Football violence PDF Print E-mail
Written by Cyprus Detectives   
Sunday, 03 October 2010 17:40

Football violence in Britain is often reported in the media

 as resulting from excessive alcohol consumption. This view, however, is not shared by the large majority of social scientists who have conducted research on hooliganism. Neither is it the view popularly held in many other European countries.

Little research has focused specifically on the role of alcohol in football hooliganism. This is because it has been considered, at best, a peripheral issue in most studies. Some investigators, however, have recently claimed that drinking can 'aggravate' football violence and have supported calls for further restrictions at football grounds. Little evidence has been provided to support their claims.

Proposals for Europe-wide restrictions on the availability of alcohol at football games have recently been made by the European Parliament, although the legal status of such proposals is currently unclear. Such an approach, however, ignores the wide cross-national variations in the consumption of alcohol by football fans and its apparent effects.

The case of Scottish fans, whose behaviour has changed markedly for the better over the past 10 years, despite continuing patterns of 'heavy' drinking, is considered in some detail. It is clear that alcohol-related behaviours are not immutable and can change in relatively short periods of time.

The example of the Danish Roligans is also considered. These have drinking patterns very similar to those of English fans, put present few problems to the authorities. Drunkenness among the Danish fans is typically accompanied by good humour and positive sociability.

Other groups of fans, such as the Italian Ultras, rarely drink to excess when attending football matches and the role of alcohol in football violence in that country is thought to be completely insignificant.

Attention is given to a study in the United States which suggests that restrictions on the availability of alcohol at certain times may lead to increased problems due to 'compensatory' drinking at higher levels in the periods immediately before and after the restricted period.

It is concluded that restrictions on fans' drinking will have little impact on levels of hooliganism and, in some cases, may be counter-productive. Future research should be directed towards the modification of alcohol-related behaviours.

Tackling football violence

The approach taken by the British authorities to reducing football hooliganism has been largely reactive - 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'.

While such measures are evident 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.

There is, however, a general lack of initiative from the major football clubs in Europe. While German clubs are involved to an extent in the fan coaching schemes, elsewhere there is little contact between club officials and the fan groups. It is suggested that local 'fan's forums', which allow genuine dialogue between officials and supporters, may help to reduce some of the problems.