Hooligans in English Football. Only an English phenomenon?

A comparison between England and Germany

Pre-University Paper, 2021

18 Pages, Grade: 1,7



Table of contents:



Origin of Hooliganism and further development


Is Hooliganism only an English Phenomenon?

The worst disaster in Hooliganism

Measurements by the government

Development of hooliganism in England

Germany – the successor of English hooliganism?




This term paper deals with the topic "Hooligans in English football".

The central research question to be answered in this thesis is whether hooliganism is exclusively an English phenomenon. For this purpose, this thesis gives an overview of the development of hooliganism.

This is quite topical as the hooligan scene is currently shifting from football stadiums to other locations. This shift is particularly pronounced in England, which is why I have chosen the following research question "Hooligans in English football - only an English phenomenon?".

In order to answer the research question, I first clarify the question of what hooligans are, and explain the most important terms and concepts. Afterwards I go into the development of hooliganism. Afterwards the intention behind violent vandalism. After I list the two worst catastrophes in the era of hooliganism, I explain the measures taken by the government and their effects. Building on the results already obtained, I clarify the question of whether hooliganism is only an English phenomenon by comparing England and Germany.


The term “hooligan” was originally derived from the Irish name O'Hooligan1. Hooligans are people who are usually conspicuous for their aggressive behavior in the vicinity of sporting events2. The origin of hooliganism is England, the country where football has been affected by violent riots, namely the hooligans, since the Middle Ages.3 Since then, this scene had become more and more known until it became an international problem. Most of the hooligans have only the intention to fight with other groups without representing any political interest. However, there are also some exceptions that have a right-wing extremist background4. A distinction must be made between ultras and hooligans. ultras are in fact only described as passionate and committed fans who create a better atmosphere in stadiums. It should be noted, however, that they are mostly non-violent.5

Hooligans do not care about the result of the football match they just want to riot and for them the focus is on fights with other groups2 .

Some of these meetings are spontaneous, but more frequent are those organized by group leaders. They prefer to meet in quiet places away from police or security cameras.6

A characteristic of hooliganism is that it takes place exclusively in groups7. In England, hooliganism has spread in a very short time and nowadays each of the 92 professional football clubs has a hooligan group which rival those of other groups8. In the time of hooliganism there have been many seriously injured and dead victims. Since then, the government has also tried to curb hooliganism with restrictions.

Origin of Hooliganism and further development

The first encounters with football can be traced back to England in the Middle Ages. At that time, the game was first played completely without rules and spectators. The system was called "village football". There was no separation of players and spectators. It was also common for entire villages to play against each other.

In 1977, rules were then introduced, and from that moment on the sport became a spectator sport9. In course of time, football became more and more popular, which was supported, among other things, by a high media presence. The so-called "football crowd" emerged, whose members watched football as an outlet to: "swearing, drinking, spitting, fisticuffs and other emphatically masculine attitudes"10. In addition, football often led to fights between neighboring villages11. Already between the years 1895 and 1914, according to research by the Federal Agency for Civic Education, approximately 200 cases were recorded each year in England.12 While there were riots at Hampden Park in Glasgow in 1909, the first trains in Liverpool were battered by Everton fans in 1934. In the following years, however, several more trains were vandalized. This was the time when hooliganism became more of an international problem. Already in 1960, hooliganism was much more violent in other countries, so even England was considered to be taken out of international competitions in order to protect it from foreign fans.

In 1980, hooliganism in English football reached its peak. Studies have shown that the extremely rivalrous and competitive method of media coverage has changed perceptions of sport and the aggression associated with it. 11 However, the rise of hooliganism in stadiums has continued until today. In 2000, there was a gathering of 5000 English fans without tickets in Brussels. Thereupon, the European Football Association has passed the Football Disorder Act. New regulations from 1975-1980 have led to a decline of the hooligan scene in the public media13. However, the hooligans have not completely ceased their violent brawls. They have only changed their location.

