Football hooliganism

© Otto Adang

Report prepared for the benefit of Mr. Gerrit Valk (Netherlands, Socialist Group) in his capacity as rapporteur to the Committee on Culture and Education, Council of Europe, Doc. 8553, 30 September 1999
Hooliganism already existed in the last century. Modern hooliganism exists since the sixties in several countries. Boys and young men, aged between 15 and 25, collectively engage in fights, demolitions and provocations. Their main targets are other groups, who only differ from them in their being composed of fans of another football team.
In commentaries following incidents it is commonly stated that these "fans" do not deserve to be called supporters of their team. Other reports indicate that the hooligans consider themselves to be the true fans: they support the team for better and for worse, they create the highly praised "atmosphere" inside stadia. However that may be, their allegiance to a football team is the main factor binding hooligans together. Their main interest does not seem so much to see brilliant football, but to see their team win. In addition, hooligans have their own match with rival fans. Sometimes that match is the most important one. Football matches are used as an opportunity.
The behaviour of the hooligans seems to be aimed at gaining prestige. The ability to fight, group solidarity and loyalty, plus the aggressive defence of culturally defined areas, are all elements of a satisfying masculine identity. Fighting at football is largely about young males testing out their own reputations for manliness against those of other similarly motivated young men.
The rivalry between fan-groups and their confrontations seem in many ways comparable with those between youth gangs, well known in e.g. the USA. Tribal fighting is another parallel.
Specific soccer factors.

There is only a weak correlation between specific factors relating to football matches and hooliganism. The result of the match is not important for the amount of violence that occurs after the finish of the match. In general, present day hooliganism does not appear to be caused by events on the playing field, such as contested referee decisions or violence altercations between players. Of course, on occasion events of this type may lead to violent altercations on the terraces, but the event on the playing field that most influences hooliganism is the scoring of a goal point.
Outside the stadia the frequency of violence is, in general, greater after the match than before it. This appears to have little connection to the build up of frustrations over the course of the match. Before the matches it appears that supporters are more motivated to avoid being arrested (so as not to miss the match). In addition, co-ordinated action on the part of the fans before the match requires more organisation and mutual agreement.

Despite efforts to find a relationship between the hooligan and his social background, there is from the multitude of data on this subject only one solid conclusion: there is no systematic relationship between vandalism and social background. It appears on the contrary that hooligans descend from all imaginable environments and are not pre-eminently unemployed and such-like. Hooliganism or comparable behaviour is also not restricted to a certain city, region, or country. Hooligans often resemble other young men who have problems at school and in the family situation, particularly in connection to authority figure relationships (conflict with teachers etc.) while social control for the greater part is absent. Undoubtedly young men with a greater inclination to violence are attracted to the possibilities offered by being part of a "side" and attending a risk match.
Each time only a comparatively small section of the risk group was guilty of violent behaviour. These observations appear to be in agreement with the customary image of a relatively small 'hard-core' group surrounded by a much greater group of "hangers on". However, the behaviour of the surrounding group is very important: their passive or active support and absence of any form of condemnation made the start and/or escalation of violence easier. Hard core initiators may serve as initiators and organisers, but there is no formal organisation with "leaders". The behaviour of people in football crowds seems to be influenced by the same factors that influence the "normal" everyday behaviour of humans.

