Football Violence
in Europe

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Executive summary


Football violence in history

Theoretical and research perspectives

Cross-national variations in football violence in Europe

Media coverage of football hooliganism

Racism and football fans

Football violence and alcohol

Tackling football violence

Selected Bibliography

Tackling football violence


The United Kingdom is perceived by virtually all observers in Europe, and by football fans themselves, as having had the earliest and most most severe problems with football hooliganism. Certainly, 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.

It is perhaps because of this unenviable record that the United Kingdom has taken the lead in the development of control measures to deal with hooliganism. These measures are closely examined in the first part of this chapter, where we trace the various strategies adopted by the British police, as well as the legislative responses of the British government. As we shall see, the various strategies and responses have been primarily reactive and, increasingly, have been influenced (if not entirely led) by technological developments, such as the use of closed-circuit television and computer databases.

Such advances have certainly helped the flourishing collaboration between the member states of Europe in tackling hooliganism. The European Parliament, however, has become increasingly concerned about the use of such technology, particularly in relation to the issue of the free movement of individuals across member state boundaries.

Finally, the chapter focuses on some of the more proactive responses to football hooliganism. In particular, we look at the phenomenon of the 'fan projects', which originated in Germany in the seventies and which have been swiftly imitated by many other countries in Europe, including Belgium and The Netherlands.

Policing football hooliganism

The principal difficulty for the police in dealing with football hooliganism has been in differentiating between the hooligan and the ordinary football supporter. This difficulty led to the police developing a system whereby all fans were contained, both inside the ground and in travelling to the ground. At the same time, the second primary strategy of the police was the undercover operation: an attempt to ascertain who exactly the hooligans were.

The undercover operation

The English Football Association recommended that plain clothes officers be used in the domestic game as far back as the mid-sixties and requests for the police to infiltrate travelling supporters with plain clothes officers were also made by the Football Association in 1981. The belief of the police (torridly supported by the media) by the 1980s was that football hooligans had transformed themselves from an ill-organised mob into highly-organised forces with a complex network of hierarchies1

Officers were given new identities and instructed to live the life of a hooligan and mingle with other hooligans. These tactics resulted in the launch of numerous early morning raids on the homes of suspected football hooligans from around March 1986. Armstrong and Hobbs detail a familiar pattern in the arrest and charging of suspects in these raids.

Hooligan gangs

The suspects would generally be part of an organised gang that had apparently caused mayhem throughout the country; they would have a 'calling-card' which would normally be displayed on or left beside their victim; they would have used an array of weaponry (which the police nearly always displayed to the media in the post-arrest briefing) and they would often possess incriminating literature (although on one occasion, this included a copy of an academic book on football hooligans entitled Hooligans Abroad).

Charges and convictions

On most occasions, individuals arrested in these raids were charged with conspiracy to cause affray or conspiracy to commit violence, with what they had said to the police and what the police had found in their homes being used as the primary evidence against them.

Many of the raids resulted in high-profile trials and convictions. (e.g. The eighteen-week trial of four Chelsea fans which cost over …2 million and resulted in sentences including one of ten years). But many also failed in sometimes dramatic circumstances, with the reliability of evidence being intensely disputed and the behaviour of undercover officers severely condemned2

Containment and escort

A common sight in the seventies (and for much of the eighties) was that of the police escorting visiting supporters from railway and coach stations to and from the ground. Fans were literally surrounded by police, some on horseback and others with police dogs. In contrast, the nineties has seen the use of the less confrontational tactic of posting officers at specified points en route to the ground.

This is, perhaps, more to do with the recent circumstances of away fans than with the police entirely changing their tactics. It has certainly been the case that travelling away support has dwindled, to the extent that the familiar en masse arrival of football fans at British Rail stations around the country on a Saturday lunchtime is, perhaps, a sight of the past.

Police criticism

The police, however, have still been heavily criticised in some quarters for an over-zealous  approach in dealing with travelling supporters 3 , such as conducting unnecessary searches of coaches for alcohol and even searching supporters' belongings in their absence, though in a recent fan survey, only 20.7% of supporters disagreed with the use of police escorts4, stressing their use as effective protection for away fans.

