Emotions That Run High – The Truth About Football Hooliganism.

 

Have you witnessed or been a part of football hooliganism? Scared to go to football games because of the violence?

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Football hooliganism refers to unruly, violent, and destructive behaviour by groups of fans supporting football teams. The groups are also known as firms and some even have their own names i.e. West Ham’s football firm Inter City Firm (ICF). Football firms cause trouble before, during and after the football matches including brawling, vandalism and intimidation to other fans. Some firms plan to meet up before or after the games to have a fight in a secluded area so that they cannot be interrupted by police forces.

These football firms are formed for the specific purpose of intimidating and physically attacking other team’s supporters. Firms can quite often be known as other terms such as;

  • Army
  • Boys
  • Crew
  • Casuals

It is well known that certain football clubs have long standing rivalries with other clubs who are normally (not always) geographically close i.e. Newcastle United and Sunderland. The matches themselves are known as local derbies and this will be when hooliganism is at its largest. The biggest rivalries in the UK when it comes to hooliganism are as follows;

  • Cardiff City – Swansea City (Wales)
  • Celtic – Rangers (Scotland)
  • Newcastle United – Sunderland
  • Millwall – Chelsea
  • Sheffield United – Sheffield Wednesday
  • Millwall – West Ham United
  • Ipswich Town – Norwich City
  • Arsenal – Tottenham Hotspur
  • Derby County – Nottingham Forest
  • Bristol City – Bristol Rovers
  • Blackburn Rovers – Burnley
  • West Bromwich Albion (WBA) – Wolverhampton Wanderers
  • Manchester City – Manchester United
  • Aston Villa – Birmingham City
  • Portsmouth – Southampton
  • Everton – Liverpool
  • Chester – Wrexham
  • Brighton and Hove Albion – Crystal Palace
  • Luton Town – Watford
  • Grimsby Town – Lincoln City
  • Hereford United – Shrewsbury Town
  • Oxford United – Swindon Town

However, these rivalries do not always happen as the football teams may be playing in different leagues i.e. Millwall (League 1) and West Ham (Premier League). They can still play each other if the teams both manage to get to the same round in one of the domestic cups and draw each other. On the other hand, some local derbies currently take place twice a year i.e. Arsenal – Tottenham as they both play in the Premier League and will play each other home & away. You will find that if there is a local derby that they are held on a day where not much other football is being played so that the police can have more numbers at the game had any trouble happen to take place. You will also find that if two local teams have a game on the same day, one of them will be playing at home and the other away. This is to make sure that to two football teams fans do not meet and aren’t in the same area for trouble to start. An example of this is – if Aston Villa were to be playing at Villa Park, Birmingham City & West Bromwich Albion would be playing at an away ground out of the area.

It has been known for conflict between fans to spark spontaneously, a recent example of this is when Millwall played Barnsley in the League 1 Play-off Final. Promotion to the championship was at stake and the winner would progress. Millwall fans in the stands broke through their barrier and stewards and then began to run and attack members of the Barnsley fans. Children and families were in the stands at the time. It can also begin on the streets around the football ground. Local shop windows have been smashed, rubbish bins set on fire and even police cars being overturned. In extreme cases police, bystanders and hooligans have been killed, armed police, body armoured police and riot police have had to intervene with the use of tear gas, police dogs, armoured vehicles and water cannons.

In a survey taken by ‘TalkSport’ it shows the top 10 hooligan firms in the UK based on the most banning orders in the 2012/13 season. They are as follows;

  1. Cardiff City – 135 banning orders
  2. Chelsea FC – 112 banning orders
  3. Manchester United – 98 banning orders
  4. Leeds United – 91 banning orders
  5. West Ham United 78 banning orders
  6. Birmingham City – 77 banning orders
  7. Arsenal – 73 banning orders
  8. Newcastle United – 67 banning orders
  9. Middlesbrough – 65 banning orders
  10. Swansea City – 64 banning orders

However, in a more recent report from ‘Bleacher Report’ in 2014, the top 5 feared football hooligan firms are as follows;

  1. Walsall FC
  2. English Border Front – Shrewsbury Town
  3. Gremlins Gang – Newcastle United
  4. Scunthorpe FC
  5. The Service Crew – Leeds United

Football hooliganism takes place worldwide and in some countries is worse than the UK.

Some of the worst football hooligan firms from across the globe are;

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Galatasary – Turkish Fans –

  1. Ferencvaros – Hungary
  2. Juventus – Italy
  3. Shakhtar Donetsk – Ukraine
  4. Universitario Lima -Peru
  5. FC Zurich – Switzerland
  6. Zenit St Petersburg – Russia
  7. Red Star Belgrade – Serbia
  8. Besiktas – Turkey
  9. Flamengo – Brazil
  10. Dynamo Dresden – Germany
  11. Wisla Cracow – Poland
  12. Ajax – Netherlands
  13. Panathinaikos – Greece
  14. FC Barcelona – Spain
  15. Boca Juniors – Argentina
  16. Dynamo Zagreb – Croatia

It is also not only club football that sees hooliganism, it also takes place on an international scale in terms of clubs i.e. following the England team. Football hooligans who can afford the time and money may follow their international side as well as their club team. They may follow them to both home and away games so could be travelling across the country in numbers to cause trouble. While national-level firms do not exist in the form of club-level firms, hooligans supporting the national team may use a collective name indicating their allegiance.

How Football Hooliganism Can Affect Us

Football hooliganism can affect many of us. If you have been a part of a firm, you are risking your life as well as the lives of others who may not even be part of a firm. You will cause physical damage to others and the environment around you. It can affect a football club and its surroundings.

