Are Football Fans Deserving of a 'Hooligan' Reputation? | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Are Football Fans Deserving of a ‘Hooligan’ Reputation?

Kat Smith and Natalia Carter discuss whether England's 2018 World Cup successes have enabled fans to celebrate together, or simply turn into hooligans.

Natalia Carter arguing that England fans should be ashamed of their behaviour following successes during the 2018 FIFA World Cup

The period of chaos known as the World Cup is now over, but boy did we know when it was taking place. The entire nation came to a grinding halt to celebrate the slight possibility that England would bring home the title. Whilst I appreciate that it has been years since England made it that far, and that it was very exciting to those who care about football, and even those who do not – I am not one of these people. I am one of the few that was bored of the ‘It’s coming home’ memes, bored of society stopping to watch a 90-minute programme of sweaty men kicking a ball about, and bored of everyone suddenly acting as though England is the best country in the world.

After all, how much do we really have to be proud of? As a country, we’re a shambles. Our past is filled with colonisation and slavery, our present is filled with sketchy politics and a mounting number of sexual assault cases, and our future is entirely uncertain. Why should we be proud and patriotic all of a sudden, when we haven’t been all year? You can’t be selectively patriotic – you either are, or you aren’t.

Don’t get me wrong, I love that the country came together to support a common cause – but we did it terribly. The world descended into madness, with England fans showing their overwhelming pride through unnecessary charges through busy streets, shops and pubs. England fans put the ‘hooliganism’ back into football, and it’s quite frankly embarrassing. The police were overwhelmed with calls and dealt with 387 incidents after England’s win against Sweden. This makes up just a fraction of the 1086 football related incidents recorded by the National Police Chief’s Council since the tournament began. I just do not understand how this quantity of incidents can be justified by ‘pride’. There’s a difference between celebrating and causing chaos.

What does it say about our country that we can’t celebrate a sporting event without erupting in violence and vandalism?
The police are searching for 3 England fans connected with smashing a taxi, an ambulance car was smashed by people jumping on it, and over 200 arrests have been made revolving around alcohol infused football incidents. I appreciate that I am not the most enthusiastic about our country, I don’t think it has much going for it – but the state of anarchy that our country has crumbled to is low even by my expectations. It has not come home yet, but the label of England fans being hooligans, most certainly has.

Kat Smith arguing that we should concentrate on the sense of patriotism surrounding England’s successes, rather than the hooliganism surrounding the World Cup

The 2018 FIFA World Cup was like no other. I found myself screaming at the TV in a pub sipping pint after pint and joining in with the resounding ‘It’s coming home’ chants. My Twitter feed became a plethora of football commentaries and critiques from not only the seasoned supporters but from pretty much everyone. I witnessed students of all nationalities wearing England shirts, flags on every other car I saw and my mum going mad on the WhatsApp chat. In the way Love Island brings us together each summer, this world cup saw the country unite in support of a few underdogs.

I, in no way, agree with the behaviour of some England fans during the tournament. Throwing glasses in pubs, trashing IKEA and wrecking ambulances is inexcusable behaviour. There’s undoubtedly something about sport that makes people think they are untouchable. However, I think it’s important to remember that the actions of a few idiots do not represent the nature of the whole group. Football may bring out elements of toxic masculinity, but we can’t paint an entire nation with the same brush. If everyone who supported England during their game against Sweden in the quarter finals went and trashed IKEA, the game would be cancelled in my eyes.

Despite having a negative image of football fans for years, coming from a rugby family and despising the way it makes some people act, I saw a different side to it over the last few weeks. My experience has been in the form of watching it with friends in the pubs, cheering with people I’d never met and celebrating with my family. It was exciting and surprising, and I don’t want the memory of this time to be tainted by a few arseholes who fail to represent the reality of most football fans.

Essentially, this World Cup has transformed my opinion of football.
Essentially, this World Cup has transformed my opinion of football, along with many others. Most of the nation has come together for once in support of a young team of talented sportsmen. It may be just kicking a ball around and some people are acting as if world peace had been achieved in the form of a place in a semi-final… But, when everything else leaves us divided, and while our government is becoming a bit of a shambles, it was a welcome break from all the seriousness.

There are many problems surrounding football culture, but these are not a direct result of the sport. We need to examine the sexism, racism and violence displayed throughout this World Cup as a microcosm of society and not inextricably linked with the sport. It may not be coming home, but it was still a pleasure to watch.


27th July 2018 at 9:00 am

Last Updated

26th July 2018 at 10:35 pm

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