Inside the ground

The visiting (or 'away') fans were invariably herded into grounds via separate turnstiles and into areas where they were segregated from the home support. These isolationist operations were often eemphasised by a line of police officers separating the home and away fans in a sort of "no man's land" and by the high metal fences which surrounded these fan pens, an attempt to prevent fans from spilling onto the football pitch itself. 5

The police have also been commonly used at the turnstile. Traditionally, this has been a law-enforcement role, with the emphasis on preventing illegal entry into the ground, enforcing exclusion orders and searching supporters for weapons and other prohibited articles.

But they have also been used by clubs to enforce club policy and ground regulations, such as enforcing club bans and membership schemes  and deterring fraud by turnstile operators 6.  More recently, the role of the Steward has come to the fore at football grounds, which has partly relieved the responsibilities of the police in this area.

Police tactics at grounds

While the use of en masse containment alongside covert detective operations has been the basic pattern of policing football hooliganism, police tactics can vary considerably at individual football grounds, as indeed they do on other matters. Such tactics can depend on various factors including the prospective size of the crowd, the relative profile of the particular match, the reputation of the supporters involved and the priorities of the local force involved.7

The inconsistencies between different police forces in their approach to dealing with football supporters was highlighted in The Home Office Affairs Committee report, Policing Football Hooliganism (1991) which recognised that:

" . different police forces and, within police forces, the different police Commanders were inconsistent. A variety of witnesses complained of these inconsistencies. The FSA [Football Supporters Association] told us that 'acceptable behaviour at one ground could be an arrestable offence at another' . [and] different Ground Commanders had different approaches to policing the same ground".

The decline of the 'away' fan

In the Premier league in particular, demand for tickets has risen considerably while ground capacities have declined across the board due to the introduction of all-seater stadia. The expanding interest in football has also led to an increasing commercial interest in the game and, subsequently, an increase in corporate facilities to the detriment of the traditional fan. For example, 14,000 corporate guests were present at the England versus Scotland match during the Euro '96 championships8.

Thus, there is now less room for the away fans than ever before, with clubs obviously favouring their own home support above that of away fans. Six out of ten of the national sample of FA Premier League fans said that they would travel to more games if more tickets were made available to them.

It could be suggested that policing at football grounds has been made easier by the decline of away support. However, the past tendency of fans towards en masse  travelling when away from home has been replaced by a proclivity towards independent travel, which is, perhaps, more difficult to police. Group travel still occurs and the police regularly escort away fans in coaches, via specified rendezvous points. Indeed, the Traffic Commissioner has outlined specific guidelines to the police on dealing with the travel arrangements of fans, such as recommending that coaches should arrive at the ground no more than two hours before the designated kick-off time.

The Steward

The nineties has also seen a shift away from using police to control fans inside the ground, with clubs relying more and more on Stewards, employed by the clubs themselves. This is certainly the principal reason why the ratio of police to fans has declined from 1:74 in 1985 to 1:132 in 1992 10.  Indeed, Scarborough Football Club played most of their home games without a single police officer inside the ground. Other, more high-profile clubs, such as Aston Villa, Chelsea and Leicester City are increasingly relying on Stewards to police the stadium.

Police officers can only eject individuals from grounds if they are breaking the law, whereas Stewards can follow a particular club's agenda and eject people for breaking club and ground rules. The Home Office report on policing football (1993) recommends that the police leave the task of ejecting supporters to the Stewards. But the ability of Stewards to deal with disorder inside grounds has been severely questioned, not least by the Channel Four programme Dispatches in October 1994. There is also evidence suggesting the disposition of Stewards towards the home fans and

". on rare occasions stewards have provocatively celebrated home goals in front of the away fans and even attacked them" 11

Training of Stewards

There is no national standard for the training of Stewards in crowd control and spectator safety or, indeed, any legislative requirement that clubs should provide such training for Stewards. The Taylor Report12 highlighted the lack of training for Stewards and Garland and Rowe further suggest that Stewards do not have the traditional authority that the police possess.

"As crowd safety is increasingly handed over to football club Safety Officers, these [Police] skills will need to be passed on to avert future tragedies . where the responsibility for public safety is handed over to Stewards, the police should ensure that adequate training and briefing has taken place."

