English Football Hooligans Abroad Assignment

Tackling football violence


The United Kingdom is perceived by virtually all observers in Europe, and by football fans themselves, as having had the earliest and most most severe problems with football hooliganism. Certainly, it is the only nation to have received a blanket expulsion from all European Football competitions - a ban that was initially made for an indefinite period following the Heysel Stadium tragedy in which 39 Juventus fans died when a wall collapsed after clashes with Liverpool supporters.

It is perhaps because of this unenviable record that the United Kingdom has taken the lead in the development of control measures to deal with hooliganism. These measures are closely examined in the first part of this chapter, where we trace the various strategies adopted by the British police, as well as the legislative responses of the British government. As we shall see, the various strategies and responses have been primarily reactive and, increasingly, have been influenced (if not entirely led) by technological developments, such as the use of closed-circuit television and computer databases.

Such advances have certainly helped the flourishing collaboration between the member states of Europe in tackling hooliganism. The European Parliament, however, has become increasingly concerned about the use of such technology, particularly in relation to the issue of the free movement of individuals across member state boundaries.

Finally, the chapter focuses on some of the more proactive responses to football hooliganism. In particular, we look at the phenomenon of the 'fan projects', which originated in Germany in the seventies and which have been swiftly imitated by many other countries in Europe, including Belgium and The Netherlands.

Policing football hooliganism

The principal difficulty for the police in dealing with football hooliganism has been in differentiating between the hooligan and the ordinary football supporter. This difficulty led to the police developing a system whereby all fans were contained, both inside the ground and in travelling to the ground. At the same time, the second primary strategy of the police was the undercover operation: an attempt to ascertain who exactly the hooligans were.

The undercover operation

The English Football Association recommended that plain clothes officers be used in the domestic game as far back as the mid-sixties and requests for the police to infiltrate travelling supporters with plain clothes officers were also made by the Football Association in 1981. The belief of the police (torridly supported by the media) by the 1980s was that football hooligans had transformed themselves from an ill-organised mob into highly-organised forces with a complex network of hierarchies1

Officers were given new identities and instructed to live the life of a hooligan and mingle with other hooligans. These tactics resulted in the launch of numerous early morning raids on the homes of suspected football hooligans from around March 1986. Armstrong and Hobbs detail a familiar pattern in the arrest and charging of suspects in these raids.

Hooligan gangs

The suspects would generally be part of an organised gang that had apparently caused mayhem throughout the country; they would have a 'calling-card' which would normally be displayed on or left beside their victim; they would have used an array of weaponry (which the police nearly always displayed to the media in the post-arrest briefing) and they would often possess incriminating literature (although on one occasion, this included a copy of an academic book on football hooligans entitled Hooligans Abroad).

Charges and convictions

On most occasions, individuals arrested in these raids were charged with conspiracy to cause affray or conspiracy to commit violence, with what they had said to the police and what the police had found in their homes being used as the primary evidence against them.

Many of the raids resulted in high-profile trials and convictions. (e.g. The eighteen-week trial of four Chelsea fans which cost over …2 million and resulted in sentences including one of ten years). But many also failed in sometimes dramatic circumstances, with the reliability of evidence being intensely disputed and the behaviour of undercover officers severely condemned2

Containment and escort

A common sight in the seventies (and for much of the eighties) was that of the police escorting visiting supporters from railway and coach stations to and from the ground. Fans were literally surrounded by police, some on horseback and others with police dogs. In contrast, the nineties has seen the use of the less confrontational tactic of posting officers at specified points en route to the ground.

This is, perhaps, more to do with the recent circumstances of away fans than with the police entirely changing their tactics. It has certainly been the case that travelling away support has dwindled, to the extent that the familiar en masse arrival of football fans at British Rail stations around the country on a Saturday lunchtime is, perhaps, a sight of the past.

Police criticism

The police, however, have still been heavily criticised in some quarters for an over-zealous  approach in dealing with travelling supporters 3 , such as conducting unnecessary searches of coaches for alcohol and even searching supporters' belongings in their absence, though in a recent fan survey, only 20.7% of supporters disagreed with the use of police escorts4, stressing their use as effective protection for away fans.

Inside the ground

The visiting (or 'away') fans were invariably herded into grounds via separate turnstiles and into areas where they were segregated from the home support. These isolationist operations were often eemphasised by a line of police officers separating the home and away fans in a sort of "no man's land" and by the high metal fences which surrounded these fan pens, an attempt to prevent fans from spilling onto the football pitch itself. 5

The police have also been commonly used at the turnstile. Traditionally, this has been a law-enforcement role, with the emphasis on preventing illegal entry into the ground, enforcing exclusion orders and searching supporters for weapons and other prohibited articles.

But they have also been used by clubs to enforce club policy and ground regulations, such as enforcing club bans and membership schemes  and deterring fraud by turnstile operators 6.  More recently, the role of the Steward has come to the fore at football grounds, which has partly relieved the responsibilities of the police in this area.

Police tactics at grounds

While the use of en masse containment alongside covert detective operations has been the basic pattern of policing football hooliganism, police tactics can vary considerably at individual football grounds, as indeed they do on other matters. Such tactics can depend on various factors including the prospective size of the crowd, the relative profile of the particular match, the reputation of the supporters involved and the priorities of the local force involved.7

The inconsistencies between different police forces in their approach to dealing with football supporters was highlighted in The Home Office Affairs Committee report, Policing Football Hooliganism (1991) which recognised that:

" . different police forces and, within police forces, the different police Commanders were inconsistent. A variety of witnesses complained of these inconsistencies. The FSA [Football Supporters Association] told us that 'acceptable behaviour at one ground could be an arrestable offence at another' . [and] different Ground Commanders had different approaches to policing the same ground".

The decline of the 'away' fan

In the Premier league in particular, demand for tickets has risen considerably while ground capacities have declined across the board due to the introduction of all-seater stadia. The expanding interest in football has also led to an increasing commercial interest in the game and, subsequently, an increase in corporate facilities to the detriment of the traditional fan. For example, 14,000 corporate guests were present at the England versus Scotland match during the Euro '96 championships8.

Thus, there is now less room for the away fans than ever before, with clubs obviously favouring their own home support above that of away fans. Six out of ten of the national sample of FA Premier League fans said that they would travel to more games if more tickets were made available to them.

It could be suggested that policing at football grounds has been made easier by the decline of away support. However, the past tendency of fans towards en masse  travelling when away from home has been replaced by a proclivity towards independent travel, which is, perhaps, more difficult to police. Group travel still occurs and the police regularly escort away fans in coaches, via specified rendezvous points. Indeed, the Traffic Commissioner has outlined specific guidelines to the police on dealing with the travel arrangements of fans, such as recommending that coaches should arrive at the ground no more than two hours before the designated kick-off time.

The Steward

The nineties has also seen a shift away from using police to control fans inside the ground, with clubs relying more and more on Stewards, employed by the clubs themselves. This is certainly the principal reason why the ratio of police to fans has declined from 1:74 in 1985 to 1:132 in 1992 10.  Indeed, Scarborough Football Club played most of their home games without a single police officer inside the ground. Other, more high-profile clubs, such as Aston Villa, Chelsea and Leicester City are increasingly relying on Stewards to police the stadium.

Police officers can only eject individuals from grounds if they are breaking the law, whereas Stewards can follow a particular club's agenda and eject people for breaking club and ground rules. The Home Office report on policing football (1993) recommends that the police leave the task of ejecting supporters to the Stewards. But the ability of Stewards to deal with disorder inside grounds has been severely questioned, not least by the Channel Four programme Dispatches in October 1994. There is also evidence suggesting the disposition of Stewards towards the home fans and

". on rare occasions stewards have provocatively celebrated home goals in front of the away fans and even attacked them" 11

Training of Stewards

There is no national standard for the training of Stewards in crowd control and spectator safety or, indeed, any legislative requirement that clubs should provide such training for Stewards. The Taylor Report12 highlighted the lack of training for Stewards and Garland and Rowe further suggest that Stewards do not have the traditional authority that the police possess.

