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

Theoretical and research perspectives

Research on football violence has been a growth industry since the late 1960s in Britain, and academics in other European countries have steadily been catching up since the mid 1980s. To many observers, ourselves included, the subject is now probably over-researched and little in the way of new, original insights have been forthcoming in the past decade.

This 'overpopulation' of social scientists in a relatively small research niche is undoubtedly responsible for the distinctly unfriendly nature of much of the continuing debate. The various schools of thought often divide into openly hostile factions and the level of vitriolic discussion in the literature and at conferences is reminiscent of the ritual aggression which once characterised the earliest forms of football itself. Even some of the groups, such as the 'Leicester School', have now fallen out amongst themselves and those who were once co-authors of major studies are now openly critical of each other.

Amid all of this bad-tempered discourse, however, are a number of quite clearly delineated theoretical perspectives which, in reality, can easily be accommodated in a broader framework for understanding the causes and patterns of contemporary football hooliganism in Europe. While some of the perspectives may be lacking in specific applicability, or even in basic evidence, most are loosely compatible with each other, despite strenuous attempts by their authors to deny the salience of rival explanations.

The easiest way of charting a path through the literature is to take an historical route, beginning in the late 1960s when football hooliganism became, quite suddenly, a cause for major concern in Britain 1. It should be noted, however, that many of the early studies in this area saw hooliganism not as a novel phenomenon at all but simply a continuation of patterns of youth behaviour which had previously been the preserve of such visible groups as Teddy Boys, Mods and Rockers and Skinheads. For others, football hooliganism was largely a fiction generated by hysterical journalists - it was the agenda of the media, rather than the behaviour of football fans, which required an explanation.

We will be concerned in most of this section with British theoretical and research perspectives. This is not due to simple chauvinism on our part but to the fact that the vast bulk of the literature has been generated by British authors. Even research elsewhere in Europe has tended to draw on work in this country for its theoretical and, in some cases, methodological direction. Increasingly, however, nationally distinctive approaches to the subject are developing, particularly in Italy, Holland and Germany. These are considered towards the end of this section. More detailed consideration to patterns of football violence in other European countries is given in Section 4.

Harrington report

Among the earliest publications concerning 'modern' football violence was that by the British psychiatrist, John Harrington (1968) and is generally recognised as the first serious attempt to probe what was then a new social phenomenon. His report was based on questionnaire data and from direct observation at football matches, with additional evidence being obtained from interested groups including the police, the St. John Ambulance Brigade and transport operators. In addition, a sample of public opinion was obtained through the unlikely medium of the Sun newspaper - a poll that indicated that 90% of respondents thought that football hooliganism was increasing and constituted a 'serious' problem. This stood in distinct contrast to the views of the police authorities. Almost 50% of these reported no increase in football-related violence and two indicated a decrease.

The emphasis in the Harrington report was principally on individual pathology and reactions to the immediate stimuli provided by the setting in which fans were placed. Terms such as 'immaturity' and 'loss of control' were frequently used, with little attention paid to wider social forces of group dynamics. Harrington justified his position by saying:

"Whilst the significance of these deeper and more remote influences on hooliganism should not be ignored, we feel the importance of immediate 'here and now' factors both individual, social and connected with the game must be considered." 2

It was, of course, expedient - as somewhat cynical sociologists were quick to point out - to put the blame on a small number of individuals rather than on social or political forces, since Harrington's report was commissioned by the then Minister of Sport, Denis Howell. Ian Taylor was quick to highlight the report's shortcomings:

" … the content of the report, while interesting, is not as important as the social function it performed. Simply to employ a psychiatrist for a national government report is to legitimate the idea in the popular mind that 'hooliganism' is explicable in terms of the existence of essentially unstable and abnormal temperament, individuals who happen, for some inexplicable reason to have taken soccer as the arena in which to act out their instabilities. The psychological label adds credibility and strength to the idea that the hooligans are not really true supporters, that they may legitimately be segregated from the true supporter (who does not intervene), and that they can be dealt with by the full force of the law and (on occasions) by psychiatrists." 3

Further rejection of Harrington's report was made in a joint report by the Sports Council and the government funded Social Science Research Council. This criticised both the lack of explanatory theory and the ad hoc sampling procedures used in the main study.

The failings of the Harrington report were such that it is now rarely mentioned in the text books and the British government quickly commissioned a further, more wide-ranging report in the following year.

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 - no psychiatrists, sociologists or academics at all. 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. Wider social issues were not considered and even journeys to and from football grounds were excluded from the terms of reference.

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

1 Maximum cooperation 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."

These same, somewhat anodyne, conclusions presaged the conclusions of numerous other reports which have stemmed from quasi-governmental investigations in the intervening 27 years. What was remarkable about the Lang report was that it was the first to seek solutions to a problem which, at that time, had not been clearly defined - even less understood. There were no data to indicate the scale of the problem and even basic statistics concerning arrests and injuries were absent from the report. No distinction was made between criminal behaviour and simple misbehaviour and many people commented on examples of received opinion being reworked to give the appearance of hard facts. We find, for example, the statement: "There can be no doubt that the consumption of alcohol is an important factor in crowd misbehaviour" without  any evidence being presented concerning the frequency or extent of drinking behaviour among football fans.

Ian Taylor

The critics of both the Harrington and Lang Reports were themselves developing alternative theoretical perspectives on football hooliganism, with Ian Taylor being among the first to publish sociological analyses. From a Marxist standpoint he argued that the emergence of football hooliganism reflected the changing nature of the sport itself and, in particular, the changing role of the local club as a working class, neighbourhood institution. As professional football became increasingly organised after the Second World War, the role of the local club became less part of the community and more a commercial sports arena aimed at paying spectators.

This process of embourgeoisement of football, Taylor argued 4, was part of a more general 'collapse' of the traditional working-class weekend, which previously incorporated traditional leisure pursuits developed in the latter part of the nineteenth century. These included not only football but brass bands, whippet racing and even archery. The violence on the terraces, therefore, could be seen as an attempt by disaffected working class adolescents to re-establish the traditional weekend, with its distinctly manly, tribal features.

Throughout Taylor's writings in the early 1970s there is great emphasis on erosion of democracy in football clubs. Not only were clubs now increasingly run by wealthy business men, the increase in players' wages, and their promotion to the status of superstars, made them remote from the local communities which supported their teams. This sense of alienation experienced by fans was further exacerbated, according to Taylor, by a more general alienation of fractions of the working class which resulted from changes in the labour market and the decomposition of many working class communities. Violence erupted at football matches, therefore, partly because of the decline of working class traditional values and, specifically, as an attempt to retrieve control over the game from a nouveau riche elite.

