The 'limits of decent partisanship' : a sociogenetic investigation of the emergence of football spectating as a social problem
This thesis attempts to document the forms of spectator disorder that have been associated with Association football since the emergence of the professional game in the 1880s. It also traces the concomitant emergence of football spectating as a recognised "social problem," analyses changes in the ways in which this "problem" has been perceived, and looks at the various measures that have been adopted for controlling it. These tasks are located within an examination of the major social changes that have occurred in England in the last 100 years, and special attention is paid in this connection to the struggle between classes over competing ways of living. The study is a developmental one and uses as its principal sources of data the records of the Football Association and accounts of spectator disorders in newspapers and journals. While chiefly qualitative, quantitative documentation of the changing rates of different forms of disorder is also attempted. Although spectator disorder has been a persistent feature of Association football since the emergence of the professional game, its nature, extent and the ways in which it is perceived by powerful outsiders inside and outside the game have varied over time. The emergence of football spectating as a social problem, along with changing perceptions in this regard, is bound up, it is argued, both with the continuing "cultural struggle" that has taken place in English society since at least the onset of industrialisation and with the longer term "civilising process" to which Norbert Elias has referred. Prevailing conceptions of the nature of continuity and change in historical processes generally and in popular culture and working class leisure in particular are seen as inadequate. The dominant mythology currently surrounding football hooliganism is also rejected, and the nature of "social problems" is reconceptualised. Changes in the specific forms of spectator disorder, in perceptions of it and in attempts to control it, it is argued, are more adequately understood in terms of class cultural conflict over ways of living in English society and by attempting to trace the social roots of such conflict. Crucial in this regard over the last century and a half has been a marked narrowing of the forms of behaviour that are seen as consistent with "public order:" the defining and re-defining of "the limits of decent partisanship" reflect this process. A case is thus made out for the adoption of a developmental and figurational sociology in examining sport, leisure and popular culture.