"As crowd safety is increasingly handed over to football club Safety Officers, these [Police] skills will need to be passed on to avert future tragedies . where the responsibility for public safety is handed over to Stewards, the police should ensure that adequate training and briefing has taken place."

Closed-circuit Television (CCTV) and hand-held cameras

CCTV was introduced into football grounds around the middle of the 1980s and is now present in almost every Premier and football league ground. The effectiveness of such camera surveillance has also been improved by the introduction of all-seater stadia across the country. 13 Certainly, the results of fan surveys suggest that the introduction of CCTV is, for the most part, welcomed by supporters. Indeed, the Home Office report (1993) states that

".football supporters are probably more accustomed to being subjected to camera surveillance than most other groups in society."

Another technological feature of police tactics at football grounds is the use of hand-held video cameras, with police filming supporters, primarily in a bid to deter violence, gather intelligence and monitor the efficacy of crowd control.

The Photophone

A further technological advance was the 'photophone' system that allowed the police to exchange photographs of football hooligans from CCTV and other sources via telephone and computer links, allowing vital information to be readily available to the police on matchdays.

The Hoolivan

Advances in technology have also aided the police in both overt and covert surveillance operations. The Hoolivan was launched at the beginning of the season that followed the plethora of incidents in the spring of 1985.  This hi-tech item of machinery enabled police to maintain radio contact with all officers inside and outside the ground and to be linked with the CCTV cameras in and around the stadium.

The Hoolivan tended to be used at high-profile matches or when the police were concerned about a particular set of supporters. During Euro '96, Greater Manchester police used a Hoolivan known as the 'skyhawk', which contained nine hydraulic cameras, each of which could be raised up to thirty feet in height.

1985: Bradford & Heysel

The events of the spring of 1985 proved to be a watershed, both for the image of English soccer as well as for governmental and police responses to football violence. At Bradford, 56 people were killed by a fire in the ground. Serious disorder occurred at the grounds of Birmingham City, Chelsea and Luton Town and, most significantly, Liverpool fans were seriously implicated in the deaths of 39 Italian fans prior to the European Cup Final between Liverpool and Juventus at The Heysel Stadium in Brussels.

The Football Spectators Act (1989)

The Bradford fire and the subsequent report by Justice Popplewell in 1986 raised awareness of the vital issue of spectator safety at football grounds and, in particular, re-introduced the issue of identity cards for football fans. (Though in his final report, he recommended that membership schemes should not be made compulsory.) But it was not until four years later, in 1989, that the government responded to the disorderly incidents of 1985 with the introduction of the Football Spectators Act.

The Football Licensing Authority

The Football Licensing Authority (FLA) was also established under the Football Spectators Act and it is responsible for awarding licences to premises that admit spectators to watch football matches. Though receiving its funding from central government, it retains an independent function and has considerable powers. Not least, it has the capacity to close a stadium.

Identity card and membership schemes

The main proposals of the Act concerned the introduction of compulsory identity cards for spectators at every league, cup and international match played in England and Wales. Throughout the sixties and seventies, various clubs had experimented with their own membership schemes in an attempt to prevent 'unwanted' fans from entering their grounds.

The government and, in particular, the Prime Minister of the time, Margaret Thatcher, strenuously backed the use of identity cards and reciprocal membership schemes as the most effective way of enforcing exclusion orders at football grounds.

Indeed, even before the Football Spectators Act (1989) had been finalised, the Football League had agreed with the government to introduce membership schemes at all clubs, though clubs were slow to implement the recommendations, with only thirteen League clubs (out of ninety two) actually satisfying government requirements by the initial deadline date of August 198716. A survey of police views on membership schemes revealed that 40% did not favour them.  In the event, legislation imposing compulsory identity cards was shelved in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster, when Justice Taylor condemned such schemes in his final report.

The Taylor report

On the 15th April 1989, ninety-five Liverpool fans were crushed to death on the terraces at the Hillsborough Stadium during the F.A. Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. The subsequent report by Lord Justice Taylor was the ninth such inquiry into crowd safety and control at football matches in the United Kingdom.

Prior to the Hillsborough disaster, the techniques used in crowd control had become virtually synonymous with the control of football hooliganism, with the segregation of supporters, high perimeter fencing and a high-profile presence being among the primary tactics of the police and the clubs.

The interim report

The interim report from Lord Taylor was published relatively swiftly after the tragedy, in August 1989. It contained forty-three separate recommendations which were designed to be immediately implemented by all football league clubs (N. B. the Premier League had yet to be formed) by the beginning of the forthcoming season, 1989/90.

The principal recommendations of the interim report were:

    A review of the terrace capacities in all grounds, with an immediate 15% reduction in ground capacities

    Restrictions on the capacities of self-contained supporter pens

    The opening of perimeter fence gates

    A review of the Safety Certificates held by all Football League grounds

    The creation of locally-based, multi-agency groups to advise on ground safety

    Constant monitoring of crowd density by the police and Stewards

The final report

The final report was published in January 1990 and included praise from Lord Taylor regarding the response of clubs to the recommendations contained within the Interim report. The report emphasised the lack of communication between the fans and the football authorities, criticising, in particular, the lack of facilities for supporters at football grounds and the poor condition of football grounds. In total, the final report contained seventy-six recommendations, of which the main ones were:

    The conversion of all football league grounds to all-seater stadia by the end of the millennium

    The removal of spikes from perimeter fencing, which should be no more than 2.2 metres in height

    Ticket-touting to become a criminal offence

    The introduction of new laws to deal with offences inside football stadia, including racial abuse

All-seater stadia

The insistence of the report that football grounds become all-seater placed an unprecedented financial burden on even the richest football clubs in the football League. There were certainly severe critics of such a recommendation and censures were not only made on purely financial grounds. Simon Inglis18 argued that terraced grounds exist throughout the world and do not cause problems and that tragedies such as Hillsborough are more judiciously explained by an examination of the behaviour and control of spectators. In a survey of members of the Football Supporters' Association19 the majority of those surveyed were opposed to all-seater grounds. Lord Taylor admitted in the report that:

"There is no panacea which will achieve total safety and cure all problems of behaviour and crowd control. But I am satisfied that seating does more to achieve those objectives than any other measure."20

In March 1990, the government announced a cut in the rate of tax levied on the Football Pools, which meant that approximately …100 million (over a five-year period) would now be allocated towards ground redevelopment. In addition, the Football Trust announced (in October of the same year) that it would distribute …40 million over the same period and by the following January, the Trust had already allocated approximately …7 million towards various ground improvement projects. Pronouncements by both UEFA and FIFA at this time also indicated their unreserved support for all-seater stadia, with both organisations declaring their intention that all major football matches under their auspices would be played at all-seater grounds.

European cooperation

It is really only after 1985 (after the Heysel Stadium tragedy) that a concerted effort has been made to establish cross-border cooperation in Europe between both police forces and football authorities to combat football hooliganism.

The impact of the Heysel Stadium tragedy (where 39 Italian supporters were killed at the European Cup Final between Juventus and Liverpool) was such that three major European bodies addressed the issue of football violence. Firstly, the Council of Europe adopted the European Convention on Spectator Violence and misbehaviour at Sports Events, which proposed that measures should be taken to prevent and punish violent behaviour in sport. Secondly, the European Council called on all member countries to deal with violence in and around sports stadia and, finally, The European Parliament proposed a number of different measures to combat football hooliganism.