Taylor's analysis of the phenomenon was, and still remains, rather speculative. There is certainly evidence from 1980 onwards to show that a significant number of those involved in violence at football matches do not come from stereotyped working class backgrounds but from the recently expanding middle class sectors. The implied underlying motivation of football hooliganism has also been absent from the accounts of football fans themselves, few seeing themselves as part of a proletarian vanguard seeking to erase the inequalities so evident in their national sport. But Taylor's historical perspective, and his emphasis on the need to consider the impact of dramatic changes in the ordinary lives of working class adolescents, provides a reasonable context for the more narrowly focused approaches which were to follow. His concern with the 'democratisation' of football also continues to be relevant in discussions about how the problems of football violence can be reduced and, in particular, the role that clubs themselves can play in fostering a more responsible and orderly following. Taylor himself, however, is pessimistic about the impact that such arguments may have:

"Calls for the 'democratisation' of football clubs … have not met with an active response from professional football clubs as a whole, despite token schemes for participation of youngsters in club training and related activities. Professional football is part of the local economy and, perhaps more importantly, local civic power: and is no easier a target for real democratisation than the political economy and structure of power at the level of the state itself." 5

Sub-culture theories

Approaches to understanding football fan behaviour in terms of sub-cultural styles was promoted principally by sociologists at the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at Birmingham University. John Clarke and Stuart Hall 6, in particular, argued that specific sub-cultural styles enabled young working class people, and males in particular, to resolve essential conflicts in their lives - specifically those of subordination to adults and the subordination implicit in being a member of the working class itself. Post-war sub-cultures, such as those of the Teddy Boys, Mods and Rockers, Skinheads and, in more recent years, Glamrock, Punk, House etc., have all been examples of these symbolic attempts to resolve structural and material problems.

For Clarke et al, the style of the Skinheads - among the earliest exponents of football hooliganism in Britain - reflected almost a parody of working-class traditions, with its emphasis on workmen's jeans and boots and on self-reliance, toughness and racism. It was, according to Clarke, an attempt at the 'magical recovery of community' through adherence to a highly symbolic style and pattern of behaviour - which included violence. Other sub-cultures, such as the Mods, adopted a very different style as a means of resolving their collective social identity - the carefully manicured and smart appearance associated with upward mobility and escape from the working class values so explicitly championed by the Skinheads.

There is little in Clarke's work at this level, however, to enable us to understand why some individuals choose one particular 'solution' rather than another. To account for the Skinheads, and subsequently for football hooligans, he was forced to include a socio-political analysis not dissimilar to that presented by Ian Taylor, with emphasis on working class alienation from an increasingly commercial game. For Clarke, however, while new generations of working class youth had inherited the traditional ties to football, and the pattern of 'supportership' characteristic of a previous generation, they had failed to inherit the tacit social controls which went with that behaviour. Violence became their way of doing what their fathers had done - demonstrating loyalty and commitment to their local team and all it stood for. The problems arose from inter-generational changes reflecting much wider shifts in the class structure of British and, in particular, English society.

As football increasingly became a focus for sub-culture style and activity, the patterns of behaviour on the terraces came to mirror, in many ways, aspects of the game itself:

"Their own collective organisation and activities have created a form of analogy with the match itself. But in their case, it becomes a contest which takes place not on the fields but on the terraces. They have created a parallel between the physical challenge and combat on the field in their own forms of challenge and combat between the opposing ends. Thus, while the points are being won or lost on the field, territory is won or lost on the terraces. The 'ends' away record (how good it is at taking territory where the home supporters usually stand) is as important, if not more, than their team's away record. Similarly the chants, slogans and songs demonstrate support for the team and involve an effort to intervene in the game itself, by lifting and encouraging their team, and putting off the opposition … The violence between the sets of fans is part of this participation in the game - part of the extension of the game on the field to include the terraces too." 7

This emphasis by Clarke on the close relationship between football fans and their teams was important. There were many commentators at the time who claimed that violence at football games was caused principally by 'infiltrators' - by young men who were not true supporters at all but who were simply using the football grounds as a convenient arena for their aggressive lifestyles. Clarke's attention to some of the details of football fan behaviour and talk also represented a significant step forward from the more speculative theorising of Ian Taylor. In this sense he provided a stepping stone between broad sociological perspectives more fine-grained analyses, conducted by, among others, Peter Marsh and what became know as the "Oxford School" or "Ethogenic Approach".

Media Amplification

The treatment of football hooliganism in the media became a subject of enquiry in mid 1970s, following the work by Stan Cohen (1972) and others on the 'distortion' of the behaviour of the Mods and Rockers and other youth groups. Stuart Hall and his colleagues noted that despite all of the press coverage given to football hooliganism, relatively few people in Britain had any direct experience of the phenomenon. The media, therefore, rather than factual evidence, directly guided public concern about football hooliganism. It constructed impressions of 'thuggery', 'riots' and 'chaos', provided definitions of why such acts constituted a major social problem and provided 'quasi-explanations' of the patterns of behaviour. Much of the public debate about hooliganism was conducted in the absence of any other perspective or source of evidence.

Hall was at pains to stress that he did not see the press as causing football hooliganism in any direct sense: However:

"I do think that there is a major problem about the way the press has selected, presented and defined football hooliganism over the years … I don't think that the problem of hooliganism would all go away if only the press would keep its collective mouth shut or look the other way. I do however … believe that the phenomenon know as 'football hooliganism' is not the simple 'SAVAGES! ANIMALS!" story that has substantially been presented by the press." 8

Hall went on to argue that not only was press reporting of this kind a problem in its own right, it also had the effect of increasing the problem it set out to remedy, principally by suppressing the true nature of the problem. In line with deviancy amplification theory, he argued that distortions of this kind, in generating inappropriate societal reactions to, initially, quite minor forms of deviance, effectively increase the scale of the problem.  Reactions by fans to the increased controls upon their behaviour, such as caging and segregation, often produced scenes far worse than those prior to such attempts at control. Fans also started to act out some of the things that the press had accused them of doing. Manchester United fans, for example, used the chant "We are the famous hooligans, read all about us!" on entry into towns where away games were to be played. Other fans complained that since they had been treated as animals they may as well act like them, and bloody violence was often the result.

The 'moral panics' generated by the media are discussed more fully later. We should note here, however, that almost all research and theoretical approaches to football hooliganism have been obliged to take note of the very significant impact of media reporting and its clear effect on patterns of behaviour on the terraces.

