Is the British Football Hooligan Dead?

The term football hooliganism is used to generalise the unruly behaviour carried out by football fans that can take place before, during or after a football match. Offences that can be classed as acts of hooliganism range from ticket touting to large-scale riots between two sets of fans. The majority of people associate hooliganism with rival gangs arranging to meet in secluded areas to settle their so called conflicts. This is mainly down to the film industry producing films such as ‘Football Factory’ and ‘Green Street’, which depict these scenes and give people a sense of what football hooliganism is. However, this is not always the case; fans fighting on such scale have been vgraphery rare since the late 1980’s. In more recent years Hooliganism in football has become more focused on racial and offensive chanting towards opposing players and fans, hence the ‘Kick it Out’ campaign which aims to eradicate racism from football. What people associate with Football Hooliganism has clearly transformed over the years, it has changed from fighting on the terraces to discriminative chanting in the stands. The table shows that on a whole, arrests as a result of premiership football matches are steadily declining with each consecutive year, with a few exceptions. Therefore we must examine the reasons for this decline.

One reason believed to be behind the decrease of football related arrests, is an increase in more strict legislation relating to the game. The Public Order Act 1986 allows courts to ban fans from grounds, while the Football Spectators Act of 1989 allowed for the banning of convicted hooligans from attending international matches. The Football disorder Act of 1999 changed the courts optional power to a duty to make orders. The Football Disorder Act of 2000 abolished the distinction between domestic and international bans. There are also more specific acts like the Football Offences Act 1991 which targeted specific offences of throwing missiles onto pitches, participating in indecent or racist chanting and going onto the pitch without lawful authority. It is also widely believed that improved policing at football grounds is a key contributing factor to the decline of hooliganism as fans are well shepherded to and from grounds (click here for details).

Perhaps another factor for the decrease in football hooliganism could be a transfer in spectator classes. Throughout the 70’s and 80’s crowds were predominantly made up of working class men who treat football matches and hooliganism as an outlet for the stress that had built up over the long and intensive labouring week.  However in recent years, ticket prices have been raised (top tier games costing roughly £60) and therefore there has been a shift from working class to middle class spectators at football matches and these middle class citizens are less likely to have the urge to take part in acts of violence. However, although this has led to a decrease in football related violence, it has exacerbated some issues within football, such as the increase in ticket touting (from 63 arrests to 107) as the increase in ticket prices has left many working class citizens with no option but to seek ticket touts and therefore increase the possibility of crowd control problems, counterfeit tickets being in circulation and perhaps even fake tickets being sold.

It is clear that football hooliganism today is a much smaller problem than it has been in the past, and it is arguably no longer an issue that the public should be concerned with, therefore its portrayal in the media must be questioned. From the statistics in the table, football hooliganism is on a continuous decline in Britain, yet many minor incidents continue to be emphasised by tabloid newspapers. The impact that newspapers place on football hooliganism (to increase the number of readers) can lead to unnecessary panic within the public, as we see in the past a number of measures have been created without any futuristic insight (click here for examples paragraph 5), as media sources have managed to depict a greater problem than hooliganism actually is.

Football hooliganism in England and Wales remains a controversial and well-reported topic in the media despite its obvious decline. Legislation and policing have improved vastly since the late 20th century and therefore it must be recogonised that hooliganism no longer characterises the modern football match. Today’s stands now play host to families enjoying the game with a friendly atmosphere. The most recent figures show that the total number of arrests represent less than 0.01% of total spectators.[1] However there will always be an underlying threat of hooliganism due to the deep passion that can be stirred by the game. The almost tribal devotion that is conjured by dressing in your team’s colours and watching the match can be the precursor to irrational acts of violence and disorder, especially when derby day comes around. The hooligan may never become completely extinct, but appears to be becoming increasingly rare.



Football Hooliganism from the 1950s

Collectively we decided to focus our project around the subject of football hooliganism. We endeavoured to uncover the way in which football hooliganism has changed over time.

We began by looking at a newspaper article from the 1950s and compared and contrasted the information with other sources from consecutive decades. The findings exhibited that although football hooliganism has remained an issue through the years, the incidences have decreased but are targeted by the media, increasing the perceived severity of the incidents. In this blog we hope to summarise our findings but also hopefully see certain trends that have occurred with football hooliganism through the years.