As recently as April 22nd 1996, the European Union issued guidelines on dealing with football hooliganism, many of which adopted United Kingdom proposals.  These guidelines include using the EPI-centre system (secure E-mail) to enable the swift exchange of police intelligence information, the seizure of racist material intended for distribution abroad and the training of club stewards in crowd safety and control techniques. It was also proposed that police forces participate in member states' relevant training courses to aid the exchange of information about the techniques that can be used to prevent hooliganism.

The Claudia Roth report and The European Parliament

While Europe has been quick to adopt many strategies on hooliganism formulated in the United Kingdom, the European Parliament remain especially concerned about restrictions placed on the free movement of football supporters. The Parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties and Internal Affairs commissioned a report on football hooliganism, which was drafted by the MEP, Claudia Roth and adopted by the European Parliament.

The report contained some criticism of police databases and the new information exchange networks, stressing that such networks had led to the arrest and expulsion of innocent people. In the United Kingdom, this was certainly viewed as an attack on the work of the National Criminal Intelligence Service Football Unit, in particular. Any information thus exchanged between member states

". must be carried out in compliance with the criteria laid down by the Council of Europe for the protection of data of a personal nature"

The report, however, supported  the British Home Secretary's demands for increased cooperation between member states regarding the control of cross-border hooliganism. But it further stressed that nationality alone cannot be a basis on which to prevent access to sports stadia and that

". only after a supporter has been convicted of an offence either of violence or an offence connected with football, can he/she legitimately be prevented from attending matches at home or abroad"

The report concludes by refuting the argument that restrictions imposed on the freedom of movement of football supporters is either a viable or a suitable means of controlling football hooliganism.

Police and technology:
Euro '96

The recent European Championships held in England in June, highlighted both the expanding level of cooperation between European police forces since Heysel and the increased sophistication of safety and security techniques that have developed to deal with the football hooligan.

National Crime Intelligence Service Football Unit

The security campaign for Euro '96 was organised by the National Crime Intelligence Service Football Unit. The NCIS Football Unit became fully operational in 1990 and consists of six full-time police officers led by a superintendent. By 1992, over six thousand names and photographs of individuals were held on computer files. Indeed, the information gathered by the Football Unit formed the basis of much of the evidence presented in the Home Affairs Committee reports (1990 and 1991).

The head of the Football Unit (Assistant Chief Constable Malcolm George seconded from the Greater Manchester police) was also in overall control of the police operation for Euro '96.  The Football Unit worked in conjunction with an ACPO (Association of Chief police Officers) steering group and a multi-agency working party. Pre-tournament estimates suggested over 10,000 police Officers from nearly a dozen different police forces were involved in policing Euro '96, at a cost of approximately …25 million. The Football Trust provided 75% of the funding required to update police technology for the tournament.

Police National Coordinating Centre

A police coordination centre was based at Scotland Yard in London for the duration of the competition and included police representatives from each of the sixteen countries taking part. In addition to this, a police Liaison Officer travelled with each team and with each national football association throughout their stay in the competition. In addition, four principal sub-groups were in operation throughout the competition.

Match Commander Group

The Match Commander Group comprised the head of policing at each of the eight Euro '96 venues. The purpose of this group was to engender "a common police philosophy" between the different police Commanders.

Senior Investigating Officers Group

Teams of police officers were also assigned to deal with other crimes as well as football hooliganism. The Senior Investigating Officers Group was instigated to enable information to be exchanged on outbreaks of crimes such as shop-theft and pick-pocketing.

IT Group

The Information Technology Group was responsible for maintaining the various computer links between the National Coordinating Centre and the Match Commanders at the eight venues. Essentially, all the police forces in the United Kingdom were included in the computer link-up, enabling the movement of fans between venues to be monitored at all times through the exchange of information between the forces.

Press and Media Group

The task of the Press and Media Group was to avoid sensationalist reporting of any hooligan incidents by encouraging openness between the various police forces and the media. A more salient initiative of the group included issuing detailed advice packs to visiting supporters in four different languages.

EPI-Centre system and Photophone

Each of the eight venues in Euro '96 housed a police Command Centre, complete with Intelligence coordinator. Intelligence could be passed between each of these centres via the EPI-Centre system. The EPI-centre system is an electronic mail system developed by the Home Office Scientific Development Branch that enables large amounts of data to be transferred electronically at speed, and in a secure fashion. Ten 'photophones' were also provided. One for each of the Euro '96 venues and one each for the coordination centre at New Scotland Yard and The British Transport police.

Hooligan Hotline

A 'hooligan hotline' number was also established whereby supporters could phone in and report incidents of hooliganism and perhaps even identify perpetrators. Although this scheme was promoted as being entirely new, similar schemes have been in existence since 1988, when the West Midlands police set up a 24-hour hotline.

An identical scheme was launched in 1990 before the World Cup Finals (even though these were taking place outside the United Kingdom, in Italy) in an attempt to deter disorder by English fans and, again, a purely domestic hotline was established at the beginning of the 1992/93 domestic season in August 1992. Two Premiership clubs (Manchester United and Leeds United) also have telephone hotlines for people to ring in with information on hooligans.


The 'Spotter' system was also in operation at each venue. This is a system which is used throughout the season in the English Premier and Football Leagues, where a police liaison officer is attached to a particular club and has the responsibility of identifying and monitoring hooligans, usually travelling to away games and assisting the local force with the detection of hooligans.

During Euro '96, this system was a primary example of cooperation between police from different European countries, with officers from each of the visiting countries providing spotters to work alongside the home country officers at the relevant stadia. (At a previous European championship in Germany in 1988, the British police sent spotters to aid their German counterparts in the detection of English hooligans).

The European Fan projects

While the United Kingdom has certainly taken the lead in the development of highly sophisticated techniques to prevent and monitor football hooligans, an enlightening movement from Europe has been the evolution of the 'Fan projects'.


Germany were the first to introduce the fan projects, which began in Bremen in 1981, though detached youth workers in Munich had previously worked with football fans back in 1970. The projects were an attempt to take preventative measures against football hooliganism by detailing  youth or social workers to work among football supporters.

The project workers established a link between football supporters and the football and police authorities, creating lines of communication that had previously not existed. Critics suggested that the project workers were simply informers working at the behest of the authorities, discovering information about hooligans and what plans they might have for particular matches.

The primary function of the fan projects is to turn supporters away from hooliganism  "by means of concrete street-work activities . to help the adolescent fan find his personal identity and to show various possibilities of coping with life".

Löffelholz, Homann and Schwart22 detail a complex network of activities undertaken by the fan workers (alternatively known as "fan coaches"), including individual guidance to fans, intervention in critical situations (e.g. when arrested), educational and careers advice and recreational activities, such as organising travel to matches and producing fan magazines.

There are currently over twenty five fan projects in Germany. Each individual fan project is based around a particular club, from the highest echelons of the Bundesliga, through to the German Second Division and even the amateur football leagues, which attract a extremely high following in Germany.

Funding is mainly drawn from the individual clubs, who themselves obtain funds from a pool organised and funded by Deutscher Fussball Bund (the German equivalent of the Football Association). Finance is also available to projects from the local authorities and from 'social sponsorship' (as opposed to commercial sponsorship).

Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft der Fan-Projekte and Koodinationstelle Fanprojekte

The Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft der Fan-Projekte (Federal Study Group of Fan Projects) was formed in May 1989 and represents the fan projects on a national and international level. The group were responsible for fan project activities at the World Cup in Italy in 1990 and in the European championship finals in Sweden. The organisation of the projects was further cemented by the formation of the Koodinationstelle Fanprojekte (Federal Department Coordinating Fan-Projects) in August 1993, who coordinate the expanding network of projects and their various initiatives throughout Germany.