Ethogenic approach

In contrast to sociological theories, with their heavy emphasis on class and macro political changes, Peter Marsh's work focused much more directly on observed behaviour and on the accounts provided by fans themselves. The theoretical background to the work stemmed from Harré and Secord 9  and the rather grandly labeled Ethogenic approach or 'New Paradigm' in social psychology. This approach, for all its philosophical 'window dressing' was, in essence, very simple. Instead of conducting laboratory experiments and treating people as 'subjects' of empirical enquiry to understand their behaviour, one should simply ask them. Thus, for three years, Marsh spent his time at football matches, on trains and buses full of football fans travelling to away games and in the pubs and other arenas where supporters spent the remainder of their leisure time. While there were some concessions to empirical methodology in the research, the principal aim was firstly to obtain an 'insiders' view of football hooliganism and secondly to use this to establish an explanatory model.

On the basis of this work, Marsh concluded that much of what passed for violent mayhem was, in fact, highly ritualised behaviour which was far less injurious, in physical terms, than it might seem. He suggested that the apparent disorder was, in fact, highly orderly, and social action on the terraces was guided and constrained by tacit social rules. These enabled the display of 'manly' virtues but, through ritualising aggression, enabled the 'game' to be played in relative safety. Being a 'football hooligan' enabled young males, with little prospects of success in school or work, to achieve a sense of personal worth and identity through recognition from their peers. The football terraces provided, in his terms, for an alternative career structure - one in which success and promotion were attainable. While violence, in the sense of causing physical injury, was part of the route to success, it was an infrequent activity. There was far more talk about violence than actual fighting. 10

Marsh was accused of saying that football hooliganism was harmless and of 'whitewashing' the unacceptable behaviour of football fans. This, in turn, provoked widespread outrage in the media and even in some academic circles. The empirical evidence, however, clearly indicated that the scale of football violence in the 1970s had been seriously over-estimated. Relying on statistics from police forces, health workers and official government reports, together with direct observation at football grounds, Marsh claimed that there was about as much violence at football games as one would expect, given the characteristics of the population who attended matches. If there was no violence, he argued, that would be truly remarkable - so much so that it would motivate dozens of research projects to explain this oasis of passivity in an otherwise moderately violent society.

The methodology employed in Marsh's study has been, with some justification, criticised by more traditional social psychologists. The lack of overt concern with such issues as social class has also been the subject of negative review by many sociologists, especially Williams et al. Marsh was also obliged to revise some of his conclusions in the light of more lethal football violence which occurred in the 1980s. He continues to argue, however, that football hooliganism shifted, in part, from a ritual to a more dangerous pattern of behaviour principally because of the inappropriate measures which were introduced to combat the problem and because of the extensive media distortion of true events at football matches.

The Leicester School

The work of Taylor, Clarke, Hall, Marsh etc. constituted in the late 1970s what John Williams and his colleagues at Leicester University have called an 'orthodoxy' of approaches to football hooliganism. While these perspectives differed considerably from each other, they were the ones which were most frequently referred to in debates on fan behaviour. The 'Leicester School' sought to change this state of affairs by introducing what they claimed was a more powerful explanation of hooliganism based on the sociology of Norbert Elias and his emphasis on the 'civilization process'.

This approach, most usually referred to as 'figurational' sociology,  is difficult to summarise briefly. One of its major assumptions, however, is that throughout recent history public expectations of a more 'civilised' world, and more civilised behaviour, have gradually 'percolated' through the social classes in Europe. Such values, however, have not fully penetrated areas of the lower working class - what Dunning and his colleagues refer to as the 'rough' working class.11 Social behaviour in this section of society is largely mediated by sub-cultural values of masculinity and aggression. In order to account for contemporary football violence, therefore, we need to pay attention to the structural aspects of this section of society and the traditional relationship between members of this strata and the game itself.

"A useful way of expressing it would be to say that such sections of lower-working-class communities are characterised by a 'positive feedback cycle' which tends to encourage the resort to aggression in many areas of social life, especially on the part of males … In fact, along with gambling, street 'smartness', an exploitative form of sex and heavy drinking - the capacity to consume alcohol in large quantities is another highly valued attribute among males from the 'rougher' sections of the working class - fighting is one of the few sources of excitement, meaning and status available to males from this section of society and accorded a degree of social toleration. That is because they are typically denied status, meaning and gratification in the educational and occupational spheres, the major sources of identity, meaning and status available to men from the middle classes." 12

The approach of the Leicester School, with its emphasis on the dynamics of the lower working class, has much in common with the perspectives taken by Taylor and Clarke. The issue of sources of meaning and identity among working class youth had also been treated explicitly by Marsh. In the work of Dunning et al there were, however, some subtle differences. On the issue of class the focus was not on the relative deprivations of the lower working class, with violence being a consequence of alienation and embitterment, but on specific subcultural properties which provide a legitimation of violent behaviour.

The extent to which such differences of emphasis constituted a radically new approach, however, is the subject of some doubt. Perhaps, for this reason, and in order to more fully assert its own identity, the Leicester School has been renowned for the amount of time and effort that it has devoted to criticising the work of other social scientists in the field. It is difficult to find a single author outside of this group who has escaped their wrath at one time or another.

Setting aside the internecine squabble in this area of academia, the Leicester group, with substantial funding from the Football Trust, has conducted the bulk of field research on British football fans in recent years, both in the UK and abroad, and is largely responsible for bringing together research workers in other European countries. This voluminous output has resulted in more being known about the behaviour of British football hooligans than any other 'deviant' group in history.

The implications and utility of all of this research, however, are unclear. The applicability of the work to problems in other European countries, which lack the highly specific social class structures found in England, is also very limited, despite protestations by John Williams to the contrary. 13 There is further doubt about the accuracy and credibility of some of the research methods employed, particularly in the early years of the Leicester Centre. Much of the evidence provided by Williams and his colleagues comes from participant observation studies. The book Hooligans Abroad, for example, was based on three such studies and much of it is  impressionistic and anecdotal.

In the book's preface we are assured that John Williams "… is young enough and sufficiently 'street-wise' and interested in football to pass himself off as an 'ordinary' English football fan". Such assertions, however, vouch little for scientific rigour and credibility. (There are also some minor ethical issues here concerning the research role of social scientists and the issue of deception.) While Williams is quick to challenge the results of other field studies on the basis that the authors had been talking to the 'wrong people'14, the justification of his own 'sampling' is weak and based, inevitably, on the practicalities of conducting this kind of research - you spend time with 'subjects' to whom you have access.