Closed-circuit Television (CCTV) and hand-held cameras

CCTV was introduced into football grounds around the middle of the 1980s and is now present in almost every Premier and football league ground. The effectiveness of such camera surveillance has also been improved by the introduction of all-seater stadia across the country. 13 Certainly, the results of fan surveys suggest that the introduction of CCTV is, for the most part, welcomed by supporters. Indeed, the Home Office report (1993) states that

".football supporters are probably more accustomed to being subjected to camera surveillance than most other groups in society."

Another technological feature of police tactics at football grounds is the use of hand-held video cameras, with police filming supporters, primarily in a bid to deter violence, gather intelligence and monitor the efficacy of crowd control.

The Photophone

A further technological advance was the 'photophone' system that allowed the police to exchange photographs of football hooligans from CCTV and other sources via telephone and computer links, allowing vital information to be readily available to the police on matchdays.

The Hoolivan

Advances in technology have also aided the police in both overt and covert surveillance operations. The Hoolivan was launched at the beginning of the season that followed the plethora of incidents in the spring of 1985.  This hi-tech item of machinery enabled police to maintain radio contact with all officers inside and outside the ground and to be linked with the CCTV cameras in and around the stadium.

The Hoolivan tended to be used at high-profile matches or when the police were concerned about a particular set of supporters. During Euro '96, Greater Manchester police used a Hoolivan known as the 'skyhawk', which contained nine hydraulic cameras, each of which could be raised up to thirty feet in height.

1985: Bradford & Heysel

The events of the spring of 1985 proved to be a watershed, both for the image of English soccer as well as for governmental and police responses to football violence. At Bradford, 56 people were killed by a fire in the ground. Serious disorder occurred at the grounds of Birmingham City, Chelsea and Luton Town and, most significantly, Liverpool fans were seriously implicated in the deaths of 39 Italian fans prior to the European Cup Final between Liverpool and Juventus at The Heysel Stadium in Brussels.

The Football Spectators Act (1989)

The Bradford fire and the subsequent report by Justice Popplewell in 1986 raised awareness of the vital issue of spectator safety at football grounds and, in particular, re-introduced the issue of identity cards for football fans. (Though in his final report, he recommended that membership schemes should not be made compulsory.) But it was not until four years later, in 1989, that the government responded to the disorderly incidents of 1985 with the introduction of the Football Spectators Act.

The Football Licensing Authority

The Football Licensing Authority (FLA) was also established under the Football Spectators Act and it is responsible for awarding licences to premises that admit spectators to watch football matches. Though receiving its funding from central government, it retains an independent function and has considerable powers. Not least, it has the capacity to close a stadium.

Identity card and membership schemes

The main proposals of the Act concerned the introduction of compulsory identity cards for spectators at every league, cup and international match played in England and Wales. Throughout the sixties and seventies, various clubs had experimented with their own membership schemes in an attempt to prevent 'unwanted' fans from entering their grounds.

The government and, in particular, the Prime Minister of the time, Margaret Thatcher, strenuously backed the use of identity cards and reciprocal membership schemes as the most effective way of enforcing exclusion orders at football grounds.

Indeed, even before the Football Spectators Act (1989) had been finalised, the Football League had agreed with the government to introduce membership schemes at all clubs, though clubs were slow to implement the recommendations, with only thirteen League clubs (out of ninety two) actually satisfying government requirements by the initial deadline date of August 198716. A survey of police views on membership schemes revealed that 40% did not favour them.  In the event, legislation imposing compulsory identity cards was shelved in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster, when Justice Taylor condemned such schemes in his final report.

The Taylor report

On the 15th April 1989, ninety-five Liverpool fans were crushed to death on the terraces at the Hillsborough Stadium during the F.A. Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. The subsequent report by Lord Justice Taylor was the ninth such inquiry into crowd safety and control at football matches in the United Kingdom.

Prior to the Hillsborough disaster, the techniques used in crowd control had become virtually synonymous with the control of football hooliganism, with the segregation of supporters, high perimeter fencing and a high-profile presence being among the primary tactics of the police and the clubs.