Euro '96

Eight representatives from the Koodinationstelle Fanprojekte were at the recent Euro '96 championships and were available at the Football Supporters' Association fan embassy in Manchester where the German team was based for the majority of the tournament. The German Euro '96 project printed eight thousand fan guides which provided a variety of information including arrangements for accommodation, entertainment and ticket allocations. The project workers were a vital link between the Euro '96 organisers and German fans, as well as between Deutscher Fussball Bund and the supporters.

The Netherlands

Similar (if not identical) fan projects are also functioning in The Netherlands. Learning from the German model, the Dutch fan projects began in 1986 following  government-sponsored research on football hooliganism that indicated a need for a preventative approach to the problem.

Initially, the projects were financed by a three-year government grant, which was extended for a further five years to 1994. Since then, the financing for the projects has come under the auspices of individual clubs and city councils, who are responsible for the payment of the youth workers. Funding is also available from Koninklijke Nederlandsche Voetbalbond (the  national football association), particularly for the projects organised around international matches and tournaments. (e.g. Koninklijke Nederlandsche Voetralbond funded project workers at Euro '96, who spent two weeks in England prior to the tournament on a reconnaissance mission on behalf of the KNAVE).  

The emphasis within the Dutch fan projects is very much on a multi-agency approach, with project coordinators constantly liaising with the police, Football Clubs, local authorities and the various supporters' organisations. At present there are eight major projects in existence and, like the German model, they are based around particular football clubs such as Ajax, Feyenoord, PSV Eindhoven and Utrecht.

As in Germany, the project workers (commonly known as fan coaches) attempt a similar sociopedagogical guidance to fans, helping them to obtain employment or places on educational courses. They also provide purely pragmatic advice, such as details of travel and ticket arrangements for games. However, the project workers also admit to relaying information to the police on the strategy of hooligans for particular matches.   


The Belgian fan projects officially began only three years ago in 1993, although some fan coaches have been sporadically working with football supporters since 1989. As with the German and Dutch examples, the Belgian project workers are  qualified social and youth workers. François Goffe, one of the coordinators of the Belgian fan coaches commented:

"Our fan coaches are certainly not to be compared with the stewards prevalent in the English game. We work purely as social workers and we work with the fans every day of the week, not just on the day of a particular football match" (fieldwork interview).

In contrast to the German and Dutch models, however, the Belgian projects receive no financial help from Union Royale Belge des Sociétés de FA (the Belgian Football Association) or any of the football clubs. Neither do they receive monetary assistance from local authorities. Instead, financial assistance is obtained from central government funds only.

Eight fan coaching projects are currently in existence in Belgium and they liaise closely with the football clubs, police and the Union Royale Belge des Sociétés de FA on various matters, including security arrangements and ticket allocation. Because they do not receive any financial backing from these organisations, they remain independent and are often openly critical of individual clubs, the police and the football authorities.


A number of other countries are following the lead from Belgium, Germany and The Netherlands by introducing similar fan projects or fan coaching. These include Switzerland and Sweden, where the Project Battre Lakter Kulture ('Project for a better culture') work alongside the Swedish Football Association in running a variety of anti-hooligan initiatives. As with German and Dutch models, the Swedish fan projects are based at football league clubs such as AIK Stockholm and Hammerbee FC.

New directions in tackling football hooliganism

This brief overview of approaches to tackling football violence reveals a distinct gulf between that of the British philosophy and the line taken in other European countries. While the German, Belgian and Dutch authorities, in particular, have engaged in proactive initiatives to reduce the problems, the British continue, in the main, to employ purely reactive strategies involving more intensive policing of football fans, sophisticated surveillance and intelligence measures and new legislation.

This reactive approach is also the line taken to some extent by the Italian authorities, and the police presence at certain games in their country can be intimidating in the extreme, with water cannon, tear gas and automatic weapons often in evidence. The recent Decreto Maroni, 1994, which followed the fatal stabbing of a Genoa fan, also introduced further restictions on the movement of football fans and controls on their behaviour in the stadiums:

"The chief constable (questore) of the province in which the sporting events take place, can forbid people, who have been reported to the police for or convicted of taking part in violent incidents during or because of sporting events, or to people who in the same event have encouraged violence in such with symbols or posters/banners, access to places where sporting events are taking places, and can oblige the same people to report to the police during the days and hours in which the sporting events are taking place … The person who infringes the above regulations will be punished with a minimum jail sentence of three months and a maximum of eighteen months. People who have ignored a caution can be arrested in flagrante."

While the British and the Italian authorities favour the increased use of penal approaches, the trend must be towards tackling football violence at its roots. Despite the clear limitations of the fan coaching schemes being developed in the European mainland, they do provide a basis for a more satisfactory treatment of the problems than has existed since the late 1960s in Britain and from the early 1980s in many other countries. The German football clubs have also been much more willing to support and assist such schemes than their English and Scottish counterparts.

While a few British clubs (e.g. Watford, Oxford United, Millwall etc.) have introduced schemes to enable closer contact between fans and club officials, the large majority seem quite unwilling to take responsibility for the behaviour of their fans. Even those who have received government grants under the 'Football in the Community' scheme have largely instituted fairly token football coaching and school visit programmes.

While football hooliganism appears to be on the decline, at least in the UK, the problems that remain are unlikely to be eradicated simply through additional - and in some people's view, oppressive - controls on the movement of fans, curbs on the availability of alcohol or similarly simplistic 'solutions' to a complex phenomenon.

In line with the views of many researchers in this area, and with the opinions of representatives of formal and informal fans' groups throughout Europe, we see a continuing need for stronger involvement of the football clubs themselves in helping to re-direct and curb the occasionally disruptive and violent behaviour of a small minority of their fans. This might best be achieved through the increased establishment of local fans' forums, through which supporters and club Directors would have a much stronger channel of communication. These, allied to the fan coaching schemes run by local authorities, might succeed in changing fan behaviour on the simple presumption that they are less likely to damage the reputation of a club in which they feel they have a genuine involvement.


8. When Saturday Comes, August 1996

10. Home Office, 1993

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Football hooliganism[1] is the term used to describe disorderly, violent or destructive behaviour perpetrated by spectators at football events.[2]

Football hooliganism normally involves conflict between gangs, often known as football firms (the term derives from the British slang for a criminal gang), formed for the purpose of intimidating and physically attacking supporters of other teams. Other terms commonly used in connection with hooligan firms include "army", "boys", "casuals", and "crew". Certain clubs have long-standing rivalries with other clubs and hooliganism associated with matches between them (sometimes called local derbies) is likely to be more severe.

Conflict may take place before, during or after matches. Participants often select locations away from stadia to avoid arrest by the police, but conflict can also erupt spontaneously inside the stadium or in the surrounding streets.[3][4] In extreme cases, hooligans, police, and bystanders have been killed, and body-armoured riot police have intervened with tear gas, police dogs, armoured vehicles and water cannons.[5] Hooligan-led violence has been called "aggro" (short for "aggravation") and "bovver" (the Cockney pronunciation of "bother", i.e. trouble).

Hooligans who have the time and money, may follow national teams to away matches and engage in hooligan behaviour against the hooligans of the home team. They may also become involved in disorder involving the general public. 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.


