Football Hooliganism

How football hooliganism has developed over the years and how the efforts to stop it have changed.

Introduction and planning

Football hooliganism is acts of violence, racism, taunting and vandalism committed by people around football events and during games. These have detrimental effects of the game often giving it bad publicity, but it is not just a modern phenomenon. Hooliganism has been around since medieval times when sport had little if any rules it was played at festivals and just had an aim.

During this period sport was occasionally used as an excuse to get even with a rival. Arguments were often settled in these contests which resulted in many players get seriously injured.

During the last century sport on the field has become much more civilised and respected, however off the field it can be just as gruesome as in medieval times. In my report I will be focussing on:

-The history and development of hooliganism over the years, I will research into the history of hooliganism and how it’s changed particularly over the nineteenth century

-The methods the authorities have developed to stop it, I will research the police initiative and new methods of catching the modern hooligan.

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The history and development of hooliganism

Hooliganism first started in medieval times, a sport called mob football was played on special occasions it involved the men from two rival villages playing each other, there was no rules just an aim which was to get a object to a pre-agreed place.

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This game was extremely ruff and was often used to settle arguments, which resulted in many injures and in some sever cases ‘death’.

Over the years hooliganism has moved on, in the supposed gentlemanly pre-war era where one thinks about sportsmanship and gamesmanship little had changed. Riots assaults and general uncivilised behaviour took place. Although no accurate figures are available on the frequency of such episodes, the reported levels of violence and mayhem should be enough to expel any nostalgia about the behaviour of gentlemanly fans. A survey of the reports led Hutchinson to the conclusion that:

“Riots, unruly behaviour, violence, assault and vandalism, appear to have been a well-established, but not necessarily dominant pattern of crowd behaviour at football matches at least from the 1870s”

Most cases of hooliganism occur when players or the crowd think that there have been injustices. Some historians suspect that because there is not many reports of crowd misbehaviour during the pre-war era, relative to the abundance of reported assaults on players and officials. That this points not to the absence of such violence but rather to the lenient attitude toward crowd disturbances that did not actually interfere with the game. This may be explained by the fact that, within the stadium, it was the referee who reported incidents to the FA. If violence tipped onto the field he would consider it a problem; if it spilled onto the streets it became the problem of the town police; but if it was contained within the stands it largely went unreported.

During the 1960s there was a surge in the incidences of hooliganism and the Chester report of 1966, incidences of football violence doubled in the first five years of the 1960s compared to the previous 25 years.

The United Kingdom is perceived by virtually all observers in Europe, and by football fans themselves, as having had the earliest and most severe problems with football hooliganism. It is the only nation to have received a blanket expulsion from all European Football competitions – a ban that was initially made for an indefinite period following the Heysel Stadium tragedy in which 39 Juventus fans died when a wall collapsed after clashes with Liverpool supporters.

However other countries also have great problems with hooliganism for example in Turkey:

” … fans of the Kayseri and Sivas clubs fought with pistols, knives and broken bottles for days after the end of a match between the two sides. Before troops restored order, cars were burned out, 600 spectators injured and 42 of them killed, 25 by stab wounds.”11

More recently in turkey in the champion’s league when Leeds played galatacary there was numerous stabbing’s on both sets of supporters.

The Lang report

This working party was chaired by Sir John Lang, Vice Chairman of the Sports Council and the report was published in 1969. It consisted of representatives of the Football Associations and Leagues, Home Office, police forces, Scottish Office and representatives of football players and managers. The group was left to define its own terms of reference and, not surprisingly given its composition, was solely concerned with actual events at football matches.

The Working Party made a total of 23 recommendations, of which 3 were given special emphasis:

1 Maximum co-operation between a football club and the police.

2 Absolute acceptance of the decision of the referee by everybody.

3 The provision of seats in place of standing accommodation.

In dealing with offenders at football matches it was recommended that:

“… a form of punishment for spectators who misbehave themselves, involving the necessity of such offenders having to report on subsequent match days at a place and time away from the ground, should be strongly supported.”

It was also felt that:

“… it is desirable that the punishment of convicted offenders should match the seriousness of the offence.”

The Lang report was one of the first reports to not only investigate why hooliganism occurred, but measures to stop it from occurring in the future it reported that:

“There can be no doubt that the consumption of alcohol is an important factor in crowd misbehaviour”

In more recent reports hooliganism has not only been committed outside or in the stadium. Under cover operations have revelled that hooliganism has become more organised where the ringleaders of sets of troublemakers on opposing sides have been in contact with each other and meet at a predetermined destination to fight. The advantage of this for them is that there wont is police patrolling that area so they can get away with it.