The interim report

The interim report from Lord Taylor was published relatively swiftly after the tragedy, in August 1989. It contained forty-three separate recommendations which were designed to be immediately implemented by all football league clubs (N. B. the Premier League had yet to be formed) by the beginning of the forthcoming season, 1989/90.

The principal recommendations of the interim report were:

    A review of the terrace capacities in all grounds, with an immediate 15% reduction in ground capacities

    Restrictions on the capacities of self-contained supporter pens

    The opening of perimeter fence gates

    A review of the Safety Certificates held by all Football League grounds

    The creation of locally-based, multi-agency groups to advise on ground safety

    Constant monitoring of crowd density by the police and Stewards

The final report

The final report was published in January 1990 and included praise from Lord Taylor regarding the response of clubs to the recommendations contained within the Interim report. The report emphasised the lack of communication between the fans and the football authorities, criticising, in particular, the lack of facilities for supporters at football grounds and the poor condition of football grounds. In total, the final report contained seventy-six recommendations, of which the main ones were:

    The conversion of all football league grounds to all-seater stadia by the end of the millennium

    The removal of spikes from perimeter fencing, which should be no more than 2.2 metres in height

    Ticket-touting to become a criminal offence

    The introduction of new laws to deal with offences inside football stadia, including racial abuse

All-seater stadia

The insistence of the report that football grounds become all-seater placed an unprecedented financial burden on even the richest football clubs in the football League. There were certainly severe critics of such a recommendation and censures were not only made on purely financial grounds. Simon Inglis18 argued that terraced grounds exist throughout the world and do not cause problems and that tragedies such as Hillsborough are more judiciously explained by an examination of the behaviour and control of spectators. In a survey of members of the Football Supporters' Association19 the majority of those surveyed were opposed to all-seater grounds. Lord Taylor admitted in the report that:

"There is no panacea which will achieve total safety and cure all problems of behaviour and crowd control. But I am satisfied that seating does more to achieve those objectives than any other measure."20

In March 1990, the government announced a cut in the rate of tax levied on the Football Pools, which meant that approximately …100 million (over a five-year period) would now be allocated towards ground redevelopment. In addition, the Football Trust announced (in October of the same year) that it would distribute …40 million over the same period and by the following January, the Trust had already allocated approximately …7 million towards various ground improvement projects. Pronouncements by both UEFA and FIFA at this time also indicated their unreserved support for all-seater stadia, with both organisations declaring their intention that all major football matches under their auspices would be played at all-seater grounds.

European cooperation

It is really only after 1985 (after the Heysel Stadium tragedy) that a concerted effort has been made to establish cross-border cooperation in Europe between both police forces and football authorities to combat football hooliganism.

The impact of the Heysel Stadium tragedy (where 39 Italian supporters were killed at the European Cup Final between Juventus and Liverpool) was such that three major European bodies addressed the issue of football violence. Firstly, the Council of Europe adopted the European Convention on Spectator Violence and misbehaviour at Sports Events, which proposed that measures should be taken to prevent and punish violent behaviour in sport. Secondly, the European Council called on all member countries to deal with violence in and around sports stadia and, finally, The European Parliament proposed a number of different measures to combat football hooliganism.

As recently as April 22nd 1996, the European Union issued guidelines on dealing with football hooliganism, many of which adopted United Kingdom proposals.  These guidelines include using the EPI-centre system (secure E-mail) to enable the swift exchange of police intelligence information, the seizure of racist material intended for distribution abroad and the training of club stewards in crowd safety and control techniques. It was also proposed that police forces participate in member states' relevant training courses to aid the exchange of information about the techniques that can be used to prevent hooliganism.

The Claudia Roth report and The European Parliament

While Europe has been quick to adopt many strategies on hooliganism formulated in the United Kingdom, the European Parliament remain especially concerned about restrictions placed on the free movement of football supporters. The Parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties and Internal Affairs commissioned a report on football hooliganism, which was drafted by the MEP, Claudia Roth and adopted by the European Parliament.

