bulldog to football andencouraging hooligan groups to compete for the title of ‘ most racist groundin Britain’. Copies of Bulldog were openly sold at many clubs and, at WestHam, club memorabilia was sold doctored with NF slogans. Chelsea, LeedsUnited, 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 peoplefleeing from Liverpool fans, British National Party leaflets were found onthe terraces.
It seems that in the 1990s, however, the problem iswaning. It is now uncommon to see the open selling of far-right literatureor memorabilia at football matches and an incident such as the John Barnesone would be unlikely to happen now. But this does not mean to say that theproblem has gone away, especially amongst the support for the Englishnational side. During the 1980s, far-right groups were often in attendanceat England’s matches abroad. Williams and his colleagues2 identified apresence of NF members in the English support, especially amongst theChelsea contingent, at the 1982 World Cup in Spain.
As recently as 1995, far-right groups have been involvedin disturbances abroad, namely at the England vs. Republic of Ireland‘ friendly’ match at Lansdowne Road, Dublin when fights between rival fanscaused the game to be abandoned after half an hour. Supporters of theBritish National Party (BNP) and a militant group called Combat 18 weresaid to have been involved after racist literature was found at the scene.
Anti Republican chanting could clearly be heard at the match and some claimthat the violence was actually orchestrated by an umbrella group called theNational Socialist Alliance.
The attractions of football matches to far-right groupsare obvious. Football grounds provide a useful platform for the groups tomake their voices heard. From them their views can be directed intomillions of homes. It also seems as if football grounds can be a means torecruit young support. As Dave Robins3 points out:“ The hard-man, though, lives in a more dangerousand unchanging world. Permanently sensitised to ‘ trouble’ in hisenvironment, his paranoid fantasies about defending his ‘ patch’against outsiders make him ripe for manipulation by the politics ofthe extreme right” Their actual influence amongst club support, however, isbelieved by many to be minimal, a view held by the National FootballIntelligence Unit: 4“ We are aware that certain right-wing parties havebeen looking at football hooligans because they see them as anorganised group and try to recruit them for this purpose with, I haveto say, fairly limited success … It has been seen as an opportunityby many, but I don’t think it has been a dramatic success, there is noevidence for that.” Some debate also exists as to whether right-wing groupsdeliberately target soccer fans as recruits or whether soccer fans aredrawn into the groups because of the opportunities they offer for violence.
Robins is drawn towards the former argument, citing the leafletingcampaigns of the 1980s, while David Canter5 argues that the right-winggroups merely cash in on soccer violence, rather than instigate it. Onewould have to conclude that there are elements of truth in both theories.
Anti-racism initiativesRecent years have seen a number of attempts by variousgroups and organisations to combat racism in football. These have come fromthe club level, supporter level and from organisational bodies such as theCampaign for Racial Equality (CRE), the Professional FootballersAssociation (PFA) and the Football Supporters Association (FSA).
In 1993 the CRE and PFA launched the Let’s Kick RacismOut of Football campaign, “ with the aim of highlighting anti-racist andequal opportunities messages within the context of football” . 6It aimed to encourage clubs and supporters groups tolaunch their own campaigns to combat racism at their clubs. A ten pointaction plan was laid out for clubs: 1. Issue a statement saying that the club will nottolerate racism, and will take action against supporters who engage inracist abuse, racist chanting or intimidation.
2. Make public announcements condemning any racistchanting at matches, and warning supporters that the club will not hesitateto take action.
3. Make it a condition for season ticket holders thatthey do not take part in racist abuse, racist chanting or any otheroffensive behaviour.
4. Prevent the sale or distribution of racist literaturein and around the ground on match-days.
5. Take disciplinary action against players who makeracially abusive remarks at players, officials or supporters before, duringor after matches.
6. Contact other clubs to make sure they understand theclub’s policy on racism.
7. Make sure stewards and the police understand theproblem and the club’s policy, and have a common strategy for removing ordealing with supporters who are abusive and breaking the law on footballoffences.
8. Remove all racist graffiti from the ground as amatter of urgency.
9. Adopt an equal opportunities policy to coveremployment and service provision.
10. Work with other groups and agencies – such as thepolice, the local authority, the PFA, the supporters, schools, etc. – todevelop initiatives to raise awareness of the campaign and eliminate racistabuse and discrimination.