The methods the authorities have developed to stop it,

The approach taken by the British authorities to reducing football hooliganism has been largely increasingly sophisticated policing, surveillance and monitoring techniques, segregation of fans, restrictions on alcohol etc. The British Government has also introduced specific legislation to cover acts of ‘hooliganism’.

Such measures are common elsewhere in Europe, the German, Dutch and Belgian authorities, in particular, have been more proactive in their approach to the problem. The development of ‘fan coaching’ schemes appears to have had an impact on levels of violence in certain areas. Such schemes, which involve social workers deployed with groups of fans, provide useful models for other countries.

German clubs are involved to an extent in the fan coaching schemes; elsewhere there is little contact between club officials and the fan groups. Very recently the British police have started using the ‘Spotter’ system. This is a system that is used throughout the season in the English Premier and Football Leagues. A police liaison officer is attached to a particular club and has the responsibility of identifying and monitoring hooligans, usually travelling to away games and assisting the local force with the detection of hooligans.

Identified hooligans would be banned from viewing all of there teams games and before European and international ties take place, their passports are confiscated so that the wont travel to the away games in other countries and cause any trouble. Another scheme introduced was a ‘hooligan hotline’ whereby supporters could phone in and report incidents of hooliganism and perhaps even identify perpetrators. Although this scheme was promoted as being entirely new, similar schemes have been in existence since 1988, when the West Midlands police set up a 24-hour hotline.


I believe as long as football exists there will be hooliganism as when people have differences of opinions there are always going to be some narrow minded people who will get angry and lash out. This may be on supporters of the opposing side, the authorities or vandalism of public property. However although I believe hooliganism will always exist I believe that there are things that increase the likelihood of such acts occurring these include:

Drink, which heightens people’s emotions making them more likely to get angry and it also, stops them from fearing fighting and the law. When people drink they stop thinking rationally and do things that they otherwise wouldn’t do.

Troublemakers these people come to a stadium often not watching the match especially to get into a fight. They often encourage drunken supporters into joining in with there trouble making. They often taunt opposing fans in the hope that there will be a fight.

The mood of the fans contributes to hooliganism, as if the supporters have had a good journey and their team has a good result then they will be in a good mood hence being less likely to cause trouble

Security presence, will act as a deterrent to hooligans as they will not want to be punished for their actions, so if there are many police officers they wont want to start trouble.

Although there are still the occasional instances of hooliganism the police have done well in dramatically cutting down the amount of them. They are co-operating much more with their European counterparts and have new measures such as the spotter system and the hooliganism hotline. However there is more that the government can do I believe the police should be given greater powers in arresting and prosecuting hooligans. Penalties for hooligans should be a lot more severe in order to act as a deterrent.

Also everyone entering a stadium should undergo a breathalyser test to see if they are over the legal alcohol limit and if they are they should be taken to the police station and fined and banned from viewing there team play for a set period of time. I believe that this will not only act as a deterrent but it will stop the trouble makers from coming to the football so the atmosphere in the stadium will good and the emphasis on having a good time. This will also increase the popularity of the sport as more families will come to watch the sport introducing a new generation of football lovers who wont be interested in hooliganism, just in the sport.

Appraisal of study

The problem with my project was that as I choose the subject matter of hooliganism. It was very hard to find facts and figures to back up my points all I could find to prove my points were discussions and reports about this study. Though these reports were written by experts in this field, they too had to work in the same conditions without facts to back up what they were saying, so I am only going on what they believe and they cannot prove what they are saying to be true. So if I were to improve this project I would have to get some data to prove my theories to be correct.

If I were to research in this field I would set up a few tests I would go to two football stadiums renowned for hooliganism and in one of them I would ban any alcohol and in another stadium I would make it freely available. Then over the season I could do some surveys such as comparing the number of assaults in and around the stadium on match days. I could also conduct a survey. Another thing I would research into would be how certain people from different countries or cultures are more or less likely to become violent at a football match.


Internet search using Lycos, google and ask Jeeves on ‘football hooliganism’

The Sunday times illustrated history of football Chris Nawrat & Steve Huchings (1994)

The Hutchinson report Hutchinson, J. (1975) some aspects of football crowds before 1914. In The Working Class. University of Sussex Conference Report

Lang report Lang, Sir J. (1969). Report of the Working Party on Crowd Behaviour at Football Matches. London: HMSO.

The Roversi report Roversi, A. (1991). Football violence in Italy. International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 26 (4): 311-332

Honeybourn, jet al (1996) advanced physical education and sport. Stanley thornes ltd.

Cite this page

Football Hooliganism. (2017, Aug 20). Retrieved from

Football Hooliganism

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