After 20 years of silence, riots broke out again 2016 in France between English and Russian hooligans characterized by daily street fights. Other countries have also experienced this in recent years:

Zuletzt bekamen das auch Schweizer Fans zu spüren, die die Schweizer Nati an die Nations League nach Portugal begleiteten. Über 20'000 Briten sollen nämlich für das viertägige Turnier die Reise nach Portugal angetreten haben. Die 160'000-Einwohner-Stadt Guimaraes, in der das Halbfinalspiel England – Holland stattfand, liess an diesem Tag aus Angst vor Ausschreitungen sogar die Schulen schliessen. 13

Such gatherings show that hooliganism has not disappeared and should continue to be taken seriously, even if the media report less on the acts of violence.13


The aim of this chapter is to describe the intention of hooligans to engage in vandalism and fighting against other groups. Hooligan interests amount to fighting, brawling and chanting14. Most hooligans are not interested in the result of the football match, many are said to have never even finished watching a match. They are interested in large crowds. Hooligans love their city and where they come from, they want to go to other cities and show who the stronger is. Tony O'Neil, a British hooligan, mentioned in an interview that hooliganism is a disease of the British, which according to him will always be there. Tony O'Neil started hooliganism at that time because he wanted to get ahead, unlike those around him. He is an example for the whole working class, who were worth nothing and saw opportunities to be recognized.15

However, there are also other intentions. This was also evident in London on 14th June 2020 when right-wing extremists, some of them hooligans, took to the streets to protect monuments. In the process, however, they quickly stirred up trouble again and threw pyro at police officers. What was special about this was that two otherwise rival hooligan groups, Mitwall FC and West Ham United, joined forces to fight the left-wing liberals.16

This shows that some hooligans also have extreme right-wing and racist intentions. But some also compulsively look for opportunities to fight, even with their rivals.

A study shows that people with few future prospects due to poor education, mostly from marginalized backgrounds, are most likely to become hooligans17. Moreover, according to analyses, most hooligans come from proletarian milieus18. They use "sport" as an outlet to vent their frustrations19.

Often children grow up with this rivalry and hatred against other football clubs, they are brought up with the idea that only their club is the best. Thus, the new generation is introduced to hooliganism by their fathers in a natural way. Typical of hooligans and many football fans is that they drink a lot of alcohol, become violent quickly and have a high level of pride. These are all aspects that support hooliganism15 .

Is Hooliganism only an English Phenomenon?

Hooliganism can clearly be traced back to England, but the scene has quickly spread around the world20. Until 1960 England probably had the most dangerous hooligans in the world. Due to various government regulations, hooliganism in England has turned around. Nowadays, English hooligans are mainly found in foreign stadiums and domestically outside the stadium21. So, after 1980, the British have long ceased to be the most dangerous hooligans in the world. Other countries have also experienced terrible hooliganism-related disasters. One extremely violent group are the hooligans of the Egyptian club Al Masry. In 2012, violence broke out in the stadium, killing 71 people and injuring over 100022.

Another group considered very dangerous are the Brazilian hooligans. The difference between most Brazilian hooligans and other foreign hooligans is that they specifically prepare for attacks. Many of these hooligans are equipped with weapons or knives.23

Am 26. März 2012 starb nach dem Spiel eines Spitzenclubs SE Palmeiras und Corinthians, beide Vereine sind in Sao Paulo beheimatet, ein 21- jähriger Palmeiras-Fan. Wie die Polizei ermittelt hat, nicht etwa nach einer spontanen Auseinandersetzung, sondern nach einem gezielten Kopfschuss. [Klaus Blume] 23

Argentine hooligans are also particularly established in the scene. They are also not interested in football. They are more focused on extortion, protection money and other illegal business.24 Based on the cases already listed in other countries, one can come to the conclusion that hooliganism is not just an English phenomenon. Even though the origin of hooliganism can be traced back to England, this scene has spread all over the world.

Other examples of countries with active hooliganism are Poland, Italy, Peru, Turkey and Colombia.25

The worst disaster in Hooliganism

On 29 May 1985, the worst disaster in the history of hooliganism occurred at the European Cup match between Juventus Turin and Liverpool FC.

The match took place in the Heysel Stadium, which is located in Belgium's capital Brussels. The atmosphere turned aggressive even before the match when British hooligans were already rioting in the city centre. A large proportion of the British were already heavily drunk at the time. In the stadium, shortly before kick-off, British hooligans stormed the block of Italian fans. The Italian fans searched for any possibilities to flee. They were pressed more and more against the wall behind them until it finally collapsed. In panic, many people were trampled to death. At the end of the day, 39 people were killed and over 450 people were seriously injured. Later research proved that the conditions of the Brussels stadium did not comply with UEFA's requirements. There was no entry control, which allowed any form of weapons to be transported into the stadium. In addition, the wall was fragile26.