The report contained some criticism of police databases and the new information exchange networks, stressing that such networks had led to the arrest and expulsion of innocent people. In the United Kingdom, this was certainly viewed as an attack on the work of the National Criminal Intelligence Service Football Unit, in particular. Any information thus exchanged between member states

". must be carried out in compliance with the criteria laid down by the Council of Europe for the protection of data of a personal nature"

The report, however, supported  the British Home Secretary's demands for increased cooperation between member states regarding the control of cross-border hooliganism. But it further stressed that nationality alone cannot be a basis on which to prevent access to sports stadia and that

". only after a supporter has been convicted of an offence either of violence or an offence connected with football, can he/she legitimately be prevented from attending matches at home or abroad"

The report concludes by refuting the argument that restrictions imposed on the freedom of movement of football supporters is either a viable or a suitable means of controlling football hooliganism.

Police and technology:
Euro '96

The recent European Championships held in England in June, highlighted both the expanding level of cooperation between European police forces since Heysel and the increased sophistication of safety and security techniques that have developed to deal with the football hooligan.

National Crime Intelligence Service Football Unit

The security campaign for Euro '96 was organised by the National Crime Intelligence Service Football Unit. The NCIS Football Unit became fully operational in 1990 and consists of six full-time police officers led by a superintendent. By 1992, over six thousand names and photographs of individuals were held on computer files. Indeed, the information gathered by the Football Unit formed the basis of much of the evidence presented in the Home Affairs Committee reports (1990 and 1991).

The head of the Football Unit (Assistant Chief Constable Malcolm George seconded from the Greater Manchester police) was also in overall control of the police operation for Euro '96.  The Football Unit worked in conjunction with an ACPO (Association of Chief police Officers) steering group and a multi-agency working party. Pre-tournament estimates suggested over 10,000 police Officers from nearly a dozen different police forces were involved in policing Euro '96, at a cost of approximately …25 million. The Football Trust provided 75% of the funding required to update police technology for the tournament.

Police National Coordinating Centre

A police coordination centre was based at Scotland Yard in London for the duration of the competition and included police representatives from each of the sixteen countries taking part. In addition to this, a police Liaison Officer travelled with each team and with each national football association throughout their stay in the competition. In addition, four principal sub-groups were in operation throughout the competition.

Match Commander Group

The Match Commander Group comprised the head of policing at each of the eight Euro '96 venues. The purpose of this group was to engender "a common police philosophy" between the different police Commanders.

Senior Investigating Officers Group

Teams of police officers were also assigned to deal with other crimes as well as football hooliganism. The Senior Investigating Officers Group was instigated to enable information to be exchanged on outbreaks of crimes such as shop-theft and pick-pocketing.

IT Group

The Information Technology Group was responsible for maintaining the various computer links between the National Coordinating Centre and the Match Commanders at the eight venues. Essentially, all the police forces in the United Kingdom were included in the computer link-up, enabling the movement of fans between venues to be monitored at all times through the exchange of information between the forces.

Press and Media Group

The task of the Press and Media Group was to avoid sensationalist reporting of any hooligan incidents by encouraging openness between the various police forces and the media. A more salient initiative of the group included issuing detailed advice packs to visiting supporters in four different languages.

EPI-Centre system and Photophone

Each of the eight venues in Euro '96 housed a police Command Centre, complete with Intelligence coordinator. Intelligence could be passed between each of these centres via the EPI-Centre system. The EPI-centre system is an electronic mail system developed by the Home Office Scientific Development Branch that enables large amounts of data to be transferred electronically at speed, and in a secure fashion. Ten 'photophones' were also provided. One for each of the Euro '96 venues and one each for the coordination centre at New Scotland Yard and The British Transport police.

Hooligan Hotline

A 'hooligan hotline' number was also established 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.

An identical scheme was launched in 1990 before the World Cup Finals (even though these were taking place outside the United Kingdom, in Italy) in an attempt to deter disorder by English fans and, again, a purely domestic hotline was established at the beginning of the 1992/93 domestic season in August 1992. Two Premiership clubs (Manchester United and Leeds United) also have telephone hotlines for people to ring in with information on hooligans.


The 'Spotter' system was also in operation at each venue. This is a system which is used throughout the season in the English Premier and Football Leagues, where 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.

During Euro '96, this system was a primary example of cooperation between police from different European countries, with officers from each of the visiting countries providing spotters to work alongside the home country officers at the relevant stadia. (At a previous European championship in Germany in 1988, the British police sent spotters to aid their German counterparts in the detection of English hooligans).