Williams' concern with drinking behaviour among working class football fans, while implicit in the theoretical background, has become more prominent in recent years. He clearly sees alcohol as being an 'aggravating' factor in much of football violence, even though he stops short of suggesting causal connections. It is also the case that Williams has parted company from his colleagues Dunning and Murphy over the relevance of the 'figurational' approach, particularly in the light of growing research on football violence in other European countries. He now argues, for example:

" … the high level of generality at which the theory operates, its apparently universalistic applicability, and the sometimes fractious and defensive relationships between 'Eliasians' and their critics, also give the theory an aura of 'irrefutability' and arguably leads, in the case of violence at football, to the underplaying of important national and cultural differences in patterns and forms of hooliganism." 15

In reply to this philosophical 'desertion' by Williams, Eric Dunning - perhaps the most senior member of the Leicester School - comments testily:

" … I shall try to show in detail why John Williams' arguments, along with those of authors who have argued along similar lines, are wrong." 16

More recently Williams, together with Rogan Taylor and other members of the Leicester Centre, has turned his attention to developing and evaluating various attempts to control the behaviour of football fans, whilst not losing sight of the need to tackle the more fundamental roots of football violence. The group is also increasingly involved in Europe-wide initiatives.

Ethnographic approaches

Detailed ethnographic work has been conducted by Gary Armstrong and Rosemary Harris, focusing principally on groups of Sheffield United Supporters. These authors, as we have come to expect, are highly critical of  both the 'structural-Marxist' approaches of Taylor, Hall etc. and the 'figurational' school of Dunning, Williams etc. Their view was, firstly, that violence was not a central activity for football fans:

" … it is asserted here that the hooligans among Sheffield United fans were not particularly violent people; that there was amongst them no core of men from a violent, deprived sub-culture; that much of the hostility to football hooliganism in Sheffield was based on exaggerated fears led by the media and the police … we shall argue that the evidence provided by participant observation shows clearly that the basic data regarding football hooliganism is significantly different from that previously assumed and, therefore, much theorizing on the subject has been misapplied effort." 17

This rather grand assertion made by Armstrong and Harris might have had more credibility had the study not been concerned solely with a relatively small group of fans (40 - 50) in one town in northern England. There are also some striking inconsistencies in their reporting of the evidence. In contrast to the assertion that Sheffield fans were not particularly violent they go on to say:

"The menace of Sheffield football hooligans is not a fiction concocted by the police … The violence, when it occurs, is real and cannot be explained away, as Marsh tried to do, as mere ritualized aggression which would seldom be really violent if only the group's control of events was not thwarted by the intervention of the authorities." 18

Despite the inherent weaknesses in this study the authors did, at least demonstrate that not all football hooligans were from what Dunning and Williams refer to as the 'rough' working class. But this is a fairly obvious point made by many other field researchers and even Dunning himself. Rather naively, Armstrong and Harris comment that many of the fans in their study were " … intelligent, amusing and often good company" - something which they appear to view implicitly as being inconsistent with a 'tough' working class background. While the authors offer little in the way of empirical data themselves, they criticise the reliability of statistics offered by other researchers, including Dunning. They note that in one survey by the Leicester School of  the social class composition of West Ham's 'Inter City Firm', the occupations of two of the members were listed as being 'bank manager' and 'insurance underwriter' - occupations about which they are, quite reasonably, skeptical. Their objection to such 'facts' masquerading as empirical data is well-founded. What is less acceptable, however, is their rejection of large-scale empirical methodologies in favour of only semi-structured qualitative and ethnographic methods.

The data yielded by small-scale ethnographies are localised and, by necessity, selective. While Armstrong and Harris accept this point they argue that, given sufficient detail, such data provide the basis for objective testing. There is little in their published work, however, which is sufficiently detailed or clear, apart from the fact that many of their informants were middle class types, to provide any basis for such testing.

Armstrong has more recently turned his attention to examination of police surveillance of football fans and official information gathering procedures. 19 Here he notes that one by-product of football hooliganism has been the legitimation of covert tactics by the British police and the introduction of surveillance tactics which previously might have aroused concerns about infringement of civil liberties.

In contrast to the study by Armstrong and Harris, the work of Richard Giulianotti on Scottish fans is far more theory-based and substantially more detailed. His research with Scottish football fans, at home and in other countries such as Sweden, has highlighted the inapplicability of much of the research conducted in England, and the theoretical perspectives associated with it. Rather than football violence stemming from social structural factors, Giulianotti argues that Scottish football fan behaviour derives from specific cultural and historical forces. This, in turn, distinguishes the 'friendly' Scottish fans quite sharply from their English 'hooligan' peers. In a recent paper he notes the fact that 5,000 fans, known as 'The Tartan Army', won the UEFA 'Fair Play' award in 1992 for their friendly and sporting conduct.20 This appeared to represent a distinct cultural change in the activities of Scottish fans since their pitch invasion after a match against England at Wembley in 1977 and the removal of the goalposts.

While much of Giulianotti's work is in the form of traditional ethnography, much emphasis is placed on a conceptual framework provided by Foucault and concern for the treatment of 'discourse'. The work of the sociologist Erving Goffman, with its emphasis on astute observation and understanding, also provides a methodological framework for Giulianotti. Armed with this sometimes obfuscating intellectual kit, and having conducted fieldwork studies with Scottish fans in Italy and Sweden, he provides an analysis of the changes in Scottish fan temperament over the past two decades.

Prior to 1980 Scottish fans were seen as exemplars of the heavy drinking, macho style of hooligans whose pitched battles were amongst the bloodiest in Britain. Alcohol, rather than divisive social issues, was generally viewed by the authorities and some social scientists as being the primary ingredient for transforming relatively ordinary supporters into mindless thugs. Many of these fans also relied for part of their identity on being 'harder' than the English fans, and clashes between the two groups were common. This image of Scottish fans, or 'sub-discourse' in Giulianotti's terms - detracted from more meaningful examination of the roots of hooligan behaviour, to be found partly in religious sectarianism.

After 1980 a distinct change occurred - a new sub-discourse. Increasingly, Scottish fans sought to distance themselves from the 'British hooligan' label and particularly from the unruly behaviour of English fans abroad. Having been prevented from playing their biennial matches against England at Wembley, following the small problem with the demolition of the goal posts, they constructed a quite novel way of maintaining a sense of dominance over them.

"Spurred on by the popular stereotypification of the antithetical English fan as instrumental soccer hooligan, and the international debate on subsequently penalizing English soccer which tended to conflate English and British fans, Scottish fans coated themselves, with the brush of the authorities and the media, in a friendly and internationalist patina …" 21

In other words, Scottish fans sought to beat their historical foes by being nice! In this they certainly succeeded, partly aided by a distinctly anti-English tone in many Scottish newspapers and the now positive line adopted with respect to their own fans. Finding considerable satisfaction in this new image, the role of heavy drinking among Scottish fans now took on a new twist. Alcohol consumption did not decline with the rise of the 'friendly' image. Rather, the meaning of drinking was radically transformed. Instead of it being a precursor of violence it was held to predispose friendly interaction and sociability, particularly towards strangers abroad, but possibly with the exception of the English.