The campaign stated that:“ If football is to be played and enjoyed equally byeveryone, whatever the colour of their skin, and wherever they comefrom, it is up to us all, each and every one of us, to refuse totolerate racist attitudes, and to demand nothing less than the higheststandards in every area of the game.” A magazine, Kick It!, was produced with funding from theFootball 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 the1994/95 season.
Initial reaction to the scheme was not entirelypositive. Some thought that it may only serve to bring negative publicityto the game, by highlighting the problem of racism in football. Othersclaimed that racism was not a problem at their ground and therefore theyhad no need for such a campaign. Despite this, the first season of thecampaign had the support of all but one of the professional clubs and allprofessional authorities.
In a survey conducted by Garland and Rowe in December1994, 49 fanzine editors from a wide range of clubs were asked to commenton levels of racism at their club. Many were skeptical about the success ofLet’s Kick Racism Out of Football, with only 32% citing the campaign as afactor in the perceived decrease in racism at football matches in the lastfive years.
Garland and Rowe suggest that this lack of support maystem from mistaken expectations of the campaign. As mentioned earlier, theaim of the CRE and PFA was to encourage clubs to launch their owninitiatives, rather than control the whole campaign themselves. In thissense it has been largely successful, as it prompted many clubs to launchtheir own campaigns.
The most ambitious of these have been Derby County’sscheme Rams Against Racism and Charlton Athletic’s Red, White and Black atthe Valley. Derby County went so far as to dedicate a home match day in1994 to the cause of combating racism after liaisons between clubofficials, the club’s Football and Community Development Officer and theRacial Equality Council. Anti-racist banners were displayed, campaignmessages printed in the match day programme and players involved. Two-hundred and fifty free tickets were also given out to local children. Along term aim of the scheme was to encourage the local Asian community toattend more games as well as encouraging local Asian footballing talent.
Red, White and Black at the Valley was a leafletlaunched by Charlton Athletic in conjunction with the police, the localRacial Equality Council, Greenwich Council and the supporters club. The aimwas to present Charlton Athletic as being a club that people from alldisadvantaged minorities could come and watch without fear of harassmentfrom other supporters. After the leaflet had been distributed the clubcontinued 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 tocalculate how effective these schemes have been, although a drive by thepolice (acting on a tip-off from the club) was successful in removingracist fans from one end of the Valley ground.
The first fan-based group set up specifically to fightracism was Leeds Fans United Against Racism And Fascism (LFUARAF). This wasformed in 1987 to combat the influence of far-right groups at Elland Road, especially the most visible displays of paper selling etc. The first stepwas to distribute anti-racist leaflets outside the ground, then in 1988 itcontributed to Terror On Our Terraces, a report on the involvement of thefar-right amongst the Leeds crowd. This prompted the club to recognise theproblem and they issued an anti-racist statement signed by both managementand players. Within a few months the number of far-right paper sellersdecreased significantly and the campaign is still active today.
In Scotland, supporters have formed a national campaignto combat racism in football. SCARF (Supporters’ Campaign Against Racism inFootball) was formed in 1991 in response to an increase in far-rightactivity at Scottish grounds, mainly involving the BNP. Most of thecampaign consists of leafleting the worst affected grounds, Rangers andHearts being two examples, but it has not been without its problems. Aswell as- one female campaigner being threatened and others abused, SCARFsay that they have had a problem in getting clubs and officials torecognise that there is a problem at all.
Fanzines started in the mid 1980s and have offered analternative, positive view of football fans in the post-Heysel era. Nowalmost every club has at least one fanzine and Garland and Rowe claim thatthese are almost exclusively anti-racist. Some are actually produced byanti-racist groups themselves such as Marching Altogether (LFUARAF) andFilbo Fever (Leicester City Foxes Against Racism). Other clubs whosefanzines actively support anti-racism campaigns include Everton, Celtic, Manchester United, Cardiff City, Leyton Orient and Chelsea. One criticismlevelled at fanzines is that they are simply preaching to the converted asthe fans who buy them will already be anti-racist. Nevertheless, fanzineshave enjoyed increasing popularity over the last few years which should berecognised as a positive sign and the LFUARAF recognises this problem andfor this purpose gives away Marching Altogether free at matches.