The European Fan projects

While the United Kingdom has certainly taken the lead in the development of highly sophisticated techniques to prevent and monitor football hooligans, an enlightening movement from Europe has been the evolution of the 'Fan projects'.


Germany were the first to introduce the fan projects, which began in Bremen in 1981, though detached youth workers in Munich had previously worked with football fans back in 1970. The projects were an attempt to take preventative measures against football hooliganism by detailing  youth or social workers to work among football supporters.

The project workers established a link between football supporters and the football and police authorities, creating lines of communication that had previously not existed. Critics suggested that the project workers were simply informers working at the behest of the authorities, discovering information about hooligans and what plans they might have for particular matches.

The primary function of the fan projects is to turn supporters away from hooliganism  "by means of concrete street-work activities . to help the adolescent fan find his personal identity and to show various possibilities of coping with life".

Löffelholz, Homann and Schwart22 detail a complex network of activities undertaken by the fan workers (alternatively known as "fan coaches"), including individual guidance to fans, intervention in critical situations (e.g. when arrested), educational and careers advice and recreational activities, such as organising travel to matches and producing fan magazines.

There are currently over twenty five fan projects in Germany. Each individual fan project is based around a particular club, from the highest echelons of the Bundesliga, through to the German Second Division and even the amateur football leagues, which attract a extremely high following in Germany.

Funding is mainly drawn from the individual clubs, who themselves obtain funds from a pool organised and funded by Deutscher Fussball Bund (the German equivalent of the Football Association). Finance is also available to projects from the local authorities and from 'social sponsorship' (as opposed to commercial sponsorship).

Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft der Fan-Projekte and Koodinationstelle Fanprojekte

The Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft der Fan-Projekte (Federal Study Group of Fan Projects) was formed in May 1989 and represents the fan projects on a national and international level. The group were responsible for fan project activities at the World Cup in Italy in 1990 and in the European championship finals in Sweden. The organisation of the projects was further cemented by the formation of the Koodinationstelle Fanprojekte (Federal Department Coordinating Fan-Projects) in August 1993, who coordinate the expanding network of projects and their various initiatives throughout Germany.

Euro '96

Eight representatives from the Koodinationstelle Fanprojekte were at the recent Euro '96 championships and were available at the Football Supporters' Association fan embassy in Manchester where the German team was based for the majority of the tournament. The German Euro '96 project printed eight thousand fan guides which provided a variety of information including arrangements for accommodation, entertainment and ticket allocations. The project workers were a vital link between the Euro '96 organisers and German fans, as well as between Deutscher Fussball Bund and the supporters.

The Netherlands

Similar (if not identical) fan projects are also functioning in The Netherlands. Learning from the German model, the Dutch fan projects began in 1986 following  government-sponsored research on football hooliganism that indicated a need for a preventative approach to the problem.

Initially, the projects were financed by a three-year government grant, which was extended for a further five years to 1994. Since then, the financing for the projects has come under the auspices of individual clubs and city councils, who are responsible for the payment of the youth workers. Funding is also available from Koninklijke Nederlandsche Voetbalbond (the  national football association), particularly for the projects organised around international matches and tournaments. (e.g. Koninklijke Nederlandsche Voetralbond funded project workers at Euro '96, who spent two weeks in England prior to the tournament on a reconnaissance mission on behalf of the KNAVE).  

The emphasis within the Dutch fan projects is very much on a multi-agency approach, with project coordinators constantly liaising with the police, Football Clubs, local authorities and the various supporters' organisations. At present there are eight major projects in existence and, like the German model, they are based around particular football clubs such as Ajax, Feyenoord, PSV Eindhoven and Utrecht.

As in Germany, the project workers (commonly known as fan coaches) attempt a similar sociopedagogical guidance to fans, helping them to obtain employment or places on educational courses. They also provide purely pragmatic advice, such as details of travel and ticket arrangements for games. However, the project workers also admit to relaying information to the police on the strategy of hooligans for particular matches.   