Football hooliganism involves a wide range of behaviour, including:

  • taunting
  • spitting
  • unarmed fighting
  • throwing of objects on to the pitch, either in an attempt to harm players and officials or as a gesture of insult.
  • throwing of objects at opposing supporters, including stones, bricks, coins, flares and Molotov cocktails.[3][4]
  • fighting with weapons including sports bats, glass bottles, rocks, rebar, knives, machetes and firearms.[6]
  • disorderly crowd behaviour such as pushing, which may cause stadium fixtures such as fences and walls to collapse. Similar effects can occur when law-abiding crowds try to flee disorder caused by hooligans.[7]

Early history[edit]

The first instance of football violence is unknown, but the phenomenon can be traced back to 14th-century England. In 1314, Edward II banned football (at that time, a violent, unruly activity involving rival villages kicking a pig's bladder across the local heath) because he believed the disorder surrounding matches might lead to social unrest, or even treason.[8] According to a University of Liverpool academic paper, conflict at an 1846 match in Derby, England, required a reading of the "riot act" and two groups of dragoons to effectively respond to the disorderly crowd. This same paper also identified "pitch invasions" as a common occurrence during the 1880s in English football.[9]

The first recorded instances of football hooliganism in the modern game allegedly occurred during the 1880s in England, a period when gangs of supporters would intimidate neighbourhoods, in addition to attacking referees, opposing supporters and players. In 1885, after Preston North End beat Aston Villa 5–0 in a friendly match, both teams were pelted with stones, attacked with sticks, punched, kicked and spat at. One Preston player was beaten so severely that he lost consciousness and press reports at the time described the fans as "howling roughs".[8] The following year, Preston fans fought Queen's Park fans in a railway station—the first alleged instance of football hooliganism outside of a match. In 1905, a number of Preston fans were tried for hooliganism, including a "drunk and disorderly" 70-year-old woman, following their match against Blackburn Rovers.[8]

Although instances of football crowd violence and disorder have been a feature of association football throughout its history[10] (e.g. Millwall's ground was reportedly closed in 1920, 1934 and 1950 after crowd disturbances), the phenomenon only started to gain the media's attention in the late 1950s due to the re-emergence of violence in Latin American football. In the 1955–56 English football season, Liverpool and Everton fans were involved in a number of incidents and, by the 1960s, an average of 25 hooligan incidents were being reported each year in England. The label "football hooliganism" first began to appear in the English media in the mid-1960s,[11] leading to increased media interest in, and reporting of, acts of disorder. It has been argued that this in turn created a 'moral panic' out of proportion with the scale of the actual problem.[12]


Football hooliganism has factors in common with juvenile delinquency and what has been called "ritualized male violence".[13] Sports Studies scholars Paul Gow and Joel Rookwood at Liverpool Hope University found in a 2008 study that "Involvement in football violence can be explained in relation to a number of factors, relating to interaction, identity, legitimacy and power. Football violence is also thought to reflect expressions of strong emotional ties to a football team, which may help to reinforce a supporter’s sense of identity."[14] In relation to the Heysel Stadium disaster one study from 1986 claimed that alcohol, irregular tickets sales, the disinterest of the organisers and the "'cowardly ineptitude'" of the police had led to the tragedy. Gow and Rookwood's 2008 study, which used interviews with British football hooligans found that while some identified structural social and physiological causes (e.g. aggression produces violent reactions) most interviewees claimed that media reports (especially in newspapers) and the police's handling of hooligan related events were the main causes of hooliganism.[14]Political reasons may also play in part in hooliganism, especially if there is a political undertone to such a match (e.g. unfriendly nations facing each other).[15]

Writing for the BBC in 2013, David Bond stated that in the UK, "[h]igh-profile outbreaks of violence involving fans are much rarer today than they were 20 or 30 years ago. The scale of trouble now compared to then doesn't bear comparison – either in terms of the number of people involved or the level of organisation. Football has moved on thanks to banning orders and better, more sophisticated policing. And while it is too simplistic to say that the higher cost of watching football has pushed unsavoury elements out, there has been a shift in the way people are expected to behave inside grounds. Offensive chants are still way too commonplace but actual fighting doesn't happen very often."[16]


Football hooligans often appear to be less interested in the football match than in the associated violence. They often engage in behaviour that risks their being arrested before the match, denied admittance to the stadium, ejected from the stadium during the match or banned from attending future matches. Hooligan groups often associate themselves with, and congregate in, a specific section (called an end in England) of their team's stadium, and sometimes they include the section's name in the name of their group. In the United Kingdom, 1960s and early 1970s football hooliganism was associated with the skinhead subculture. Later, the casual subculture transformed the British football hooligan scene. Instead of wearing working class skinhead-style clothes, which readily identified hooligans to the police, hooligans began wearing designer clothes and expensive "offhand" sportswear (clothing worn without careful attention to practical considerations), particularly Stone Island, Prada, Burberry, CP Company, Sergio Tacchini and Adidas.[17]

Anti-hooligan measures[edit]

Police and civil authorities in various countries with hooligan problems have taken a number of measures, including:

  • banning items that could be used as weapons or missiles in stadia, and searching suspected hooligans
  • banning identified hooligans from stadia, either formally via judicial orders, or informally by denying them admittance on the day
  • moving to all-seated stadia, which reduces the risk of disorderly crowd movement
  • segregating opposing fans, and fencing enclosures to keep fans away from each other and off the pitch
  • banning opposing fans from matches and/or ordering specific matches to be played behind closed doors
  • compiling registers of known hooligans
  • restricting the ability of known hooligans to travel overseas.


Bosnia and Herzegovina[edit]

Football hooliganism in Bosnia and Herzegovina is particularly associated with the supporters of clubs such as FK Sarajevo (Horde Zla), FK Željezničar Sarajevo (The Maniacs), FK Velež Mostar (Red Army), HŠK Zrinjski Mostar (Ultrasi) and FK Borac Banja Luka (Lešinari). Other clubs with hooligans as supporters include FK Sloboda Tuzla (Fukare), NK Čelik Zenica (Robijaši) and NK Široki Brijeg (Škripari).

Hooliganism reflects local ethnic divisions and tensions. Bosniak oriented groups are fans of FK Sarajevo, FK Željezničar and FK Velež Mostar. Serb oriented groups are fans of FK Borac Banja Luka, FK Slavija, and FK Drina Zvornik (Vukovi). Croat oriented groups are fans of NK Široki Brijeg (Škripari) and HŠK Zrinjski Mostar.

Many fans are associated with fascist ideologies, supporting and glorifying extremist movements such as the Ustaše, Chetniks and Nazis.[18]

In 2009 riots between supports of Bosnian Premier League club sides NK Široki Brijeg and FK Sarajevo left Horde Zla supporter Vedran Puljić (from Sarajevo) dead from a gunshot wound.[19]

Hooliganism has also been present in lower leagues.[20] Riots have been common in Jablanica because fans of different clubs tend to meet and clash there.[21]


Football hooliganism in Croatia has seen riots over inter-ethnic resentments and the politics that were reignited by the breakup of the Yugoslav federation in the 1990s.[5] Two of the best known hooligan firms are Torcida (Hajduk Split) and Bad Blue Boys (Dinamo Zagreb).[22] However, the groups are not just hooligan firms; they are more like the South American Torcida supporters groups and Ultras groups, with organised Tifos and so on.

On 13 May 1990 (before the breakup of Yugoslavia) Serbian club Red Star Belgrade was in Zagreb to play Dinamo Zagreb at the Maksimir Stadium. Red Star was accompanied by 3000 Delije, the organized supporters of the club. Before the match a number of small fights broke out. Police reinforcements soon arrived with armoured vehicles and water cannons, focusing to separate the fans. Dinamo's player Zvonimir Boban kicked one policeman, defending a Dinamo's fan beaten by the police. The fighting lasted for over an hour and hundreds of people were injured. Football hooliganism in Croatia is sometimes connected with racism and nationalism,[5] although the racist remarks, if any appear, are pointed solely to opposing club's players, never to own squad.