The police could only watch as people died from suffocation due to the ever-increasing masses. A football match turned into one of the cruelest events in sport. Afterwards, the match was still kicked off to calm the situation in the stadium27.

Following this disaster, it became clear what kind of power English hooligans can have and which effects this can result in.

However, English sports teams, and Liverpool FC in particular, did not get away unpunished. All English clubs were banned from European competitions for five years. Liverpool even for seven years28. Since this disaster, however, the government has also been keeping a closer eye on the hooligan scene. The government has come to the conclusion that further measures must urgently be taken to curb hooliganism.

Measurements by the government

The increasing frequency of accidents or disasters in stadiums because of hooligans triggered consequences. The fight against hooliganism has led to the establishment of many regulatory measures after 1885. Sports scientist Jürgen Schwier and sports editor Oliver Fritsch describe this period as a process of increasing discipline29. Both preventive and repressive measures were taken. Preventive measures are understood as the prevention of violent behavior by hooligans through preventive security measures. Repressive measures are the violent suppression of activities30. The first measure was enforced by a stronger police presence, followed by a ban of alcohol in stadiums, stricter arrests and fines. Further measures to reduce violence in stadiums, also internationally, were exit bans and the so-called "banning orders" for already known and suspected persons31. This was followed by the introduction of perhaps the most severe penalty, the obligation to introduce seat-only stadiums30 . However, there were not only punishments for the hooligans and fans, but also for the football teams. All English teams were banned from European competitions for five years after the Heysel disaster.32

The measures already mentioned to restrict hooligans resulted in high costs for the state, the clubs and the fans. Over 30 new stadiums and over 200 new stands had to be built. This was especially noticeable for the fans as ticket prices almost doubled and the government also pays about 25 million pounds per season for security measures33.

Furthermore, ticket prices were increased, and personalized tickets were introduced for tracking34.


1 Hedde (2016), S.1

2 Was ist Was (2006), S.1

3 Brüggemeier (2006), S.1

4 Hedde (2016), S.1

5 Brenner (2009), S.15

6 Ryser (2010), S.2

7 Polizei für dich (2014), S.1

8 Klexikon (2021), S.1

9 Brenner (2009), S.27

10 Brenner (2009), S.29

11 Rossiter (2014), S.1

12 Brüggemeier (2006), S.1

13 Blue News (2019), S.1

14 Farin (2010), S.1

15 Chester,Nicholls, O`Neil (2012), min:18:30

16 Smirnova (2020), S.1

17 Brüggemeier, (2006), S.1

18 Farin (2010), S.2

19 Karaman (2015), S.1

20 Hooligans-AnthroWiki (2021), S.1

21 Fussballfans (2020), S.1

22 ZEIT ONLINE (2021), S.1

23 Blume (2013), S.14

24 Blume (2013), S.15

25 Mspringer (2013), S.1

26 Zaugg (2020), S.1

27 Fighters (2014)

28 Brüggemeier (2006),S.4

29 Schwier und Fritsch (2006), S.47

30 Brenner (2009), S.57ff.

31 WELT (2011), S.1

32 Brüggemeier (2006), S.1f.

33 Eichler (2011), S.1

34 ZEIT (2021), S.1

Excerpt out of 18 pages


Hooligans in English Football. Only an English phenomenon?
A comparison between England and Germany
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
English Hooligans, Football, Football in England, Is Hooliganism only an English phenomenon, Fußball, Hooligans, Entsteheung des Hooliganismus, Intention Hooligans, Origin of Hooligans and further development, Ursprung Hooligans und Entwicklung, Worst disaster in Hooliganism, Schlimmsten Katastrophen im Hooliganismus, Maßnahmen der Regierung gegen Hooliganismus, Measurments against Hooliganism, Is Germany the successor of english Hooliganism?, Gewalt im Fußball, Violence in Football, Fachrbeit, term paper
Quote paper
Anonymous, 2021, Hooligans in English Football. Only an English phenomenon?, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/1011098


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