The CRE and PFA also believe that the ‘ civilisation’ offootball grounds – seating, family enclosures, executive boxes etc. – willencourage more blacks and Asians to attend football matches. They may beright but this has not occurred yet in England. Every football ground inthe Premier League is now all-seater yet, as mentioned before, white peopleconstitute 99% of the attendance.
The European dimensionThroughout Europe, racism figures prominently infootball related violence. Neo-nazi and neo-fascist groups target footballgrounds 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 unableto play even one game for Udinese because of massive pressure from neo-fascist circles and Aaron Winter, a native of Suriname of Hindustaniextraction was subject to attacks at Lazio involving cries of ‘ Niggers andJews 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 Italianfans.
Germany has one of the worst reputations in Europe forfar-right influence amongst its fans, with frequent displays of Hitlersalutes, particularly at international matches. Professor Volker Rittner ofthe Sports Sociology Institute in Cologne, however, believes that these areno more than provocative displays designed to get the fans into the papers, but some reports of right-wing activity in Germany have been disturbing. In1990 there were reports of skinheads barracking the small number of blackplayers in the Bundesliga and in 1992 similar reports were made of neo-nazigroups in Germany using football matches as occasions to plan and organiseattacks against local ethnic communities and East European refugees. Ananalysis of the political attitudes of German fans revealed that 20% feelclose 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 schemesto the British Let’s Kick Racism Out of Football campaign. The Netherlandsuses the motto When Racism Wins, the Sport Loses which is displayed onposters at train stations and at tram and bus stops. Players in theNetherlands even went on strike in protest against racism. Players havealso led the way in Italy by threatening to walk off the pitch if blackplayers continued to be abused by racists. This resulted in a day of actionin December 1992 when all players in the top two divisions displayed theslogan No Al Razzismo! (No To Racism). In Switzerland, footballers from thenational team are involved in ‘ street football’ competitions for youngpeople, held in a different town each weekend.
A more general campaign is the All Different – All Equalcampaign against racism, xenophobia and intolerance, organised by theCouncil 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.
ConclusionAlthough actual levels of racism are extremely hard toquantify and statistics thin on the ground, it seems apparent that the lastdecade has seen a reduction in the levels of racism at football matches inEngland. Garland and Rowe’s survey revealed that 84% of the fanzine editorswho responded felt that levels of racism had decreased over the past fiveyears, with over half of these claiming a significant decline. Only 6% feltthat racism had increased during this time. Garland and Rowe also claimthat this view was backed up by nearly all of the administrators, playersand officials interviewed in addition to the survey.
The role of fan-based groups and the growth of fanzineculture were the two most cited reasons for the decline in racism, althoughthis may not be surprising given that the respondents were all fanzineeditors. Perhaps more important, therefore, is the fact that 57% believedthat the increase in the number of black players was a major factor for thedecrease in racism.
As mentioned earlier, only a third of the respondentsfelt 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 FootballCampaign and 44% felt that it had raised public awareness of the problem.
As Garland and Rowe point out, however, less publicforms of racism may still be present and support for the national teamseems still to have distinct racist factions to it, as last year’sLansdowne Road disturbance indicated. In any case, the lack of support fromethnic minorities suggests that clubs, authorities and fans still need togo a long way in convincing people that they will not encounter racism atfootball grounds.
Racism in other parts of Europe does not look as if itis decreasing and in some parts may be increasing. In Germany, the neo-naziand neo-fascist movements continue to increase their support and the FrontNational in France, led by Jean Marie Le Pen, holds public support acrossthe board, football supporters being no exception.
The issue of racism in football has been raised thisyear 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 andattacks perpetrated on players who are black or Jewish or come fromdifferent national or ethnic backgrounds” and” … concerned at the ways in which extremistorganisations deliberately exploit violence connected with sportincluding the manipulation and infiltration of hooligan groups”.