Ethnic tension between Croats and Serbs has also led to fighting at a football match in Australia. On 13 March 2005, Sydney United (who have a large Croatian following, and were established by Croatian immigrants) and Bonnyrigg White Eagles (who have a large Serbian following and were established by Serbian immigrants) met in Sydney in the New South Wales Premier League. About 50 fans clashed, resulting in two police officers getting injured and five fans being arrested. Football NSW held an inquiry into the events. Both clubs denied that the fight was racially motivated or that there was any ethnic rivalry.[23] P Croatian hooligans are also notorious for staging large illegal pyroshows at stadiums, where signal flares and smoke bombs are hurled onto the pitch causing postponement or cancellation of the match. A large incident occurred in 2003 in Rome during the Hajduk-Roma match when 900 Torcida fans threw signal flares at Roma fans resulting in various injuries and clashes with the police.

Another incident occurred in Genoa in 2007 when masked Torcida fans attacked the police with bricks, bottles and stones. Rioting continued in the stadium when Torcida fans threw chairs into the pitch and made nazi salutes. A riot occurred in 2006 in Osijek during the Osijek-Dinamo match. Several clashes between the Bad Blue Boys and Kohorta occurred before the match in which one Osijek fan received several stab wounds after which Osijek fans attacked the police and Dinamo fans with signal flares and stones.

A large riot occurred in 2008 in Prague prior to the Sparta Prague-Dinamo match. Riots were ignited with the support of Sparta's ultrafans to Radovan Karadžić and Ratko Mladić.[24] Approximately 500 Bad Blue Boys rioted in the city centre breaking shops and attacking police with chairs, signal flares and stones. Approximately 300 Bad Blue Boys were detained and 8 police officer were injured. Prior to the riots some Bad Blue Boys provoked local Romani people by giving nazi salutes.

A large riot occurred in 2010 on 1.May at the Maksimir stadium when the Bad Blue Boys clashed with the police resulting in many arrests and one critically injured police officer. After the match violent clashes continued in which one Dinamo fan was shot by police officers. A large incident occurred in 2009 prior to the FC Timişoara-Dinamo match. 400 Bad Blue Boys rioted in the city centre and attacked local people. After the incident Romanian police detained a large number of Dinamo fans but the situation escalated again at the FC Timişoara stadium when 200 Bad Blue Boys tore down the pitch fence and attacked the police with chairs and bats resulting in several injured police officers. During the clash Dinamo fans fired signal missiles at FC Timişoara fans resulting in severe injuries. Many Croatian hooligan groups have also displayed nazi flags at matches and have neo-naziskinheads in their ranks. Several incidents occurred when Bad Blue Boys and Torcida made racist chants towards opposing club's football players of African descent and hurled bananas in the pitch. In 2010, a Cameroon player was attacked in Koprivnica resulting in severe injuries.

In December 2010. 10–15 Tornado (Zadar) hooligans attacked a Partizan traveling coach with stones and bricks resulting in one injured person. In December 2010 30–40 Bad Blue Boys attacked a PAOK traveling coach with stones, bricks and flares setting the traveling coach on fire and inflicting injuries on several passengers.

In November 2014, during a Euro 2016 qualifying game in Milan, Italy hooligans from Croatia threw flares and fireworks onto the field and the game had to be briefly suspended.[25]


Football hooliganism in Cyprus has been an issue for the past few decades and incidents are generally associated with the 5 major Cypriot clubs.

Anorthosis Famagusta FC fans have been in involved in many incidents on most occasions involving their ultras group "Mahites".[26] The two clubs in Limassol, AEL Limassol and Apollon Limassol have also been involved in numerous incidents, especially in recent years.[27][28][29][30]

Supporters of APOEL FC and AC Omonia Nicosia, the two most successful and most popular clubs in the country are notorious for hooliganism. The most violent cases of hooliganism in Cyprus usually involve the two teams.[31][32][33][34] In May 2009 APOEL fans entered the Omonia stand and engaged in fistfights with Omonia fans eventually throwing one down the stand stairs.[35] 6 months later in November fans of the two teams clashed close to the GSP Stadium when APOEL fans tried to hijack a futsal tournament organized by Omonia. Many were injured including an APOEL fan who was almost beaten to death.[36]

The rivalry between Omonia and APOEL has its roots in politics. APOEL fans are in their majority right wing whereas Omonia fans are left wing. Communist symbols in the Omonia stand and right wing or even fascist symbols in the APOEL stand are not uncommon.[37] The Limassol rivalry between Apollon and AEL Limassol is more a matter of what team dominates over the city.[38] Hooliganism in the case of Anorthosis is also politically linked, especially when the club plays a left wing team such as Omonia. Other incidents between clubs of different cities that are of the same political orientation are associated with intercity rivalries, particularly when a club from Limassol faces a club from Nicosia.[38]


Football hooliganism in France is often rooted in social conflict, including racial tension. In the 1990s, fans of Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) fought with supporters from Belgium, England, Germany, Italy and Scotland.[39] There is a long-standing north/south rivalry between PSG (representing Paris and by extension northern France) and Olympique de Marseille (representing the South of France) which has encouraged authorities to be extremely mobilised during games between the two teams. Violent fights and post-game riots including car burning, and shop windows smashing have been a regular fixture of PSG-OM games. In 2000, the bitter rivalry turned particularly violent.[40]

On 24 May 2001, fifty people were injured when fighting broke out at a match between PSG and Turkish club Galatasaray at the Parc des Princes stadium.[41][42] PSG were initially given a record $571,000 fine, but it was reduced on appeal to $114,000. Galatasaray was initially fined $114,000 by UEFA, but it too was eventually reduced to $28,500.[43] In May 2001, six PSG fans from the Supporters Club, were arrested and charged with assault, carrying weapons, throwing items on the pitch and racism. The six were alleged to have deliberately entered a part of the Parc des Princes stadium where French fans of Turkish origin were standing, in order to attack them. The six were banned from all football stadiums for the duration of their trial.[43][44][45]

On 24 November 2006 a PSG fan was shot and killed by police and another seriously injured during fighting between PSG fans and the police. The violence occurred after PSG lost 4–2 to Israeli club Hapoel Tel Aviv at the Parc des Prince in a UEFA Cup match. PSG fans chased a fan of Hapoel Tel Aviv, shouting racist and anti-semitic slogans. A plainclothes police officer who tried to protect the Hapoel fan was attacked, and in the chaos, one fan was shot dead and another seriously injured. In response, the French Interior Minister, Nicolas Sarkozy held a meeting with the president of the French Football League, Frederic Thiriez to discuss racism and violence in football. The director-general of the French police, Michel Gaudin, insisted that measures against football hooliganism had reduced racist incidents to six that season from nineteen in the previous season. Gaudin also stated that 300 known hooligans could be banned from matches.[46] The fan who was shot, was linked with the Boulogne Boys, a group of fans who modelled themselves on British hooligans in the 1980s. The group's name comes from the Kop of Boulogne (KOB), one of the two main home fan stand at the Parc des Princes.

The KOB themselves held a silent memorial march attended by 300 and accused the police office of murdering the fan. They cited bias in the French press who had only given a "one-sided" account of the incident.[46] French President Jacques Chirac condemned violence that led up to the shooting, stating that he was horrified by the reports of racism and anti-Semitism. French Prime Minister, Dominique de Villepin called for new, tougher measures to deal with football hooligans. Prosecutors opened an inquiry into the incident, to determine whether the officer involved should face criminal charges.[47][48]

Before a home match against Sochaux on 4 January 2006, two Arab youths were punched and kicked by white fans outside the entrance to the KOB. During the match racist insults were aimed at black players and a PSG player of Indian origin, Vikash Dhorasoo was told to "go sell peanuts in the metro".[39] In the recent years, following UK's example, France's legislation has changed, including more and more banning of violent fans from stadiums. The threat of dissolution of fan groups has also tempered the outward rivalry and violence of a number of fans. Known violent fans under ban sentences are to report to the nearest Police station on nights of game, to prove they are not anywhere in proximity to the stadium.