We deal with this issue in more detail in the section on Alcohol and football violence. We should note here, however, that Giulianotti's insightful work has provided evidence for the mutability of football hooligan behaviour over a relatively short period of time. The overt, antagonistic reporting of English fans in the Scottish press, which sponsored much of the change in the conduct of 'The Tartan Army', remains a problem which will, eventually, need to be resolved, and already there are signs that the press are turning their attention to other, local moral panics, such as the use of ecstasy etc.

Ethnographic work on the behaviour of Scottish fans has also been conducted by Moorhouse

Empirical approaches?

This problem faced by all researchers on football hooliganism is that of the interpretation and labelling of the patterns of behaviour under study. For one investigator, a specific incident involving rival fans might be classed as 'serious violence'. A second observer may describe the same behaviour as 'relatively harmless display'. A journalist at the same event might use terms such as 'mindless thuggery' or 'savagery'. And there is no objective way of choosing between these descriptions. Even video recordings of events at football matches are of little help here since the action in question still has to be interpreted and placed within some conceptual framework which renders it intelligible and meaningful.

This lack of objective facts in theory and research on football hooliganism has bedevilled the debate since the 1960s. Until the mid 1980s there were no national statistics concerning frequencies and levels of football hooliganism in Britain. Such data as did exist had to be obtained from local police forces, individual football clubs or from sources such as the St. John Ambulance Brigade who attend to injuries at football matches. Even here, however, problems of comparability arose since there was no specific offence of football hooliganism. Arrests of fans were usually made for 'behaviour likely to cause a breach of the peace' and later under the Public Order Act (1986). From these figures it was impossible to glean any indication of the seriousness of violence involved, in terms of physical injury etc.

With the advent of specific offences under the Football (Offences) Act 1991 in Britain it became easier to determine levels of problem in different areas. Here, however, the scope of the Act included not just violence but chanting in an 'indecent' or 'racist' manner. Police forces also varied, and continue to do so, in terms of the rigour with which the act was enforced. The recent introduction of the National Criminal Intelligence Service in the UK has, however, provided a little more consistency in the ways in which which statistics are collated and analysed. On the basis of their figures it is generally agreed that hooliganism, however defined, has been declining in recent years in the UK. The Head of the Football Unit of the NCIS has recently commented:

"Figures for the 1994/95 season suggest that the number of arrests in league games has been reduced where stewarding has replaced policing at grounds. However, the overall situation has also been improved through the increasing use of intelligence which shows that pockets of organised hooligans, who are often involved in a wide range of criminal activities, chose to cause trouble at predetermined locations away from grounds. Nevertheless the arrest figures confirm that closed circuit television, all-seater grounds and improvements in the stewarding and policing of games are all helping to effectively combat (sic) the hooligan problem."

It is not surprising that a senior police officer should wish to reinforce the continuing need for his own unit, even in the light of a significant reduction in the problems with which this unit is designed to tackle. We must also wonder how much has really changed on the football terraces - what do the figures actually reflect. It is interesting to compare this use of statistics with a study conducted back in 1976 in Scotland by the Strathclyde police  - a time when football hooliganism is generally thought to have been at its peak throughout the UK. The report in which the study published included a strong comment about the way in which arrests at football matches were often reported:

"We would like … to comment on reports in some sections of the the press about arrests made during or after the match. There is on these occasions seldom any reference made to the nature of these arrests - we understand many are unconnected with hooliganism as such. If there are only a few arrests e.g.. there were only five arrests out of a 50,000 crowd at a Celtic Rangers match in January 1997 (or one for every 10,000 spectators present) too little credit is given to the efforts of the clubs, stewards, the police and above all else the crowd themselves for their good behaviour. We recognise that much depends on the way in which this information is relayed to the press by the police. We think that if arrests were categorised the media would co-operate in presenting a true picture of events at matches." 23

This wish expressed by McElhone nearly twenty years ago was clearly never fulfilled. Detailed arrest statistics of the kind he proposed have rarely been available from the police, and the press, by and large, have tended not to let the facts, on the few occasions on which they have been available, get in the way of a good story. This was the case in 1977 with the figures provided by the Strathclyde police. Their study was the most obvious one to conduct - a comparison of arrests for various offences at football matches with levels of such offences throughout the country. In other words, were levels of crime and violence at matches significantly higher than throughout the 'normal' population. Their calculations indicated that: " … the incidence of Breaches of the Peace and Assaults can be calculated as … 7.32 per 100 hours per 100,000 spectators". (Less detailed figures obtained by Peter Marsh from local police forces in England in the same year produced a result of similar magnitude.) Comparing these figures with the country as a whole, taking into account the locations and times of football games, the Strathclyde police showed that the level of offences at football matches was only marginally higher than would be predicted. They commented:

"The fact that there are 1.67% more crimes committed when football matches are played than when they are not hardly seems a cause for concern … concern about hooliganism should be aimed at activities on Friday and Saturday evenings rather than at football matches … The conclusion to be drawn from this report is that concern expressed by the media about hooliganism is out of proportion to the level of hooliganism which actually occurs at these matches"

We deal in some detail with the McElhone report here, despite the fact that it was produced nearly twenty years ago and is rarely considered in contemporary discussion of football hooliganism, for three reasons. Firstly, it is the kind of calm, objective analysis which has not been repeated since 1979 but for which there is a clear need in the present. The only study which comes close to the scale and objectivity of the Strathclyde police analysis is that of Eugene Trivisas in 1980. Using Home Office data for England and Wales he came to significantly the same conclusion:

"According to the findings of this study, the commonly held stereotypes concerning 'football hooliganism' and 'football hooligans' (i.e. the popular image of the football hooligan as a juvenile vandal) do not coincide with police statistics. That means that either: (a) The stereotypes are wrong or (b) arrests for the typical offence and of the typical offender are not made by the police." 24

Secondly, the Strathclyde study highlights with great clarity the fact that the fear of football hooliganism was, and probably still is, a more significant phenomenon than football hooliganism itself. Thirdly, it is a reminder that in place of endless theorising, much of it undoubtedly misplaced as Armstrong and Harris have argued, we need to focus much more closely on the facts of hooliganism.

Contemporary social scientists with an interest in the subject will, of course, argue, that much has changed since the late 1970s. While some will concede that in its early years football hooliganism in Britain had a more benign, ritual quality, the nature of the phenomenon has now changed. This is, at least in part, true. The implicit social rules which might once have constrained the activities of fringe members of the football fan culture are now less in evidence. But we still have all too little information about what is actually happening apart from the relative small-scale ethnographic studies discussed above. Even here the processes of selective focus and interpretation make generalisations very difficult. If this is true for the United Kingdom then the lack of empirical data about football violence in other European countries is even greater, despite the fact that social scientists in these countries tend to be more empirically oriented than their British colleagues.