Context, cause and function
An important factor causing hooliganism lies with the desire to earn prestige, both within one's own group and relative to the rival group. The frequency of violence appears to be strongly related to the relationship between the two supporter groups: at meetings between 2 risk-clubs two times as much violence occurs compared to meetings between a risk club and a non-risk club. Yet meetings between 2 non-risk clubs were also often strikingly characterised by violence, that is if away supporters were present. It seems that the chance of violence was highest if there was any uncertainty about the mutual power difference.
The rivalry between different groups has historically grown and may originate from rivalries not connected to football at all, such as enmity between regions or cities. Via confrontations around soccer matches new rivalries may start or new life is breathed into old ones.
Rivalry as a cause of supporter violence is not only made plausible by the greater amount of violence at meetings between two risk clubs. Other evidence is given by the fact that violence (particularly violence between supporters, which is the most common form of violence) starts often without a preceding clear demonstrable cause and the fact that the different supporter groups clearly take pains to come into close contact with one another, frequently challenging each other. In addition, the demonstration of violence is experienced by supporters as "fun" and "exciting".
The fact that especially goal points which brought one of the teams into the lead were followed by violence, and that this violence may come just as easily from the fans of the team that scored as from the other fans, is in further support of the rivalry idea.
Only a small proportion of the large number of provocations is followed by violence. The provocations (consisting of abuse and threats) seem to serve more as a demonstration of internal harmony.
The enforcement of police measures is also sometimes followed by violence, but almost exclusively by violence between the supporters involved and the police (and for a small part to violence directed at objects).

The way in which hooliganism has manifested itself has changed gradually in the course of time. The most conspicuous development was the dissociation of hooliganism from football matches. The first eruptions of hooliganism occurred in close connection with incidents on the playing field. Violent confrontations between rival fan-groups on the terraces formed the second stage. Partly as a result of safety measures, fans began to occupy more or less fixed spots on the terraces, which they started to see as their "territories". In the next stage, to evade safety measures, they started occupying places outside their "territories". They also started visiting matches in which their team did not take part, just to have a chance to confront rival fan-groups. Eventually, confrontations occurred without any connection to a football match whatsoever.
These developments were to a large extent set in motion by safety measures taken to separate and monitor rival fan-groups (e.g. by the use of CCTV). There are increasing indications that (the threat of) new, possibly effective measures such as video cameras and ID passes, can cause undesirable developments. New police action merely leads to new tactics by hooligans.
More organised and co-ordinated behaviour of fans forms another important development of hooliganism. In the beginning hardly any internal co-ordination occurred: fans that were interested in fights etc. went to matches and could know they would meet equally minded persons with whom to provoke rival fans attending the match. Confrontations followed predictable patterns and simple rules. Gradually arrangements were made between hooligans following a team. Increasing safety measures called for preparatory initiatives: reconnaissance trips were carried out, tickets were bought beforehand if necessary, tactics were discussed, joint travel arrangements were planned etc.
In the early years alcohol probably played a large part in the eruption of incidents. Currently, alcohol does not seem to be an important factor. This is partly due to enforcement of alcohol bans during and around matches. However, the fact that it is not very wise to be under the influence of alcohol when deliberately confronting rival groups seems to be taken into consideration by the fans as well. The use of drugs is on the increase, especially drugs that reduce feelings of fear and seem to give more energy.
The largest part of all hooligans still is between 15 and 25 years of age. As hooligans grow older and become more involved with careers and families, they tend to withdraw from the hooligan-scene. The proportion of "older" hooligans seems to be on the increase, however. There are even signals that some older hooligans have returned after a few years absence.
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Tackling hooliganism

Integrated approach
Over the years, it has become increasingly clear that the police cannot and should not deal with hooliganism on its own and that an integrated approach is called for, involving all parties.
In practice, measures tend to focus on the way in which hooliganism manifests itself, in part because the rivalry between supporters is a factor that is hard to influence. Changes in the infrastructure of stadia (fences, cameras, all-seater stadia) make surveillance and separation of fans easier, as do ticketing arrangements. However, a one-sided focus on security measures may be detrimental to an atmosphere of friendliness.
Well-trained stewards may contribute significantly to hospitality and an early signalling of potential trouble inside stadia. The behaviour of players, coaches and club-officials also influences fan behaviour. Fan societies also play a role.
Security forces deal with public order and the arrest of offenders. Public prosecutors and judges deal with apprehended offenders. Train and bus companies are involved in the transport of fans. Local authorities have their own priorities.
To prevent excesses in hooliganism, all these parties have to develop policies and co-operate with one another. If the different policies are not made explicit, if they are not integrated with one another and if arrangements are not binding, they will not work as expected.