If a set of fans are getting a name for themselves people will stay away from that football ground, seeing your club make a loss in potential earnings on match days. This could also give your football club a bad ‘brand’ meaning people who may be new to football and looking to support a team will not choose your club because of its bad reputation. The local surrounding businesses and their property and also belongings get damaged meaning they have to pay for repairs or replace what’s been broken because of their apparent nonsensical and aggressive behaviour.

Football hooliganism will also effect fans on a match day who just want to enjoy the game and support their team peacefully. They may be put put-off attending or may have a bad experience because of violence at the football game. Some people may not visit the ground again to support their team as the violence is too much. In serious cases it is possible that we could get caught up in the violence. If outbreaks of violence were to spontaneously start, children, adults, families, even the elderly could be easily caught up and hurt.

My Experience of Football Hooliganism

As a huge football fan I have visited a lot of football games being a previous season ticket holder at Aston Villa. I myself have never been involved in any violence between football firms but have saw trouble being created. I was once at a game between Aston Villa – West Bromwich Albion (WBA) in the F.A. Cup Quarter Final at Villa Park which stakes were high as the winner went on to play at Wembley.

As Villa vs WBA is a local derby, police were present at a high level – expecting trouble to start at any moment in time. The atmosphere between the two sets of fans was very hostile and violent.  Abuse was being verbally thrown at one another, constantly, throughout the game.

The game ended with Villa winning 2-0. As you can imagine I was over the moon beating a local rival in an F.A. Cup quarter final for the chance the play at Wembley, it was a huge win. With emotions running high even before the full time whistle with Villa on the brink of victory, Villa fans rushed onto the pitch in celebration mocking the travelling WBA fans before stewards and security ushered them back off the pitch.

Once the final whistle had been blown the fans again burst onto the pitch running straight over to the stand which held the WBA fans in mocking them, signing in celebration with some fans verbally abusing them too. Some of the Villa fans even ran to WBA players getting in their face mocking and verbally abusing them too. A week later, Aston Villa Football Club were fined £200,000 for being unable to control their fans and allowing them to access the pitch.

Back to the game, the final whistle had blown and the fans were leaving the stadium, Villa fans evidently happy, WBA fans not so. I went to the game with my friend who lives in Birmingham so he didn’t have far to travel home. On the other hand, I lived in Wolverhampton so had a longer distance to travel back.

I was walking alone to the train station where there was a massive queue of fans waiting, around were police forces looking for any trouble that may occur. Patiently waiting for the train I was also cautious of the trouble that may start as many WBA would be catching the same train toward Wolverhampton. Still waiting, I noticed a group of men shouting, and quite aggressively about Villa. Next thing I know they are passing me by staring at everyone trying to intimidate them. One Villa fan near me was still singing in happiness then the group of angry WBA fans spotted him and ran straight for him with swinging fists.

A few of the Villa fans friends and other fans noticed and began to join in the brawl. Police took a few moments to notice the trouble before eventually breaking it up and escorting the WBA fans away. Luckily I got home without no other trouble starting around me, but it was reported that numerous fans were arrested that night.

I have witnessed quite a few fights at the football. I seem to find the majority of the fights happen after the game and take place when fans are passing each other in the streets, and a fight breaks out spontaneously. When I was younger my dad used to take me and my brother to some of the Villa games but would never allow us to go to the local derby between Villa – Birmingham City.

Bloggie Ben’s 7 Golden Rules for Keeping Safe at Football Games

In my honest opinion, I don’t think it’s possible to stop football hooliganism as a whole but in some cases it may be possible to prevent it. If your team had just lost you wouldn’t like to be mocked by opposition fans, I know wouldn’t. It may cause you to get angry and spark a reaction from you, so if your mocking other fans why should they react any different? Here are my top 7 tips to avoid any trouble at a football game;

  1. Don’t mock or taunt opposition fans

It will cause more trouble for yourself if one of the opposition fans were to react and pick a fight with you.

  1. Positioning

Don’t deliberately sit near opposition fans to create trouble,

sit in an area where you can still enjoy the game without the hostile atmosphere between fans.

  1. Safeguarding children and elderly

Most grounds have family stands so if you go to the game with children or the elderly,

these are the stands you should look to sit to avoid trouble and be safe.

  1. Protecting yourself

Always make sure you’re not left alone or stranded,

plan your route to the game and back home and stick to it.

  1. Keeping calm

Always stay calm, if you feel opposition fans are aiming abuse at you,

turn a blind eye and focus on the football game.

  1. Coping with high emotions

If you team are winning or losing and you find yourself struggling to control your emotions,

take a seat, relax and breath correctly.

  1. Being alone or in groups

Usually at football games big groups attract a lot of attention so try to stick around with a group of around 2-3 of you.

Also do not get left alone when travelling to or from a game.

Some people may have phobias of open spaces or being in crowds, imagine the distress it could cause for them if they were to witness fighting at a football game in a big crowd. This could have a prolonged effect on them mentally. If you need help to relax whilst in an uncomfortable situation or just in general, see The AOC’s brilliant relaxation recordings in our online shop at – https://www.theaoc.org.uk/shop/

When I look at the scenes now via YouTube or Google I understand why he didn’t want me to attend.  It looked like sheer utter chaos that I would not like to be a part of.  At the same time, I don’t think it will ever stop my love for Villa and stop me going to support them, maybe that’s because I haven’t been involved in anything that serious as football hooliganism can be a lot worse than what I have experience.

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Rivalry between Aston Villa & Birmingham City

 

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