How we can stop the regular violence at international games?




By Tony Attwood (on a soapbox)

There is a headline running on the Daily Telegraph website “Watch: Dutch fans attack England supporters in bar before European Championship semi-final”  And I found myself thinking “Why?”   Or to put it in more detail – “Why should I be encouraged to watch such a thing, and indeed why should I ever want to watch football supporters fighting?

I presume that the Telegraph, being a solidly right-wing newspaper that tends to appeal to older conservatives believes that this is what their readership likes: to watch football supporters fighting.

Those who like watching violence will presumably have their bizarre desire satisfied.   And those who feel that all foreigners are lesser beings than solid, honest and above all innocent Englishmen will have their view of the world enhanced.   Football is watched by mindless hooligans; foreigners are thugs.  Job done.

Now I make a point of this because it is a perfect example of how football is being used by the media for its own political ends.   Indeed, this can be seen by the way the Mail (another paper of a similar view to the Telegraph in relation to people who are not British) with their headline “Drunk England fans punched man blocking car in street”

Actually that wasn’t enough for the Mail which then has “Drunk Brit fans get punched by local Benidorm man after blocking his car in street. England fans chanting ‘Ten German Bombers’ were attacked by a furious local as they blocked a street in Benidorm, with video…”

Again if you really want to read that you can go and find it but I am not making it easier by putting links in.

The Mirror, never one to miss out has “Netherlands fans fling chairs and bottles at England supporters before Euros semi-final.”

The argument of course is that it happened so it has to be reported and maybe there is something in that… except what is reported is always the choice of the newspaper editors, and one only has to spend a short amount of time in newspaper offices to realise just how much they each keep an eye on what their rivals are covering.

In fact there is an agreement: violence at a football match is news.  Transfer stories that probably won’t ever happen are news.

What perhaps is worse is that if the media ever talk about how the football violence that they so revel in can be stopped (and they don’t do that very often because they love covering the story as much as possible) they talk about banning orders – which where they have been applied seem to have had no effect at all.

The simple reality is that for many years international football, in the sense of one country against another, has become a focus for violence among some football fans, and the authorities in every country have repeatedly failed to find a way to stop it.

The obvious way of course is either to stop these competitions, or to play the matches without any crowds in the stadia, but no, the media companies don’t want that.   They want to have violence that they can report, and nasty foreigners who they can blame.   It is after all a free story.   No one has to be interviewed, no research has to be done, it is just there.  Get a few pictures and write a big headline.

There is a way to stop this violence at international football matches and that is to stop international football matches in front of crowds.  That is such a simple solution a five-year-old could think of it.  (Just think back to the Euro final at Wembley to see the sense in this).

But the TV companies and newspapers won’t hear of it because they want something negative to report about football.  But it must have naughty foreigners in it.  (See Why does the media always excuse the FA when there is chaos at a match?” for more details).

Of course the argument will come along: “should the majority of law abiding citizens be penalised because of the behaviour of the few?”   And the answer is, well, no of course not, but yes, that is what we do.  We have rules, regulations and laws.  In the UK it is illegal to drive at over 60mph on most roads and many of us accept that curtailment of the way we can use our cars.  Not because you or I will have a crash by driving faster, but because we might.

So international matches should be stopped not because there will always be a fight, but because quite often there will be.

4 Replies to “How we can stop the regular violence at international games?”

  1. Unfortunately I have to say that in the late 60’s I lived and worked on the Costa Dorada . If there was trouble in the bars it always involved British people and on most occasions it was tribal and usually revolved around football teams . It built the reputation that our supporters still carry. Certainly Eastern European supporters see it as a badge of honour to “”sort out the English “” and if you remember leaving the Stade de France in 2006 . The phalanx of armed riot police that we had to walk through at the end that were just itching to get a reaction so that they steam in was a direct consequence of the reputation.
    How to stop it ? really don’t know . Smaller tournaments maybe with less qualification games might reduce the opportunity for trouble but I do believe that we are stuck with it whilst although most people only want to go and enjoy the match and soak up a bit of the local culture there are those that have the lads culture and being abroad is a catalyst for it to continue..

  2. porter

    “…..there are those that have the lads culture and being abroad is a catalyst for it to continue.”

    Or put another way, there are those that have a propensity towards violence.

    I think that is undeniably true, and what’s more I think it crosses almost every Culture, Nationality, even Gender to a lesser degree.

    And those with that propensity will find an outlet for it, and unforetuneately football provides that outlet more than anything else. But, if you shut them down in football they will appear somewhere else, that is for certain.

    -Extreme political groups, left or right, or centre for that matter?

    -Religious fanaticism is another possible outlet?

    Wherever people gather in large groups, or crowds, there is often violence.

    Even at what you would think were peaceful inoffensive gatherings or crowds, such as music festivals and carnivals, often end in violence.

    It is a sad reflection on some of mankind that they find it very hard to come together in large crowds and not fall out with each other to such an extent that they feel the need to impose violence upon them.

    In other words, I think this is a mankind problem, not a football problem, it is just that football crowds are for the most part easily accessible, very emotive, and extremely widespread.

    Just a footnote:

    Alcohol obviously plays a part in football violence, but I don’t think it is as much as some may think. It must be remembered that a lot of the violence at football matches, and political and religious events, is pre planned and has nothing to do with ‘losing control’ through intoxication, although of course it doesn’t help.

    Mankind is the most violent species on the planet, by quite some distance.

  3. Hot on the heels of managing to sell themselves a couple of hotels, I have seen posts on the social network formerly known as Twitter indicating that Chelsea may have managed to sell themselves a Women’s football team two days before the PSR deadline.

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