Presence of away supporters and separation of fans
As indicated, the rivalry between home and away fans is crucial to the existence of hooliganism. There is a clear connection between the number of away-supporters that visit a soccer match and the chance that violence occurs. The chance of violence is lower when there are less away-supporters present. Measures that have had a direct or indirect influence on the number of away-supporters attending a match include matches being played with no public present, the non-admittance or admittance only under fixed conditions for away-supporters, the direct transmission of the match on TV or only offering advance sale tickets (hence making it harder for supporters to obtain a ticket). Evening matches or non-weekend matches generally attract fewer away-supporters.
From this it does not follow automatically that the exclusion of away-supporters is the most effective means to reduce hooliganism. Enforcement of such a measure is at odds with a valued tradition and presents a number of potential problems related to practical enforcement. In addition, fans will probably oppose such a measure, which could lead to violence as well. Also, it is likely that hooliganism would be displaced to other times and places.
Fan violence may occur without the presence of a rival group as well. Violence by home-supporters may be directed at:

- other home-supporters: when a rival group was absent disagreement between different subgroups might lead to violence;
- players from an away playing club and/or the referee and linesmen if the home club loses;
- players/management etc. of their own club when the team performs badly;
- order services etc. by those without tickets to the match;
- all types of targets while celebrating a victory or championship (e.g. the incidents in Rotterdam in April 1999)
If away supporters are present the policy is usually aimed at keeping the two supporter groups separated from each other. In practice however, this policy is not carried out consistently. The separation of away- and home-supporters has a disadvantageous side effect: the phenomenon "side" and all that is associated with it becomes. So at the same time, separation helps to keep hooliganism alive as a problem.
Whether or not supporters were separated from each other is also dependent on the effort home-supporters take to seek confrontation with away-supporters. There are many measures that may hinder attempts of fans to seek confrontations without antagonising them, e.g.:
- choice of an arrival and departure station that is away from the place where the match is to be played;
- where necessary variation in the to and from transport routes so that it is impossible or at least difficult for home supporters to know or approach them;
- choosing transport routes in such a way that they do not coincide for home and away fans.
- ensuring there is a fast flow of away-supporters through the entrance gates with as little delay as possible;
if this fast flow is not possible after the finish of the match then away-supporters must wait until home-supporters have disappeared;
- leaving stands between home and away fans unoccupied.

In addition to a separation between home fans and away fans, it is important to separate potentially violent fans from other fans. As the initiatives for violent incidents are usually taken by just a few individuals, it is important to get to know the fans individually. This creates more possibilities to influence them or to exclude unwanted fans from attending matches. In the last few years, stadia bans have been used increasingly. In combination with an obligation to report to a certain place (e.g. a police station) bans may contribute to a prevention of incidents. In this respect, it is regrettable that violent fans, who are banned from attending matches of their team in their own country, may still visit matches of their team (or of the national team) in other countries.
Once fans are known, it becomes possible to influence them on other occasions than match-days. Both fan societies and fan coaches are important in this respect. In several countries "fan projects" have been initiated in the past (e.g. Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany). Fan coaches make contact with fans, communicate with them, and try to give positive influences by organising events, giving support and advice, enhancing responsibility, etc. In addition, fan coaches provide a link between fans and clubs, media, schools, local authorities, etc. Fan coaches and fan societies provide one of the few ways which do not restrict themselves to manifestations of hooliganism on match days.
International matches and tournaments

