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Hooliganism across cultures and nations


Football disorder has ruled football fields for decades. Therefore, hooligans constitute the main problem in modern football. Recently, many clashes linked with nationalism, racism, and discrimination, have risen in all parts of the world. While it was known identity was a cause of hooliganism, this paper analyzes how the desire to represent a particular club or nation causes violence among football fans (hooliganism), more precisly why does it lead to discriminatory acts. Six scholarly and non-scholarly articles have been described and compared to find out the possible causes of such behaviours. Impule in emotions and the social phenomenon of following the group, lead by identity, accentuate the causes of discrimination. It results in large discriminatory acts commited by particular racist hooligan groups.

Hooliganism across Cultures and Nations


This paper will focus on how identify influences violence in football games. Over the course of the last half-century, violence among football fans has risen to a point of no control, and it has lead many researchers (Canon 2008) and (Gow and Rookwood 2008) to question the causes of disruptions on football stands. The definition of a hooligan is not widely accepted. Some give it a positive connotation while others describe it in a negative way. Some of the proposed definitions of a hooligan are: one who actively participates in the "living experience" of football by engaging emotionally and positively in the success of their football club (Canon 2008), one who is strongly engaged in nationalism (Mota 2009), or the violent behaviour of a football spectator (Gow and Rookwood 2008). Yet, this topic is vastly debated. Experts argue whether or not hooligans still have their place in modern football. While statistics show the number of arrests due to rioting have risen on football stadiums in England (Chula 2009) and in the Netherlands (Spaaij 2007), ordinary fans are getting increasingly afraid of attending games of their beloved club (Spaaij 2007), security being the social nature of this problem. Furthermore, the threat must be massive since football is consiered as a religion for 60% of european fans (Canon 2008). In other cases, lead by strong emotions based on their identity, hooligans have engaged in atrocities that lead to many casualties in Italy, England, and other parts of the world (Gow and Rookwood 2008). While it is known that there are many causes for hooliganism, such as the media, the police, personal reasons, the desire to represent, social causes and revenge, identity, and dissatisfaction (Gow and Rookwood 2008), the identity to a club or nation has caused many clashes based on nationalism, racism, and discrimination, (Football Against Racism in Europe n.d.) and (Spaaij & Viñas, 2005).

Thus, this essay will analyze how the desire to represent a particular club or nation causes violence among football fans (hooliganism), more precisly why does it lead to discriminatory acts. Therefore, seven scholarly and non-scholarly articles will be compared based on their explanations of why is football so important to average europeans and how does it lead to an impulse of emotions which causes riots and social unrests at football games.

Body Text

  1. What is hooliganism?: The paragraph will focus on the description of hooliganism, it will suggest definitions, explain the causes of this phenomenon, and it will list examples of violence that has occurred in modern era football.
    1. Multiple definitions: There are many definitions for hooliganism and it has not been widely agreed on which represents it the most.
      1. Hooligan point of view:
        1. One who actively participates in the "living experience" of football by engaging emotionally and positively in the success of their football club. (Canon, 2007, p. 4)
      2. External point of view:
        1. A specific form of spectator violence at football matches. (Spaiij, 2007, p. 330)
        2. One who is strongely engaged in nationalism. (Mota, 2009, p.4)
        3. The violent behaviour of a football spectator. (Gow and Rookwood, 2008, p. 71)
    2. Causes: According to Gow and Rookwood (2008), "hooliganism is a diverse phenomenon that is not mono-casual" (p. 71).
      1. Media, police, personal reasons, desire to represent (nationalism and identity), superiority and revenge, and dissatisfaction. "Involvment in football hooliganism has bee explained in relation to a number of factors, relating to interaction, identity, legitimacy, and power." (Gow and Rookwood, 2008, pp. 75-79)
      2. Hooligan experience: "buzz of excitement" (Spaiij, 2007, p. 330)
    3. Examples of violence
      1. Large public brawls outside of stadiums. (Chula, 2009)
      2. Clashes between rival hooligan groups at football games. (Gow and Rookwood, 2008, p. 78)
      3. Inter-group alliances and wars (Spaiij, 2007, p. 324)
  2. Identity: This paragraph will focus on one of the causes of hooliganis: identity. It will explain why it is occuring, how it affects football fans, and how it leads to a popular phenomenon of following the group, and how it leads to discrimination. The involvement in hooliganism leads a normal person to commit acts that he would have never done under normal circumstances.
    1. Need of belonging: Identity is characterized by the need to belong to a club or national team. (Gow and Rookwood, 2008, p. 76) It is a way for those who feel unimportant and marginalised to express their identity. (Gow and Rookwood, 2008, p. 78)
    2. Strong emotions: "Accounts of hooligans reveal how they experience an overpowering 'buzz' or adrenalin rush when confronting their opponents". (Spaiij, 2007, p. 330)
    3. Phenomenon of following the group: "Their desire to […] conform to group norms of behaviour may lead them to use serious violence against groups or individuals. (Spaiij and Viñas, 2005, p. 160)
  3. Discrimination in football: The paragraph will discuss the types of discrimination and its causes. Also, it will analyze the ways organizations are trying to fight it.
    1. Types of discrimination
      1. Homophobia, Racism, Exclusion of minorities. (Football Against Racism in Europe n.d.)
    2. Causes
      1. Cultural racism: "This cultural racism revolves around the construction and defense of an image of national culture in the face of the emergence and expansion of immigrant communities". (Spaiij and Viñas, 2005, p. 160) Some cultures define some things as right or wrong. Homosexuality is defined as wrong in many countries across Easter and Southern Europe. (Football Against Racism in Europe n.d.)
      2. Nationalism: "When Croatia played Bosnia & Herzegovina in Sarajevo, Croatian fans formed a human U symbol representing the fascist Ustase movement responsible for mass killings of Serbs, Jews and the Roma during World War II." (Football Against Racism in Europe n.d.) Such events happen in countries where national identity is largely present.
    3. What is done to stop discrimination
      1. Non-governmantal organizations such as NGO (Spaiij and Viñas, 2005, p. 160) and FARE (Football Against Racism in Europe n.d.), trying to reduce xenophobia.