European approaches

The cross-national differences in patterns of football hooliganism are summarised in Section 4. In this section we review some of the major approaches being taken in Continental Europe to understanding the origins of these collective behaviours. The scope and time scale of the current project has, however, necessarily limited the depth of these reviews. It is also the case that much of this work is relatively recent, as is the emergence of football hooliganism in countries such as Italy, Holland, Germany and elsewhere. Many of the theoretical approaches and research methodologies have also taken, in the main, work in Britain as their starting point.


Work by Italian social scientists on the tifosi of Italian calcio has developed in the last six years, led by the sociologists Alessandro dal Lago of  Milan University and Antonio Roversi of Modena University and the social psychologist Alessandro Salvini from Padova. Their approaches to the phenomenon, however, are quite different and stem from quite different theoretical backgrounds.

Dal Lago views football fan behaviour as essentially ritualistic and much of his approach stems directly from the work of Peter Marsh and his colleagues in England. He hypothesises three main factors which underlie the expressive behaviour of football fan groups. Firstly, football allows for identification by fans with with a specific set of symbols and linguistic terms. These enable and encourage the division of the social world, and other supporters or tifosi in particular, into 'friends' and 'enemies':

"È necessario distinguere, a questo proposito, tra due modalità essenziali di «vivere» il calcio da tifosi: quella linguistica del «commento» (le conversazioni da «bar Sport» che scandalizzano gli spriti raffinati) e quella «attiva» del pubblico presente a una partita di calcio. Ritengo che la prima modalità costituisca una forma estremamente blanda di ritualizzazione dell'opposizione simbolica amico/nemico." 25

Dal Lago's second, rather unremarkable, point is that the football match in Italy is not simply a meeting between the two teams. For the fans it is an opportunity for an "amico/nemico" ritual confrontation. Such rituals can, in specific and foreseeable circumstances, be transformed into physical clashes. Here, like Marsh 26, he recognises historical parallels with the role played by the hippodromes in Ancient Rome and Byzantium, which were hosts to the tightly knit groups of Circus Factions - the supporters of the chariot racing teams. Such comparisons, however, dal Lago sees as irrelevant and possibly misleading. He advises against presuming a continuity in reality on the basis of superficial similarities with historical groups and patterns of behaviour:

"Ritengo che in sociologia sia possibile operare analogie tra tipi ideali, ma sia sconsigliabile postulare o presupporre una continuità tra «realtà» più o meno empiriche separate da due millenni." 27

Finally, dal Lago sees the stadium in which football is played as being much more than a physical environment. For fans it is the symbolic stage on which the ritual of friend/enemy is enacted. Over the last fifteen years, since the ultras 28 have occupied specific territories within the stadiums, there have been two types of performance at football matches, with the ultras' ritual constituting a play within a play.

While dal Lago emphasises that much of the social behaviour of the ultras within the stadiums is ritualised to the extent that symbolic gestures, insults and chants substitute for physical aggression, there are circumstances in which 'real' fights can occur. This depends on two factors: firstly a "storico", or tradition of rivalry between the two groups; and secondly on situational factors, such as the development of the other 'play' the football game itself.

Contrasting football fans with medieval knights, he argues that the 'wars' in which they engage cannot be too violent or too bloody. Like the knights, the fans share a common code of 'chivalry'. They use the same medium of chants and songs to express their hostilities, rather than weapons or fists, simply changing the words to proclaim their own identity, and the culture of 'fighting' which they share concerns essentially symbolic behaviour.

Dal Lago admits, however, that when 'fighting' takes place outside of the stadiums it can more readily result in 'real' violence:

"In order to defeat the enemies [outside of the ground] ultra groups try to adopt urban guerilla tactics (particularly setting ambushes near to stations and involving the police). But the violence is restricted to the throwing of stones and to sudden attacks. Usually every group is satisfied by the escape of the enemies from the sacred territory and by a short resistance against the police." 29

Alessandro Roversi sees the violence of the ultras as being much less ritualised (and therefore relatively non-injurious) than does dal Lago. He argues that hooligan violence is related to, and is a direct continuation of, fighting between older supporters. He refers, for example, to the rivalry between Bologna and Fiorentina and quotes a old Bologna fan as saying:

"The Tuscans are terrible. It is in their blood. We used to turn up in a friendly mood, not wanting to say anything. But we always had to fight" 30

For Roversi, contemporary ultras simply take as their adversaries the previous rivals of their fathers and continue long-standing traditions of feuding and, on occasions, violent encounter. The Bolognesi continue to hate the Toscani in just the same way as their predecessors, and football provides an arena for the expression of these historical enmities. The new ultras now use a more 'colourful' and 'lively' style of expression - not only of rivalry but of passion for the game itself as well.

A second aspect stressed by Roversi is the "Bedouin Syndrome". New alliances, new 'twinnings' and new hostilities started to develop between ultras of a number of cities. These alliances and enmities overlapped with political ideologies. Extreme right- and left-wing political stances were an important element of in-group cohesion and out-group hostility:

" … it is certainly the case that political extremism was definitely a glamorous example for the young hooligans, not only because its symbolism coincided with the hard line image they wanted to create for themselves, but also because the organizational and behavioural model fitted their aims like a glove." 31

Groups which Roversi sees as adopting such political extremism include the left wing Bologna, Milano, Torino and Roma ultras, with Lazio, Inter, Verona and Ascoli adopting neo-Nazi right-wing styles.

Finally, Roversi concludes that although ultras may exaggerate their active participation in violence at football matches (See Section 4) for the purposes of presenting a hard, tough image, the violence in which they participate is not just rhetorical. Experience of fights and clashes with rival fans forms, in his terms, a common heritage of many young ultras and is a more general part of an experience of violence expressed outside of the football grounds as well.

The principal difference between Roversi and Dal Lago seems to be not so much about whether the social activities of Italian fans in and around football stadiums forms a ritual, in the sense that it relies on symbols and implicit social rules, but the extent to which such a framework minimises physical injury. Roversi has the gloomier view in this context.