In relationship with the hooligan problem, it is important to distinguish between club matches in national and international competitions and matches of national teams. Fans of national teams often behave differently from fans supporting a club. Because of this, lack of separation of fans supporting national teams is not automatically followed by incidents. Matches lasting a day pose problems that are different from those encountered during championships.
In most countries, matches of the national team are only rarely accompanied by confrontations between hooligans. In most cases, rival relationships between away- and home-supporters are less pronounced and there seems to be some sort of "truce" between fans of one nationality. If there is any fighting, it is directed at foreign fans, the common enemy. At matches abroad, some fans feel they are defending the national reputation for manliness and bravery.
The understanding originating from international venues sometimes led to co-operation between some fan groups against common rivals on other occasions. Also, contacts were established with foreign fans who were willing to assist in the struggle against common rivals.
The policing of international matches is complicated by many factors, such as the fact that host police are unfamiliar with visiting fans and vice versa. Language differences and the deployment of less experienced officers may further complicate matters. Delays in handling of information are often increased. Potential troublemakers may feel less inhibited, less responsible and more anonymous. Reselling of tickets makes separation of fans difficult.
In the last fifteen years, violent incidents have taken place at each of the several championships which have taken place in Europe. Surprisingly enough, evaluation reports of these events are not readily available. The existing ones, often lack objectivity and structure. Incidents are characteristically downplayed. Nevertheless, it is possible to learn important lessons from previous events. For that, it is necessary not just to analyse incidents, but also to take a look at incidents that did not happen.
At the European Championships in Germany of 1988 especially German fans acted aggressively, against English fans, against the police and against squatters. German fans were characterised by increased co-operation and self-confidence. After Euro 1988 police sources pointed to the importance of adequate information on fan behaviour, of communicating with fans and of the role police spotters may play.
The World Championship held in Italy in 1990 was characterised on the one hand by relative little attention for international co-operation and on the other hand, by heavy policing. Alcohol bans and judicial measures completed the picture. There was hardly any communication between police and fans, except through foreign police spotters. The quality of the stadia was excellent and contributed to a good atmosphere inside. Different venues were far apart and most incidents occurred away from the stadia when Italian fans provoked foreign (especially English) fans.The role of the media as an escalating factor was emphasised.
At the European Championship in 1992 in Sweden, a country with a limited hooligan problem, Swedish, English and German hooligans were involved in several incidents. Large numbers of police contained the incidents. Media involvement was important in two ways: in "setting the scene" by sensationalist coverage and because journalists became the target of attacks by English hooligans. The use of police spotters proved again useful, although not all foreign police forces considered international co-operation to be optimal. Spotters provided local police with tactical information on the behaviour of fans and hooligans, acted as intermediary to "their" fans and provided local police with information about individuals. It was often unclear what kind of information was expected and what was done with information provided. The sale of tickets proved to be an important source of information.
In 1994, the World Cup was held in the USA. The increasing commercial influences were felt. The positive effects of active communication of police with fans, and of stewards and fan-coaches with fans contributed to a World Cup without major incidents.
The European Championships of 1996 took place in England. For the first time 16 countries participated. English fans rioted all over the country after the loss of the English team against Germany. No other major incidents occurred, in spite of the fact that separation of fans was not complete. The explosion of an IRA-bomb in Manchester revealed the vulnerability of a large event to acts of terrorism. The English police concluded that Euro 96 was characterised by an unprecedented level of multi-agency planning and co-operation, both on a national and international level. A centralised co-ordination centre with police liaison officers from other countries had been established. The quality and accuracy of information of the intelligence and supporter travel information varied, a number of competing countries did not possess the necessary infrastructure. Again police spotters proved to be very useful in the intelligence-led operation. An effective national press and media strategy was considered of vital importance.
The existence of the Football Licensing Authority contributed to safe stadia. As a result of the tragedy at Hillsborough, there were no fences in the stadia but this did not present problems. Some countries had their own stewards and fan coaches present, which contributed to the prevention of incidents.