The Belgian fan projects officially began only three years ago in 1993, although some fan coaches have been sporadically working with football supporters since 1989. As with the German and Dutch examples, the Belgian project workers are  qualified social and youth workers. François Goffe, one of the coordinators of the Belgian fan coaches commented:

"Our fan coaches are certainly not to be compared with the stewards prevalent in the English game. We work purely as social workers and we work with the fans every day of the week, not just on the day of a particular football match" (fieldwork interview).

In contrast to the German and Dutch models, however, the Belgian projects receive no financial help from Union Royale Belge des Sociétés de FA (the Belgian Football Association) or any of the football clubs. Neither do they receive monetary assistance from local authorities. Instead, financial assistance is obtained from central government funds only.

Eight fan coaching projects are currently in existence in Belgium and they liaise closely with the football clubs, police and the Union Royale Belge des Sociétés de FA on various matters, including security arrangements and ticket allocation. Because they do not receive any financial backing from these organisations, they remain independent and are often openly critical of individual clubs, the police and the football authorities.


A number of other countries are following the lead from Belgium, Germany and The Netherlands by introducing similar fan projects or fan coaching. These include Switzerland and Sweden, where the Project Battre Lakter Kulture ('Project for a better culture') work alongside the Swedish Football Association in running a variety of anti-hooligan initiatives. As with German and Dutch models, the Swedish fan projects are based at football league clubs such as AIK Stockholm and Hammerbee FC.

New directions in tackling football hooliganism

This brief overview of approaches to tackling football violence reveals a distinct gulf between that of the British philosophy and the line taken in other European countries. While the German, Belgian and Dutch authorities, in particular, have engaged in proactive initiatives to reduce the problems, the British continue, in the main, to employ purely reactive strategies involving more intensive policing of football fans, sophisticated surveillance and intelligence measures and new legislation.

This reactive approach is also the line taken to some extent by the Italian authorities, and the police presence at certain games in their country can be intimidating in the extreme, with water cannon, tear gas and automatic weapons often in evidence. The recent Decreto Maroni, 1994, which followed the fatal stabbing of a Genoa fan, also introduced further restictions on the movement of football fans and controls on their behaviour in the stadiums:

"The chief constable (questore) of the province in which the sporting events take place, can forbid people, who have been reported to the police for or convicted of taking part in violent incidents during or because of sporting events, or to people who in the same event have encouraged violence in such with symbols or posters/banners, access to places where sporting events are taking places, and can oblige the same people to report to the police during the days and hours in which the sporting events are taking place … The person who infringes the above regulations will be punished with a minimum jail sentence of three months and a maximum of eighteen months. People who have ignored a caution can be arrested in flagrante."

While the British and the Italian authorities favour the increased use of penal approaches, the trend must be towards tackling football violence at its roots. Despite the clear limitations of the fan coaching schemes being developed in the European mainland, they do provide a basis for a more satisfactory treatment of the problems than has existed since the late 1960s in Britain and from the early 1980s in many other countries. The German football clubs have also been much more willing to support and assist such schemes than their English and Scottish counterparts.

While a few British clubs (e.g. Watford, Oxford United, Millwall etc.) have introduced schemes to enable closer contact between fans and club officials, the large majority seem quite unwilling to take responsibility for the behaviour of their fans. Even those who have received government grants under the 'Football in the Community' scheme have largely instituted fairly token football coaching and school visit programmes.

While football hooliganism appears to be on the decline, at least in the UK, the problems that remain are unlikely to be eradicated simply through additional - and in some people's view, oppressive - controls on the movement of fans, curbs on the availability of alcohol or similarly simplistic 'solutions' to a complex phenomenon.

In line with the views of many researchers in this area, and with the opinions of representatives of formal and informal fans' groups throughout Europe, we see a continuing need for stronger involvement of the football clubs themselves in helping to re-direct and curb the occasionally disruptive and violent behaviour of a small minority of their fans. This might best be achieved through the increased establishment of local fans' forums, through which supporters and club Directors would have a much stronger channel of communication. These, allied to the fan coaching schemes run by local authorities, might succeed in changing fan behaviour on the simple presumption that they are less likely to damage the reputation of a club in which they feel they have a genuine involvement.


8. When Saturday Comes, August 1996

10. Home Office, 1993

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