The report goes on to suggest that players should takean 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 footballmatches. Perhaps most importantly, the report calls for a European day ofanti-racism and fair play in sport to be held throughout Europe in 1997(the European Year Against Racism) and involving sports personalities tohelp 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 racismin football. They argue that their ‘ Fair Play’ scheme is adequate intackling the problem. In this, behaviour both on and off the field isevaluated, and negative marks are given for racist chanting or the displayof racist slogans. At the end of the season the three national associationswith the best records are awarded an extra place in the UEFA Cup for one oftheir clubs. Whilst this may provide some sort of incentive for fans not tobe racist, critics argue that this is not enough.
In an international context, the media, in particularthe English tabloid press, it is argued, play a part in encouraging racismand xenophobia at football matches and this was also recognised in theEuropean Parliament report. In the report’s explanatory statement thecommittee states that the media frequently present international matches as‘ warlike confrontations’ which thus give rise to jingoism and sometimesacts of violence. The committee recommends that the media should endeavourto bring the sporting aspect back into sport.
While one must recognise that the problem of racism isdifferent in each country, a Europe-wide initiative to combat the problemmust surely be welcomed.
Football violence and alcoholLittle research on football hooliganism has included aspecific focus on the role of alcohol. Work by John Williams1 and RichardGiulianotti2 includes discussion of the possible ‘ aggravating’ effects inthe case of English and Scottish fans, but few empirical data are presentedconcerning consumption rates or specific effects of alcohol. For mostresearchers and theorists, the issue of alcohol is, at best, peripheral andin 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 footballfan behaviour, particularly in the UK. Here ‘ drunkenness’ is by far themost often reported cause of violent disorder, even in circumstances wherethere is no evidence of excessive drinking. In line with this populistview, most official enquiries into football hooliganism have dwelt on the‘ problem’ of alcohol and urged its restriction at football matches. Evengovernment sponsored publications concerning Crime Prevention Initiativesinclude sweeping conclusions about the ‘ dangers’ of alcohol consumption byfootball fans:“ Some offences are alcohol-related by definition –drink-driving for example. But these are by no means the only oneswhere alcohol plays a large part. Public disorder, including footballhooliganism and vandalism is particularly associated with it.” Controls on the availability of alcohol at footballmatches have now existed for some time in Britain3 and the EuropeanParliament has recently included a Europe-wide ban on alcohol in itsrecommendations. Much of the EP debate, however, was driven by British andGerman MEPs and it is clear that alcohol is seen as a significant factor inthis context only by northern Europeans.
Consideration of the association between drinking andfootball hooliganism lies within a much broader debate concerning the roleof alcohol in the generation of violent and criminal behaviour. This issuehas been reviewed at length in other publications and we will not dwellhere on the complexities of the issue. 4 It is clear, however, that theperceived alcohol-violence connection is primarily restricted to NorthernEuropean and Anglo Saxon cultures. Elsewhere in the world quite contraryperceptions exist. Where alcohol can be shown to have a direct impact onlevels of aggression and anti-social behaviour, the effect is largelymediated by immediate social factors and more general, pervasive culturalexpectations.
Culture and alcoholThe cultural nature of the relationship between alcoholand football is evident from a rare ‘ natural experiment’ involving AstonVilla fans attending a European Cup Final against Bayern Munich in theFeyenoord Stadium in Rotterdam. This took place in 1982 at a time whenconcern about the drinking behaviour of English fans was at a peak. The barat 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 trekback and forth to the bars, carrying six cartons with the aid of aspecially designed cardboard tray, believed themselves to be en routeto getting well and truly ‘ steaming’ … To get drunk in the Villa endthat night, one would need to drink more than the ‘ lager’ on sale toEnglish fans. What officials later described as the ‘ big con’ was infull swing. While fans in other sections of the ground were sinkingthe real thing, Villa fans were the subject of a non-alcoholicdelusion.” 5Ambivalence about alcoholWhile most observers of this ‘ con’ noted with interestthe apparently ‘ drunken’ behaviour of Villa fans, Williams is moreambivalent about the extent to which the effects of alcohol arepsychologically mediated. He suggests, for example, that the drunkenness insome cases might have been ‘ real’ and due to drinking prior to the game – asuggestion for which he offers no evidence. Elsewhere in Williams’ writingthe ambivalence concerning alcohol is replaced with self-contradictorystances. Take, for example, his view expressed at a conference in 1989:“ We are regularly told that it is drink whichreleases the full force of this natural wickedness, and that curbs ondrinking will bottle it up. Someone should inform the Danes and theIrish of these findings. Supporters from these countries were amongthe most drunken and the most friendly fans in West Germany. Themessage might also reach UEFA who sanctioned a major brewer as theChampionships’ sponsor!” This dismissal of the relevance of alcohol by Williamsis followed, three years later, by a non sequitor call for restrictions onthe availability of alcohol to British fans abroad:“ We recommend that for the foreseeable future, andwith the support of the continental authorities concerned, an alcoholban should operate for all England matches on the continent.” 6Other inconsistencies are evident in Williams’ work andit is, perhaps, ironic that he should make such recommendations given hisinsistence that football violence derives from deeply entrenched socialfactors within British society rather than from immediate situational orpsychological processes.