On 11 June 2016, during a Euro 2016 match in Marseille between Russia and England, violent conflict broke out between the fans and left 35 injured. Both threw numerous items at each other and engaged in physical combat. Even a person who is recording the incident can be seen stomping another person's head.[49] Because of this, both countries were given a disqualification warning soon later.[50] The match ended with 1-1.

On 16 April 2017, during a match between Olympique Lyonnais and SC Bastia, supporters of SC Bastia invaded the pitch in an attempt to fight Lyonnais players. The match was then postponed.[51]


Some football hooliganism in Germany has been linked to neo-Nazism and far right groups.[52] In June 1998, after a FIFA World Cup match in France between Germany and Yugoslavia a French policeman was beaten to the point of brain damage by German fans. Following the incident, German police contacted many of the known 2,000+ German hooligans to warn them they would be arrested if they travelled to upcoming matches in France.[53] A German fan was arrested in 1998 and charged with attempted murder[54][55] and in 1999, four more Germans were convicted in the attack[56][57] In 2001, Markus Warnecke, the German fan who was accused of leading the attack, was found guilty and jailed for five years and banned from France for ten years, and from all sports facilities for five years.[58]

In March 2005, German football fans fought with police and rival fans at a friendly match between Germany and Slovenia in Celje, Slovenia, damaging cars and shops, and shouting racist slogans. The German Football Association (DFB) apologised for the behaviour. As a result, 52 people were arrested; 40 Germans and 12 Slovenians.[59][60] Following a 2–0 defeat to Slovakia in Bratislava, Slovakia, German hooligans fought with the local police, and six people were injured and two were taken into custody. The DFB again apologised for fans who chanted racist slogans.[61]

In June 2006, Germany beat Poland in a World Cup Finals match in Dortmund, which led to violent clashes. The police detained over 300 people in Dortmund and German fans threw chairs, bottles and fireworks at the police. Of the 300 arrested, 120 were known hooligans.[62] In October 2006, a task force was established to deal with violence and racism in German football stadiums.[63] The worst incident took place at a Third division (North) match between the Hertha BSC Berlin B-team and Dynamo Dresden, in which 23 policemen were injured.[64][65] In February 2007 in Saxony, all German lower league matches, from the fifth division downward were cancelled after about 800 fans attacked 300 police officers (injuring 39 of them) after a match between Lokomotive Leipzig and Erzgebirge Aue II.[66] There were minor disturbances after the Germany and England match during the 2010 FIFA World Cup. An English flag was burned down amongst a mob of German supporters in Duisburg-Hamborn in Germany.[67]


The first incidents between Football fans in Greece were recorded in June 1930, after the match between Aris Thessaloniki and Panathinaikos F.C. at Thessaloniki. While Panathinaikos fans where arriving at the port of Piraeus from Thessaloniki, Olympiakos fans, who had not forgotten the big loss of their team (8–2) by Panathinaikos F.C. riot with the green fans. The word "hooliganism" was recorded at the early '60s where Greek students in the UK who had experienced the phenomenon of hooliganism there first taught the term to the journalists who were unable to explain why the fans were fighting each other and gave this situation a name. In 1962, after Panathinaikos F.C. and P.A.O.K. F.C. match incidents, newspapers wrote for the first time that hooligans (Χούλιγκανς) vandalized Apostolos Nikolaidis Stadium. It was on 19 November 1966 that a big flag, at the 13th gate of Apostolos Nikolaidis Stadium announced the arrival of a new group on the scene. Gate 13 would be the first organized group that over the years became a part of the club by affecting club decisions and by following the club on all possible occasions. P.A.O.K. F.C. fans made Gate 4 in 1978 and Olympiacos fans create the Gate 7 in 1981. In 1982, between Aris FC – Paok FC match incidents, Aris Dimitriadis was stabbed and later died in Thessaloniki's hospital. On 26 October 1986, at the Alkazar stadium of Larissa Charalambos Blionas was killed by a flare pistol thrown by the Paok fans. One month later anastasios Zontos was stabbed to death in Omonoia square in the center of Athens before the match AEK Athens F.C. & P.A.O.K. F.C.. In January 1991, before the derby of Aek F.C. and Olympiakos F.C., George Panagiotou died in the incidents between hooligans outside Nea Filadelfia's stadium hit by flare pistol. On 15 May 2005, in Thessaloniki derby Iraklis-Aris F.C., Aris' hooligans called Ierolohites invaded the pitch when the score was 2–1 for Iraklis. A football player Tasos Katsambis was injured during the clashes. The match was halted and Aris was punished with a 4-point deduction which led to their relegation to the Second Division. In April 2007, all sports stadiums were closed down in Greece for two weeks following the death of a fan in a pre-arranged fight between hooligans in Athens on 29 March. The fight involved 500 fans of rival Super League Greece clubs Panathinaikos, which is based in Athens, and Olympiacos, which is based in nearby Piraeus. The Greek government immediately suspended all team sports in Greece and severed the ties between teams and their supporters' organizations.[3] A Third Division match between Panetolikos and Ilioupoli was stopped for thirty minutes when players and fans clashed following a Panetolikos disallowed goal. Two players and a coach were sent to the hospital.[68]

On 18 April, rival fans clashed with each other and riot police in Ioannina during and after a Greek Cup semi-final match between local rivals PAS Giannena and Larissa. There was trouble during the game in which Larissa won 2–0. Fans set fire to rubbish bins and smashed shop windows, while police tried to disperse them by firing tear gas.[3][4]

On 10 October 2009, a group of about 30 hooligans disrupted an "Under 17" match between local rivals PAOK and Aris Thessaloniki. Among the injured were a group of Aris Thessaloniki players and their coach, a veteran PAOK player and another official. On 7 October 2011, a group of Greek supporters firebombed the away section of a Euro 2012 qualifying match against Croatia in Athens. On 18 March 2012, during the match for the Super League Greek Championship in Athens Olympic Stadium between Panathinaikos and Olympiakos, home team Panathinaikos's fans who were inside the stadium attacked police forces with Molotov bombs, causing extended damages to the stadium, while police forces were unable to keep peace.

On 5 January 2014, in Aigaleo, a suburb in Athens, the local team Aigaleo FC was hosting AEK Athens, a Third Division match. Before the match clashes broke up between AEK and Aigaleo fans. Indeed, the clashes resulted in the arrest of a security guard of the stadium who was accused of participating in the clashes among Aigaleo hooligans and also accused of committing attempted murder against an AEK fan.

On 15 September 2014, in Nea Alikarnassos, the team Herodotus[69] was hosting Ethnikos Piraeus , a Third Division match. On 75' minute of the game, a clash between the supporters of the two clubs forced the referee to stop the match. During the clash, a 45-year-old supporter of Ethnikos Piraeus suffered a severe head injury and died two weeks later.[70][71]


Local derbies between Budapest teams Ferencvárosi Torna Club (based in Ferencváros) and Újpest FC (based in Újpest) are frequently occasions for violence between supporters.[72] Other clubs whose supporters are reportedly involved in hooliganism include Debreceni VSC (Debrecen), Diósgyőri VTK (Miskolc), Nyíregyháza Spartacus FC (Nyíregyháza), Zalaegerszegi TE (Zalaegerszeg), Haladás VSE (Szombathely) and Videoton FC (Székesfehérvár)


The term ultrà or ultras is used to describe hooligans in Italy.

