Football violence and the impact of political events

Football violence is a confusing subject. Of all the things that can whip someone into a violent frenzy, the beautiful game oddly seems to be amongst the most popular.

The current economic climate, the threat of nuclear war posed by North Korea, the terrorist attack in Boston or even Amanda Holden’s alarming ability to repeatedly smuggle herself on to television screens don’t seem to promote the same levels of anger amongst the general public.

However, if the team in red shirts beats the team in blue shirts, fans have been known to express their distaste for the result through sustained bouts of anger, aggression and threatening behaviour, as shown by the ugly scenes at Wembley and in Newcastle city centre over the weekend.

As a ritualistic token, fans will without failure gently bait the opposing supporters with songs claiming their team is better than the visitors’ and they will equally respond in kind, but to let this enthusiasm for a club and the game continue on in to violence seems bizarre given the context.

This has on occasion been described as fans letting their passion for their team get the better of themselves. For example, Newcastle fans’ excitement over the Tyne-Weir derby result could turn to disappointment and then anger at full-time, resulting in a minority feeling the need to punch a horse to relieve the pressure of the day.

However, this is a gross bastardisation of the word passion, carrying with it a host of implications for football fans nationwide; tarring them with the same brush in the process.

Those fans who ardently stand (or sit) in support of their team, following them through the ups and downs of their season and do so without resorting to violence, can now be seen to be doing so without the level of fervent passion that results in a scrap and the police begrudgingly getting involved.

And those who support their team and choose to express their anger – if their team loses or events conspire against their side – through discussion, debate or even sulking will be seen by the minority as diluted supporters.

Despite common sense dictating that resorting to violence in response to a bad football result is an over reaction, on occasion fans will still stoop to this, but the same anger and visible demonstration is oddly not reserved for political issues, which could greatly affect the recent raft of hooligans on parade.

They are not flowing over with anger and contempt when it comes to confronting proposed changes to the welfare system, or the many human rights breaches that impact greatly on citizens’ lives domestically and across the world.

These subjects though are heavily layered and many require a deep and detailed understanding of the events that led to the current situation. Holden’s hogging of the box in particular, will require meticulous research.

However, reacting to a result is instantaneous and requires little research, only relying on a collective feeling amongst a mob of fans. These supporters could well be concerned by the recession and personally feeling its impact in their day-to-day life, or be equally worried by the threat of war posed by North Korea and their alleged nuclear arsenal.

Reacting to these serious issues though isn’t as easy, as it involves organising and corralling a group of like minded people together to establish the best way to express their feelings.

Amongst a considerable group of similarly minded people, potentially frustrated by the position government has held them in, or concerned by the actions of a foreign regime, a collection of people could find themselves in an arena of accumulative anger and vent their combined sporting and social frustrations through mob violence.

In scenes usually reserved for archive footage of supporters in the 1970s and 80s, fans have briefly revisited a dark era in football – which experienced similar economic turmoil – so as long as people’s concerns nationwide mount up away from the arena of football, further football related violence could well be appearing on news programs in the future.

Tags: Championship, Millwall, Newcastle United, Premier League, Sunderland, Wembley, Wigan

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