There is a long history of hostility between fans of football teams, but why does loyalty equate to violence and conflict?
It was here that a group of Southend supporters ambushed them after ‘get them’. Simon was forced to the ground and was kicked, struck and stamped on repeatedly. He had been left bloody and lay in the street with his friends, and was found by a member of the Essex Police.
Simon stopped breathing and paramedics performed CPR. He had been rushed to Southend Hospital before being moved to the specialist neurology unit at Addenbrooke Hospital.
In 2017, 12 men were sentenced for a total of 42 years over the incident. Nine were charged for violent disorder, and three for conspiracy to commit violent disorder.
Tragedy of Football Violence
Simon unable to talk or walk after the attack since he was left with a permanent brain injury. He was still unable to string sentences together five years later, when he passed away on October 21 2020.
Support poured in for Simon and his family as soon as news broke, with Cambridge United FC tweeting:
Violent, football-related attacks like this are not uncommon. According to the , during the 2019/20 football season, 1,089 football-related arrests were made. With over half of these happening inside the stadium. The most common types of offences included public disorder with 372 arrests, violent disorder and alcohol or drug related offences.
But what is the psychology behind football hooliganism? Why are people willing to harm others, and themselves, in the name of football?
The Science Behind Hooliganism
Psychological research suggests hooliganism may Or that they may “feel a ‘buzz’ when antagonising opposing fans”, a rush of adrenaline which encourages them to participate in violence and disorder. Other research cites the role of a sense of belonging to a group, and the idea of identity.
When fans support a team, they create an identity for themselves. Showing aggression and violence towards the opposite team can strengthen and emphasise this group identity. “Aggression and violence are simply the extreme effects of the fierce identification with a particular group, which also implies a strong identification against other teams”, says .
The notion of in-groups and out-groups also plays a role in football violence. The ‘in-group’ (fan’s football team) is seen as superior to the ‘out-group’ (all other teams) resulting in violence.
Social Identity Theory suggests that a fan undergoes ‘deindividuation’, and so loses their personal accountability. “Therefore, the individual supporter will not be regulated by his or her personal moral code, or be restrained by the sanctions that might be associated with any acts of violence”, as quoted by .
The Media’s Contribution
Another suggestion is that the media has, to some degree, instigated violence. The media’s approach to football matches means the idea of competition is so extreme that fans have internalised a polarised view of teams. Sensationalised headlines and violent language used to describe and talk about football incites violence between groups of fans.
Newspapers “often adopted an almost prophetic styles in headlines, such as “Football’s savages—Warming up for the new season” (Daily Mirror, August 20, 1973), or “When is it going to end?” (Liverpool Echo, May 30, 1985) or again “What comes next?” (Toronto Star, May 30, 1985)—which can be considered responsible, at least partially, for the creation of the culture of violence at the basis of hooliganism creating expectations as far as outbursts of violence were concerned”, states .
No matter what encourages football fans to participate in violence, no-one deserves to go to a match and return with life-changing injuries.