In February 2001, A.S. Roma fans fought with police and Liverpool F.C. fans, and five English supporters were stabbed.[73]

After a weekend of violence in January 2007, the president of the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) threatened to halt all league football. An official of amateur club Sammartinese died when he was caught up in a fight between players and fans in Luzzi, among numerous incidents of disorder in Florence, Bergamo and elsewhere.[74] In February 2007 the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) suspended all football matches after Police Officer Filippo Raciti was killed at the match between Catania and Palermo when he was struck on his liver by a piece of lavatory of the stadium.[75]


In a Euro 2016 qualifying match in Podgorica on 27 March 2015, a few seconds in, a hooligan threw a flare at Russia goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev injuring him. The match was then temporarily suspended. Later fighting between the teams and more hooliganism rendered the game abandoned.[76]


The earliest recorded case of hooliganism in the Netherlands occurred when Rotterdam club Feyenoord and English club Tottenham Hotspur met at the 1974 UEFA Cup Final, where Tottenham hooligans destroyed portions of the Feyenoord stadium tribunes. It was the first time the Netherlands encountered such destructive hooliganism.[77] Other Dutch clubs associated with hooliganism include PSV Eindhoven, Ajax, FC Utrecht, FC Groningen, Twente Enschede and ADO Den Haag.

The most violent rivalry is between Ajax and Feyenoord. A particularly serious incident was the so-called "Battle of Beverwijk" on 23 March 1997, in which several people were seriously injured and one killed.[78] The 2002–03 season was marked by similar incidents, and also by fighting between fans of Ajax and FC Utrecht.[79]

Other serious incidents include:

  • 16 June 1990, English fans were arrested for brawling before a World Cup match against the Netherlands in Italy.[80]
  • 26 April 1999, 80 hooligans were arrested for rioting after Feyenoord won the title after having played NAC Breda.[81]
  • 19 February 2015, Feyenoord hooligans attacked Italian police with glass bottles and firecrackers in Piazza di Spagna before Europa League match A.S. Roma-Feyenoord,28 Dutch fans were arrested.


Further information: Football hooliganism in Poland

One of the biggest riots occurred at a World Cup qualifying match between Poland and England on 29 May 1993 in Chorzów.

Arranged football hooligan fights in Poland are known as ustawki; they became common in Poland since the late 90s. On 30 March 2003, Polish police arrested 120 people after rival football supporters fought during a match between Śląsk Wrocław and Arka Gdynia.[82] During the riot, hooligans pelted police officers with stones and fought a running battle with knives and axes. One victim was seriously injured and later died in hospital.

During the 1998–99 UEFA Cup, a knife was thrown at Italian footballer Dino Baggio, from Parma F.C. by Polish supporters (allegedly Wisła Kraków fans), injuring him in the head.[83] Supporters of Legia Warszawa also attracted negative attention after in Lithuania during the match against Vetra Vilnius on 10 July 2007.

The most notable hooligan incidents happened in Kraków where supporters of the Wisła Kraków and KS Cracovia teams have a rivalry that reportedly extended to killings of opposing fans.

Country-wide riots involving football fans were seen in 1998 in Słupsk and 2015 in Knurów, both incidents sparked by a killing of a fan by the police.

Republic Of Ireland[edit]

Football Hooliganism was never an issue in Ireland up until the early 2000s and involved many pre match fights began to spawn in areas such as County Louth, Dublin and Derry. The behaviour of fans in these areas involved fights, racist chants and banners and many different pyrotechnic tools such as flares, smoke bombs and strobes. Often enough the away team and League of Ireland matches would be ganged up on by the home teams and attacked.


Football hooliganism has become prevalent in Russia since the beginning of the 2000s, Hooligans are associated with teams such as FC Spartak Moscow (Gladiators, Shkola, Union), FC Lokomotiv Moscow (Red-Green's, Vikings, BHZ, Trains Team), PFC CSKA Moscow (RBW, Gallant Steeds, Yaroslavka, Einfach Jugend), FC Dynamo Moscow (Capitals, 9-ka), FC Torpedo Moscow (Tubes, TroubleMakers) – all from Moscow – and FC Zenit Saint Petersburg (Music Hall, Coalition, Snakes Firm) from Saint Petersburg. Russian hooligans often show an underlying resentment towards Russia's perceived political rivals.[84][85][86][87][88][89] At the UEFA Euro 2016 tournament, 50 Russian fans were deported and the international team fined €150,000 following co-ordinated violent attacks.[90]


The most prominent groups of hooligans are associated with Belgrade and Serbia's two main clubs, Partizan and Red Star Belgrade. They are known as the Grobari (Gravediggers) and Delije ("Heroes"), respectively. FK Rad is a less-successful Belgrade club, whose associated hooligans, known locally as "United Force", have notoriously been involved in many violent incidents.[91] On 2 December 2007, a plainclothes police officer was seriously injured when he was attacked during a Serbian Superliga match between Red Star Belgrade and Hajduk Kula.[92][93] On 14 April 2008 a football fan was killed near Novi Sad after clashes between FK Partizan's Grobari and fans of FK Vojvodina.[94] That same week, after a Red Star Belgrade-Partizan cup match, three people were injured and a bus destroyed by hooligans.[95]

On 19 September 2008 a Serbian football hooligan was sentenced to ten years in jail for an attack against a police officer at a Red Star Belgrade–Hajduk Kula game.[96] On 12 October 2010 Serbia's Euro 2012 Qualifying clash with Italy was abandoned after only 6 minutes after several Serbian fans threw flares and fireworks onto the pitch and caused severe trouble in and out of the ground.[97] Partizan Belgrade were disqualified from the UEFA Cup, after crowd trouble in Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina. Partizan fans threw flares and stones and fought with supporters of Zrinjski Mostar and police. Fourteen Partizan fans were convicted for the murder of Toulouse FC fan Brice Taton in Belgrade. They attacked him and other fans with baseball bats and flares while wearing surgical masks. The hooligans received up to 35 years in prison.[98]


Football hooliganism in Spain arises from three main sources. The first is racism, as some black players have been victims of ethnic slurs. Samuel Eto'o, a former FC Barcelona player from Cameroon, has denounced the problem.

The second source is the strong rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona. After transferring from Barcelona to Real Madrid, Luís Figo's appearance in Barcelona's Nou Camp Stadium triggered a strong reaction. The crowd threw bottles, mobile phones and other things (including a pig's head). Although nobody was injured the match was followed by a large discussion on fan violence in the Spanish Primera División.

Hooliganism is also rooted in deep political divisions arising from the General Franco fascist regime days (some Real Madrid, Atlético Madrid, Espanyol, Real Betis Balompie or Valencia CF ultras are linked to franquista groups), the communist ones, (such as Deportivo La Coruña, Athletic Club Bilbao, Sevilla FC, Celta de Vigo, Rayo Vallecano) and the independentist movements in Catalonia (like FC Barcelona), Galicia

Czech police prepare for trouble after a match by suiting up in riot gear.
This photo of a match in Lille shows the use of flares by PSV Eindhoven supporters in football hooliganism.
German football hooligans with masked faces in a 1990s match.
German police prepare for hooliganism by wearing riot gear and using police dogs.
Hooligans of "GATE 13" Panathinaiko's attacking supporters of "GATE 4" Paok and punched in field of Leoforos Alexandras stadium.
Panathinaikos fans burn "spoils" inside stadium which were gained in battles against hooligans of Olympiakos in the past year.
The aftermath of a football riot in Bryansk, Russia: broken chairs and seats.

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