The work of Alessandro Salvini is very wide in terms of theoretical and empirical approaches. His starting point for work on football fans in Italy draws extensively from the work of Marsh et al but is placed in a more strictly psychological context:

"After taking into consideration the aggressive behaviour of the violent supporters … the model suggested by Marsh and Harré is considered appropriate. It considers the deviating fanaticism like a particular ritual manifestation of symbolic aggressiveness. The observation and empirical research carried out by the authors [in Italy] arrive at similar conclusions, though giving particular importance to the lowering of the responsibility level and the self-achievement process to be found in this type of fanatic." 32

In his later work Salvini examines the limitations of the ritual model and, in particular, the circumstances under which 'de-ritualization' can occur - i.e. the change from largely symbolic to more seriously injurious violence:

"L'elaborazione rituale del conflitto si orienta così verso una progressiva de-ritualizzazione slittando verso soluzioni di scontro, di trasgressione e di atti violenti." 33

Salvini's theoretical model to explain more general aspects of football fan aggression is based on cognitive social learning theory, which he uses to explain the phenomena of 'dominance and aggression', 'self-identity and group affiliation' and acceptance of group norms with the ultras. He also examines the role of situational variables and the impact these have on transforming ritual behaviours.

His interview and questionnaire studies in Italy have focused on the beliefs and attitudes of 'moderate' tifosi and the fans most likely to be classed as ultras.The results of these are complex but, in brief, it is clear that ultras reject some of the common assumptions made in Italy about the origins of hooliganism. They fail, for example, to see the problems in the stadiums as being the result of a new kind of 'terrorism' or infiltration by gangs of delinquents. Equally, they dismiss simplistic theories about the decline in family and educational values. They do agree, however, that violence at football matches is reflective of increased violence throughout Italian society and that the roots of the problem do not lie with the game or even its supporters.

Less substantial psychological research in Italy has been conducted by Bruna Zani 34who rejects sociological analyses in favour of empirical study of the immediate precipitating factors in football violence. On the basis of interview and questionnaire data she concludes that participation in violence depends on a high level of identification with the football club, low educational attainment, the level of similarity with other supporters etc.:

" … these results suggest a rather 'classic' picture of the violent fans in the stadium: those who participate in disturbances are, in general, young, unemployed, poorly educated people who are members of a fanatic club and attribute responsibility for their behaviour to external rather than internal factors."

Zani and Kirchler, unlike some sociologists, see violence at football matches as quite independent of what happens on the pitch. In this sense they side with Dal Lago:

"There may actually be two matches going on in the football stadium: the first match concerns the football teams on the pitch, the second involves fanatic fans who are not interested in football as such, but in the opportunities that football offers to meet with club-mates and to give vent to the emotions and energies in battles with others."

The psychologist Christine Fontana, using the same data as that of Zani and Kirchler above, outlines additional explanations of the violence in football stadiums offered by fans themselves. Most fans see football violence as being closely linked to violence in society and a third of all fans attribute hooliganism to lack of parental education.

Fontana also notes the fans' view that, contrary to the view of Zani, there are direct links between violence at matches and the game itself. Bad decisions by referees, for example, can increase tension among fans which can lead to aggression.


Work in Germany has, in the main, been more solution-oriented than theoretical. Since the 1980s, for example, the major effort has been invested in the development of special 'fan projects' and other interventions aimed at reducing the problems (See section 8). Hahn, however, uses a combination of sub-cultural and identity-seeking approaches to explain the emergence and persistence of football violence in Germany. 35

He argues that it has become increasingly difficult for young Germans to realise their personal identity. The development of subcultures - many of them with extreme right-wing overtones - allows them to: " … find solidarity and to test strategies helping them to cope with life".

In many of these of these sub-cultures the aim is to shock through provocative actions - a protest against conventions, norms, regulations and even aesthetic standards. In this context football offers a convenient, visible platform for such intentional behaviour, specifically because it enables confrontations with perceived rivals - not only opposing fans but also the police. Thus, according to Hahn, attempts by the police to control the behaviour of fans are often counter productive since they increase the significance of the 'game' for the fans:

"The stadium and its environment become more and more interesting for the youth, who feel incited to enlarge their elbowroom and to defend it in an aggressive way. Violent non-regulated behaviour increases, which is more and more often aimed at stewards, opposing fans and objects."

More recent work by Gunter Pilz 36 takes a similar line but uses a rather different theoretical framework. On the basis of interview data he concludes that football violence is a 'cry for help' by many young people who have failed to find meaning in mainstream society and have little hope for the future. What he sees as the 'bizarre' violence of football fans is an indication of the underlying forms of inequalities, forms of coercion and 'exaggerated' discipline in German society.

Like Hahn, Pilz argues against football hooliganism being treated as purely a 'law and order' problem. His view is that repressive as well as socio-pedagogical measures do not solve the problem of the hooligans unless they are embedded in structural measures which effectively improve the everyday lives of young people:

" … hooligan behaviour can be interpreted as 'normal' and hooligans as the 'avant-garde' of a new type of identity. As long as there are no real changes at the structural level, the possibilities for reducing violence are limited. Hooliganism seems to be the risk of modernisation, commercialisation and professionalisation of sport and society."

Pilz's line of argument is strongly reminiscent of that of Ian Taylor (see 3.3 above), although more 'liberal' than explicitly Marxist in its elaboration and conclusions.

Most other commentary from social scientists in Germany has focused on the neo-Nazi image of many hooligan groups and on outbreaks of racist activity at football matches. Many claim that this image, fostered very much by the German media, does not accurately reflect the reality of most groups of football fans. Volker Ritner, for example, argues:

"Nazi symbols have a provocative role; they break down taboos. But the point is not political - it is to get noticed and mentioned in Monday's newspapers" 37

Neither do many German Hools fit the 'disenfranchised, oppressed lumpenproletariat' image of Hahn and Pilz. Wilhelm Heitmeyer, for example, suggests that there are three types of German football fan: the consumer-oriented fan who picks and chooses which matches to watch; the football-oriented fan who attends every match and the 'experience-oriented' fans who seeks violent 'adventures' inside and outside the stadiums. Such categories do not divide along social class or political lines.

While the issue of right-wing extremism among German fans may have been exaggerated in media reporting, there have been some quite notable groups, such as the now banned Dortmund Borussenfront, whose Nazi symbols and racist chants were more than just 'provocative'. Recent surveys of football fans in Germany also show that over 20% sympathise with neo-Nazis and share similar political views.


Empirical work in the Netherlands has been limited, primarily, to that of van der Brug38, although van de Sande has provided rather more speculative analyses based on van der Brug's data. Much of van der Brug's research has been on the social composition and demographic features of variours groups of Dutch fans. He does, however, offer some insights into the cause of hooliganism in Holland.

