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Title: Fan perspective of Football Hooliganism
Author: Rockwood, Joel
ISNI:       0000 0001 3529 8300
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2008
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Football hooliganism has been prevalent in almost every country where the game is played for a number of years. This has particularly been the case in Britain, where the phenomenon has produced consequences of varying degrees of severity. Many existing academic investigations have examined the problem by gauging opinions of hooligans and to a lesser extent, the police. However, the perspectives of the nonviolent majority of supporters have been consistently overlooked, and yet they often share the same space, rituals and social characteristics as hooligans, and also witness football violence and the processes that instigate and escalate it. This research therefore involved obtaining the views of numerous non-hooligan supporters who regularly attend both home and away matches from eight British teams. This is a descriptive investigation that adopted a phenomenological approach in order to access the inter-subjective lifeworld of supporters. To this end, extensive participant observation was undertaken, with the more directed qualitative methods of focus groups and interviews supplementing this data. This investigation involved attending 411 matches in domestic and international competition in twenty-one countries during live consecutive seasons. Attitudes were examined regarding how the phenomenon and related terminology may be defined, the severity of the problem and media coverage, what causes hooliganism and finally preventative measures. Supporters considered hooliganism to relate to violent behaviour in a football context, and therefore acts of non-violent 'disorder' were not explored here. The phenomenon was not thought to be a particularly serious current problem on a national scale. However, it was claimed that 'grudge' matches such as local derbies produce violence to varying degrees on a relatively regular basis. Also, respondents offered a variety of value judgements, with a large minority expressing positive viewpoints, indicating a liking for the phenomenon. Many stated that hooligans serve to protect non-violent fans, distract rival supporters from attacking those who do not wish to engage in violence, and make a positive contribution to a club's reputation. This contradicts the popularly expressed contention, namely that with the exception of those who engage in violence, supporters dislike the culture and threat of football hooliganism. Respondents also argued that media coverage was typically sensationalist and disproportionate, but only considered this to be problematic in terms of how supporters are treated in international competition. This is because foreign police and supporters are said to often lack a realistic frame of reference by which to assess the reliability of such media representation. Respondents did not explain involvement in hooliganism according to drug use or any particular demographic. Instead, personal characteristics were discussed, focusing on an individual's desire to engage in or be seen to be involved in violence. Hooliganism was also thought to reflect expressions of strong emotional ties to a club, nation or locality, whilst excluding conflicting identities. This was particularly considered to be the case in grudge match contexts, where jealousy, contempt or bitterness can be manifested in violent confrontation with an `enemy'. Many also considered the perception of being marginalised, controlled or insignificant to produce violence as an attempt to reassert an identity. Supporters were virtually unanimous in claiming that hooliganism will never be completely omitted from English football. However, many considered it possible to further reduce the problem by continuing to improve the effectiveness of police intervention by encouraging police to develop a better understanding of the intricacies of supporter cultures. Also, interventions such as banning orders were commended in theory, although the application of such measures was heavily criticised. Indeed, many intelligence-led responses were considered disproportionate, with oppressive measures serving as unjust and ineffective solutions. This was emphasised particularly when compared to legal and police responses to similar behaviour in non-football contexts. Such inappropriate intervention was perceived to only alienate the police, and complicate their task of understanding supporters and developing constructive relationships with them. Supporters considered the most effective way to reduce the problem to involve a combination of self-policing from non-violent supporters, effective deterrents, and evident and proportionate police presence and intervention, underpinned by a sound understanding of what causes hooliganism.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available