Hooliganism is a social phenomenon, largely portayed as being negative, that is not mon-casual. (Gow and Rookwood, 2008, p. 71) Multiple causes affect hooliganism (Gow and Rookwood, 2008, p. 78), but identity and the need to represent lead to serious manifestations as discrimination and violence. As one engages in a large group of fans, he experiences strong emotions and adrenaline boosts (Spaiij, 2007, p. 330) leading to the phenomenon of following the group (Spaiij and Viñas, 2005, p. 160). A person may, under those circumstances, do somethings that he would not do in real life setting. Homophobia, racism, and exclusion of minorities are some of the types of discrimination. (Football Against Racism in Europe n.d.) Cultural racism (Spaiij and Viñas, 2005, p. 160) and nationalism (Football Against Racism in Europe n.d.) are labeled as the main causes of discrimination, accentuated by the phenomenon of followers. This essay responded to the problem statement, and explained how the desire to represent causes violence, particularly discrimination. The internal validity of most of my srouces is not easily verifiable because they are descriptive researchs based on data and results of other researchers. Only two researchs include some quantitative and qualitative data. Gow and Rookwood use a small sample of twenty supporters, while Canon uses a larger sample of 2,000 survey respondants and a smaller sample of interviewed supporters. Sampling methods were not random in both cases. The external validity is good for most of the sources because we can generalize results to certain countries or to the entire European continent. The internal validity of my essay is good because I used a good methodology of literature review of my articles. But, since I analyzed only 7 sources, the external validity is not very high; I cannot generalize my results. But, my sources were good and were written by experts or organizations specialized in my domain of analysis. Thus, I can say the data and information used in my sources is appropriate. I believe my study to be a good analysis of the situation of hooliganism in Europe. Still, my study lacks numbers and data to prove what I say, since I analyzed other works. I cannot affirmate a certain cause & effect pattern.

Works Cited

Canon. "Football Passions." The Social Issues Research Centre. 2008. (accessed August 25, 2009).

    The study was commissioned and realized by Canon, a well-known company, wanting to accomplish extensive sociological research on capturing the emotions of being a football fan. The names of the researchers are not indicated, thus, we cannot question the credentials of the authors; it will remain unknown and unestablished. But, the research was done by the Social Issues Research Center, which is a leading research group in the United Kingdom. The purpose of the study, as mentioned, was to capture the emotions of being a football fan and to compare the feelings, expressions, and behaviours of fans associated with support of their football teams. The major aspect of the study was that it should capture the experiences of every-day football fans and that it should provide their opinions on the problems of hooliganism. The sampling methods used for the study were interviews and online surveys. In the first case, fieldwork was conducted in eighteen countries. Online surveys (m=2,000) were took across all countries of Europe. There were no hypothesis, nor variables since the objective was to analyze various behaviours, and then to find a conclusion about the different aspects of hooliganism. The internal validity is good since the sampling was large, but it was not perfect since it was not done randomly. The study can be generalized to Europe and we can thus say the external validity is very good. As for the results and the conclusion, the research reveals a largely positive side to hooliganism. It also explains the rituals of football fans and the passion created by the fans. It is a largely descriptive research. I believe the study is biased because it only shows the hooligan's point of view, which is unreal in the current atmosphere of modern football. Some results and statistics are good, but some should be analyzed carefully because they could be biased and unreliable.