Firstly he challenges Veugelers40 for assuming that the rise of Dutch hooligansim was predicated on similar social and class factors that Ian Taylor saw as the root of the English problem. According to van der Brug both the style of play and the roots of fan behaviour are quite different in the two countries:

"… Veuglers overlooks the differences between the two national football cultures. English soccer still has … a number of characteristics that … are closely linked to male working class values: rather uncomplicated, attacking football on the pitch. Proportionally, there is a lot of standing room off the pitch. Unlike continental football, English football is characterised by 'man-to-man combat' and physical struggle. Moreover, in Holland the gap between working-class and middle-class culture is much smaller."

Van der Brug takes a fairly orthodox psychological approach to explaining both the rise of football hooliganism and the increase in certain types of crime, such as vandalism, in Holland. The two key factors, which he claims account for 60% of the variation in hooliganism, are absence of effective parental control and a 'problematic' school career. The social background of Dutch 'Siders', as measured in terms of fathers' occupation, is in line with the normal distribution for that country, unlike the case in England where there is a greater dominance of fans from working class backgrounds. Van der Brug, however, identifies a clear 'downward mobility' among fans engaged in hooligansim and criminal acts. These tend to have lower educational and occupational levels than their fathers:

"It seems that in Holland there is a relationship between individual downward mobility and participation in football hooliganism, a situation which is quite different from the pattern in Britain, where the explanatory factors are much more collectivistic and highly related to social class." 41

A study conducted by Russell and Goldstein42 in Holland is one of the few to compare so-called hooligans with 'nonfans' - the aim being to identify the specific psychological features which distinguish between the two. With rather limited sampling (60 fans and 43 nonfans) they found that Utrecht supporters were higher than nonfans in terms of 'psychopathic and anti-social tendencies'. On the basis of this the authors conclude:

"In addition to being impulsive and exhibiting weak behavioural controls, [Dutch football fans] also seek excitement. Action is sought out as a means of avoiding dull, repetitive activities that they generally find boring … It may be just this element in the sundrome that makes the potential for fan violence at football matches an attractive prospect."43

Russell and Goldstein concede that their study contained major methodological weaknesses, not least the sampling procedures employed. The differences in levels of 'psycopathy' between the two groups, whilst significant, are also relatively small (a mean difference of 1.29). It would be unwise, therefore, to rely too heavily on their conclusions.

Other European research

Research in other European countries has tended to be descriptive and rather atheoretical. The work of Horak44 in Austria, for example, traces the emergence of football hooliganism in that country without offering too much in the way of explanation for shifts in fan behaviour. The research by Eichberg45 in Denmark is similarly descriptive, but with a rather confusing 'gloss' which includes reference to psychoanalytic concepts and to the issue of matriarchy in Danish society. Material from both of these authors is included in the section on cross-national differences in football violence (see Section 5).

Other work in Europe has focused principally on single events, such as the tragedy in the Heysel stadium in 1985. 46 Because of the narrow focus of the research, and the singularly exceptional nature of the Heysel incident, there is little in the way of generalisable findings in this work.


We have seen that the bulk of theory and research on football violence has developed within British academic circles. It is clear that while many of the perspectives provided by social scientists in the UK are largely compatible with each other, there are major ideological rifts between the various research groups. This 'in-fighting' has delayed the development of a more productive, multi-disciplinary approach to the phenomenon. It is also the case that many of the more sociologically-oriented approaches to explaining football hooliganism have little utility outside of Britain, or even England, because of  major differences in national class and social structures.

Some perspectives which are relatively free of class-based analyses (e.g. Marsh, Armstrong etc) provide for easier 'translation' to fan groups in other countries. Thus, the ethogenic approach of Marsh and his colleagues has been used as a basis for analysing the behaviour of fans in Italy and for the development of theoretical perspectives in that country by Salvini and Dal Lago. It is clear, however, that no Europe-wide explanatory framework has yet been developed. It may be the case, given the distinctive nature of ultras, hools, roligans etc. that such a framework may be unachievable or inappropriate. The sociological and psychological factors which lie at the root of football violence in, say, Italy may be quite different from those which obtain in Germany or Holland. The football stadium provides a very convenient arena for all kinds of collective behaviour. There is no reason to suppose, therefore, that the young men who use such arenas in different countries are all playing the same game.

Increasingly, research of a purely 'domestic' kind is emerging in Italy, Germany, Holland and elsewhere which does not rely so heavily on British theoretical models. Increasing contact between research groups will enable more genuine cross-cultural perspectives to emerge and for the salience of alleged causal factors to be identified more clearly. The role of alcohol, for example, which is discussed in more detail in Section 7, has already been shown to be ambiguous when comparing the behaviour of English and Scottish fans. Its role will be seen as even more culturally dependent when examining the activity of Danish fans – see next section).

The degree to which individual, personality variables are predictive of football violence in different countries is relatively unexplored at the moment. It is unlikely, however, that specific factors common to fan groups throughout Europe will emerge. Again, there is no reason to suppose that the individual motivations and psychological profiles of an Italian tifoso will necessarily be in line with that of the English football hooligan. The variations between the two are likely to be more significant than any revealed commonalities.

Finally, it may well be that relative demise of football hooligansim in the UK will be followed by a similar decline in continental Europe. There has, after all, been a degree of imitative behaviour on the part of other European fans who themselves acknowledge the English as being the leaders in this particular pattern of behaviour. It could be that despite increased pan-European research on football violence, social scientists will soon discover that there are more serious social issues with which to be concerned in their home countries. Rising levels of youth crime, delinquency, alienation and the spread of right-wing extremism in many European countries may come to be seen as a more significant threat to European social stability than the anti-social behaviour of a relatively small number of highly visible football hooligans.


1. As noted in the previous section, the phenomenon of 'modern' football hooliganism is generally credited as beginning in Britain in 1961. It was not, however, until 1968 that the full force of media concern came to be expressed.

14. See for example his criticism of Zani and Kirchler in Williams (1991). Here he takes issues with their conclusions (See Section 3.10.1) based on discussions with 'fanatical' groups in Bologna. He claims, on the basis of a brief visit to Bologna and discussions with Ultras, that the real hooligan groups had detached themselves from these 'fanatical' groups and that Zani's research was based, therefore, on inappropriate sampling. He is silent, however, on the reliability of his own single source of information.

23. The McElhone Report - Football Crowd Behaviour; Report by a Working Group appointed by the Secretary of State for Scotland, 1977

26. P. Marsh, 1978a. For a fuller discussion of historical events in Rome see the excellent book by Alan Cameron, Circus Factions: The Blues and Greens in Ancient Rome and Byzantium. Marsh has argued that the parallels between such groups and contemporary football fans are so striking that they constitute a much more direct continuity in the ritualisation of aggression than suggested by dal Lago.

28. See Section 4 for a description of ultras and their evolution.

37. Interview with V. Ritner, Professor at the Spots Sociology Institute of Cologne. Guardian 1996

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