The roligansThe 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 renownedfor their levels of beer consumption. They are also Northern European andmight be expected, therefore, to be among those for whom group drinkingsessions often end in belligerence and fighting. Their conduct, however, isquite different from that associated with English fans and, to a lesserextent with their German and Dutch contemporaries. The analysis provided byEichberg of the Danish Sport Research Institute sums up theirdistinctiveness succinctly:“ The roligan displays a feature which links himwith his counterpart, the hooligan: excessive alcohol consumption.
English, Irish and Danish fans compete for the position of being themost drunk – yet fundamentally different behaviour patterns arise.
Where the heavy drinking of English hooligans impels aggression andviolence, the roligan is characterised by the absence of violence andcompaniable cheerfulness.” 7The behaviour of Danish fans at Euro ’96, has also beenthe subject of much favourable comment by the media and the police.
Commenting on the amusing and good-natured antics of the Danes inSheffield, Cathy Cassell and Jon Rea 8 noted:“ Such characteristics endeared Sheffielders towardsthem. No matter how much lager they consumed, and how badly the teamperformed, the atmosphere wherever they congregated was nothing shortof a party. The city did well out of it … Numerous pubs ran dry. Thepolice and council officials expressed their amazement that suchamounts of beer could be consumed by so many football supporters withno trouble at all.” The police viewThe ‘ surprise’ expressed by the police about the good-natured drunkenness of Danish fans is understandable given theirassumptions about alcohol and hooliganism in the UK. We should note, however, that the police are less ready to blame drink than some newspaperreports have suggested. A study was conducted of the views of PoliceCommanders who were responsible for crowd control at all 92 English Leagueclubs. They were asked “ How serious an influence is heavy drinking incontributing to football-related disorder in your town?”. Concerning Homefans, only 11% saw it as being the ‘ single most serious influence’, while afurther 20% rated it as ‘ serious’. Almost half of the Commanders felt thatalcohol was an influence, but not a serious one, while the remainder feltthat it was not an influence at all. Their views regarding visiting Awayfans, however, were a little different. Here 18% felt that alcohol was themost significant influence while 35% rated it as serious.
These are, of course, views rather than empirical factsand based upon, we presume, observations that many fans in the UK, and awayfans in particular, tend to consume alcohol prior to engaging in acts ofhooliganism. Despite the implicit assumptions, however, this does not meanthat acts of hooliganism would necessarily be less frequent if alcohol wereless readily available, or likely to increase in frequency when drinkinglevels were higher.
Take, for example, the extensions to licensing hours inManchester and elsewhere during Euro ’96. At the time Commander JohnPurnell, head of policing for the championships, was concerned about such‘ liberalising’ of drinking: “ History shows that a tiny minority will drinkmore than they can handle and, while under the influence of alcohol, willbehave badly.” The Home Secretary, Michael Howard, also joined the debate, claiming that the magistrates and Licensing Justices in Manchester wereacting “ incongruously and inappropriately”.
The fears of Commander Purnell and Michael Howard werelargely unfounded. There were very few reported incidences of troubleduring the tournament. The only event of significance took place in London, where licenses had notbeen extended.