Chula, Jesse. Hooliganism: Did It Ever Go Away? Who Foots The Bill? September 6, 2009. (accessed September 6, 2009).

Football Against Racism in Europe. Racism in Football. (accessed September 7, 2009).

    The URL gives me an appropriate idea that this is a specialized website in my domain because of the acronym F.A.R.E. (meaning Football against Racism in Europe) and of the ending ".org", suggesting it is an organization. The page is written by a group of authors whose expertise is in racism, homophobia, and exclusion of minorities. The website is updated regularly (at least monthly, but most of the times weekly) announcing action plans against discrimination. Some of the information was written about a year ago, while there is a lot of fresh stuff. The topic area is discrimination. While there are little or no references, information seems reliable because the organization seems to have its own well-established database. Thus, it seems the website has overall great integrity and reliability. The website does not use a scientific method for referencing and citing. The target audience of the website are football fans, and its function is to demonstrate that racism is present in modern football, and how it should be stopped. The website is largely sponsored by the UEFA and FIFA football bodies, which want to stop discrimination on football fields. While there is only one point of view, there is no feeling of bias on the website; it can only be understood that they are showing the real facts. This page cannot be considered as ironic because it is a serious organization, well-known around the world. It is possible to contact the ten experts that have designed and created the website via telephone, fax, or e-mail.

Gow, Paul, and Joel Rookwood. "Doing it for the team—examining the causes of hooliganism in English football." Journal of Qualitative Research in Sports Studies, 2008: 71-82.

    The study is conducted by Paul Gow and Joel Rookwood. They are experts and have realized their research in the Sports Studies Department of Liverpool's Hope University, where they are probably teachers. In the research, it is argued that hooliganism is a diverse phenomenon that is not mono-casual. Therefore, it is an argumentative essay. The main intention is to find causes for hooliganism in modern era football. The research was conducted by developing a fan-based perspective on the causes of hooliganism. Interviews and study-groups were conducted with twenty fans from five English clubs in the 2006-2007 season. The clubs selected were representative of geography, league position, success achieved, fan base, and exposure to European competition. Interviewed fans offered their perspectives on many personal factors explaining hooliganism. We don't know if the study was conducted randomly. The internal validity is not good since the sample size is relatively small (m=20). But, since it is a case study, it would have been difficult to have a larger sample size. The results show that there are six causes for hooliganism: the influence of media, the influence of police, personal reasons, desire to represent or to have an identity, revenge and superiority, and dissatisfaction. Therefore, it is shown that hooliganism is a diverse phenomenon that is not mono-casual. The results cannot be generalized outside of England, because the socio-cultural environment is not the same in other areas of Europe where hooliganism is just as present. The research may be biased because it is done on fan-based opinion. Still, it is a source that analyzes in depth the causes of hooliganism and that offers the best theories about it.

Mota, Miguel. "Boys Will Be Hooligans: History and Masculine Communities in John King's England Away." Critique, Spring 2009: 261-273.

Spaaij, Ramón. "Football Hooliganism in the Netherlands: Patterns of Continuity and Change." Soccer & Society, July 2007: 316-334.

Spaaij, Ramón, and Carles Viñas. "'A por ellos!': racism and anti-racism in Spanish football." International Journal of Iberian Studies, 2005: p141-164.

    The research was done by Ramón Spaaji and Carles Viñas, experts in hooliganism and racism. Ramón Spaaji had already written many scholarly articles on those topics. Spaaji is affiliated to the University of Amsterdam, where he is a trustable and respected source. Carles Viñas is affiliated to the University of Barcelona. The authors' intention is to describe the neo-Nazi and racist phenomenons by fan groups across Spain. The two main questions posed by the authors are whether there is a hooligan/racist correlation, and whether there is a transformation in current sources of racism. The study is descriptive. The methodology used was to compare and analyze existing studies on the subject. The validity of the study cannot be verified because it is entirely based on independent studies, there is neither qualitative nor quantitative data measured by the authors. The conclusions found that racism is a widespread phenomenon in Spain of national identity, superiority, and prestige. The desire to conform to a group also leads to violence and discrimination. Still, a lot of hooligan groups try to dissociate themselves from racism and discrimination. The authors conclude three main points: the ultra movement is heterogeneous; racial abuse is not limited to hooligans; and racist discourses are variable and inconsistent. I believe the study to be extremely pertinent to my topic, because the study took place in Spain, believed to be one of the most discriminatory football environments in Europe.

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