At Euro 1996, international co-operation had become commonplace. This did not only include co-operation with participating countries, but also with transit countries.
The 1998 World Cup was held in France and lasted over a month. Again, by far the large majority of matches in the 10 venue sites went without incidents. However, a few serious incidents occurred involving German and English fans and local youths. For English fans, but not for fans from other countries, there was a relation between excessive drinking and involvement in incidents.
The Security report published after the event points to the fact that maintaining the peace during an event of this type cannot do with preparation well beyond territorial limits and preparation within the joint Schengen space. Co-operation of the international police forces should be continued and developed for improved knowledge of risks and adaptation of methods, and to acquire familiarity with crowds from different cultural backgrounds. The report considers it essential to evaluate potential disturbances of public order. Co-operation of foreign police forces is indispensable in this area.
As was the case with previous championships, international information exchange was of varying quantity and quality. It proved difficult to co-ordinate the operational action of delegations with varying cultures, languages, police organisations, familiarity with the hooligan phenomenon, political systems and therefore with different approaches to public order. Clear differences in the way liaison officers work in different countries were revealed. Spotters dissuaded some supporters from exceeding limits and allowed the identification of more violent supporters who disturbed public order. British Transport Police travelled with fans on trains to France.
The Security report recommends the establishment of a think tank in each country to define and put into effect the best-adapted prevention measures. The procedure used to sell tickets made it almost impossible to separate supporters of opposing teams. The ticket selling system was fully inadequate and led to security risks.
Championships tend to get bigger and bigger: more participating countries, more matches, and longer duration. Commercial influences are increasingly important. Two parties deserve special attention during international championships: home fans in each of the participating countries and the local population in the countries in which the championships take place. In each of the championships held in Europe in the last fifteen years, local youths (not necessarily hooligans) provoked incidents in the organising country. Also, in some of the participating countries, incidents occurred involving youths staying at home.
Intelligence clearly is a major factor in dealing with international events. There is a clear trend towards increased co-operation and co-ordination, both before and during matches and championships, between countries and police forces involved. However, it is still far from optimal: many countries are not able to provide the necessary information and countries with a lot of experience in dealing with hooligans often feel that their experience is not used to the full.
Time and again, communication or the lack of it, seems to be a key factor in the prevention or escalation of incidents. This does not apply only to communication within and between those involved in security. Especially in the period leading up to championships, sensationalist or exaggerated press reports, sometimes enhancing nationalist tendencies, contribute to a climate conducive to hooliganism. Communication with fans by police officers, stewards and fan coaches contributes to prevention of incidents, especially if people familiar to them address fans in their own language.
When intelligence, co-operation, co-ordination and communication are not exploited to the full, less adequate repressive measures tend to take precedence. The possibilities to manage a temporary event such as a championship safely are constrained by the long term policies (or lack of them) the participating countries apply with regard to the problem of football hooliganism. In addition, the security management of international championships and matches could benefit from more systematic and structural, objective evaluations.
Background report: European perspective on football hooliganism

Background report: Euro 2000

Football hooliganism is detrimental to the sport. Partly as a result of safety measures taken in the past, the manifestations of hooliganism have changed. To avoid excesses in hooliganism in future, repressive measures will have to be complemented by a social-preventive approach.
From what we know, several elements are critical to avoid excesses in hooliganism:
- sound (international) co-operation and co-ordination;
- active involvement of clubs and national and international football authorities;
- an integrated approach with binding arrangements for all parties involved;
- investing in information about fans and hooligans;
- where possible, excluding hooligans from attending matches (and influencing other fans);
- communicating with fans/ hooligans by police, clubs/ stewards and fan coaches;
- a long-term commitment, not just focusing on incidents and short-term measures.

© Otto Adang, 1999
Following a debate on the report, the COUNCIL OF EUROPE Parliamentary Assembly Standing Committee  declared on November 4, 1999, that the countries of Europe must not only strengthen repression but also reinforce educational, social and cultural strategies designed to prevent hooliganism.

The Committee of Ministers announced its decision to the recommendation on May 31, 2000
Research programme Managing Dangerous Situations
Research programme Managing Dangerous Situations