Unexpected consequences of alcohol bansIncreasing restrictions on the availability of alcoholat football matches may not only be inappropriate but possibly havenegative side-effects. There is increasing evidence that such restrictionsare 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 adirect consequence of the potential penalties for being in possession ofalcohol in a British football stadium. Others note the increased use ofMDMA (ecstasy) in such contexts. Evidence of a more concrete kindconcerning unanticipated effects of restrictions comes from a study in theUnited States, the implications of which are generalisable to othercountries and settings. Boyes and Faith conducted a detailed study of theimpact of a ban on alcohol at (American) football games at Arizona StateUniversity. They hypothesised that such a ban would lead to ‘ intertemporal’substitution of the consumption of alcohol – i. e. fans would increasetheir consumption immediately prior to, and after leaving the footballgames. Such substitution, they argued could more more damaging than theeffects which might arise from intoxication within the stadium and suchnegative consequences could be measured in, for example, increased numbersof fans driving before and after the match while over the legal BAC limit.
The authors argued that there were three reasons to expect such aconsequence:“ First, alcohol in the body does not dissipatequickly … Thus the effects of increased drinking in the period priorto the regulated period may carry over into the regulated period.
Second, the level of intoxication, during any period depends on therate of consumption as well as the volume. Thus, even if there is nota one-for-one substitution of consumption from the restricted periodto the adjacent unregulated periods, average intoxication taken overthe adjacent and unregulated periods can increase. Third, studiesindicate that the probability of having a traffic accident increasesat an increasing level of intoxication. Thus, the social costs ofdrinking and driving in the unregulated periods may increase.” 9Boyes and Faith examined police data concerning alcohol-related driving accidents, detected DWI (Driving while intoxicated) casesand other measures for the periods before and after the restrictions onalcohol in the stadium. They found significant increases of up to 40% inblood alcohol concentrations in drivers stopped by the police. This isdespite an increase in the penalties for DWI and an increase in the legaldriving age in the postban period.
The implications of this study are very relevant torestrictions on alcohol at British football stadiums. They also suggestthat the recent proposals from European Parliament committees for a Europe-wide ban on alcohol at football matches may be misguided. If alcohol is asignificant determinant of anti-social behaviour, directly or indirectly, the effects of intertemporal substitution of drinking, which alcohol bansare likely to generate, will tend to increase the likelihood of aggressionboth prior to and shortly after the games. Such behaviour, of course, isalso likely to occur outside of the stadiums where, it is more difficult topolice and control.
The case of the ScotsIf total bans on alcohol at football games areinappropriate, for the reasons discussed above, alternative means need tobe explored for modifying alcohol-related behaviour among football fans, and English fans in particular. This may seem an impossible prospect. Thechange in the behaviour of Scottish fans, however, is of interest in thiscontext. We noted earlier in Section 3 that although Scottish fans areoften ‘ heavy’ consumers of alcohol, the belligerent behaviour which used tobe associated with their drinking has changed quite substantially over thelast ten to fifteen years. As Giulianotti 10 has noted, the CriminalJustice (Scotland) Act of 1980, which prohibits the possession of alcoholat, or in transit to, a football match, has done little to dent the degreeto which alcohol is very much part of the football experience. Nonetheless, it is generally agreed that the ‘ drunkenness’ of Scottish fans now presentsfar less of a threat to law and order than it might once have done.
This transformation of Scottish fan behaviour, accordingto Giulianotti, has come about through their desire to distance themselvesfrom their English rivals and to present an image of themselves throughoutEurope as the ‘ friendly’ supporters. In pursuit of this aim the meaning ofalcohol has been substantially altered and now, instead of being aprecursor to aggression and fights, is the ‘ liquid’ facilitation ofpositive social affect and good humour.
Although some ‘ traditional’ drunken fighting remainsamong Scottish fan groups, the majority seem to have moved away from theEnglish ‘ hooligan’ model to one which is more characteristic of the Danishroligans. If this radical change of behaviour can occur among the Scots, without any apparent decline in their consumption levels, then we mustassume that similar shifts are possible in English fan culture. Whiledrinking among Dutch and German fans generally presents less of a problem, we might also anticipate the possibility of further change in these groupsas well.
picDr Peter Marsh et al (1996) Football Violence in Europe.
The Amsterdam Group.
Footnotes3. e. g. Football (Offences) Act 19914. See, for example, P. Marsh and K. Fox, 1992; M. Sumner and H. Parker, 1995
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