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Male Football Hooligans Are Doing Gender through Physical Violence

Hausarbeit (Hauptseminar) 2013 15 Seiten

Anglistik - Kultur und Landeskunde


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Football Hooliganism
2.1. History of Hooliganism
2.2. Who is the Typical Hooligan

3. Thesis Statement

4. Reasons for Hooliganism

5. Violence in Hooliganism
5.1. Definition of Violence
5.2. Real or Only Ritualized Violence
5.3. Explanations of Violence

6. Definition of "Doing Gender"

7. The Instability of the Male Gender Identity

8. Gender Mainstreaming

9. Men as Victims of Force

10. Hypermasculinity as a Goal

11. Class as the Major Reason

12. Conclusion

Works Cited

1. Introduction

Football is in central Europe one of the most popular sports if not the most popular. The numerous clubs of amateur football prove the popularity of the sport. There are stadia filled all around Europe with football fans. But the sport events are since its early days followed by violent phenomenons around the game. Fights in the stadium during the game before or afterwards became a problem. The groups were called hooligans and they coined the perception of football's fandom. The display of violence in hooliganism varies immensely from researcher to researcher. The proof for hooliganism as a violent phenomenon is given in the most researchers' results. Nevertheless the explanations of violence differ.

Locating hooligans in society and analyzing the groups properties should help to find an explanation for their acting. The perspective on this phenomenon differs immensely depending on the spectator. Especially, the stereotype of the hooligan is coined by the media and only slightly by the results of academic approaches.

The stereotype of the football hooligan is that of the ignorant working-class "yob" who attends football matches as an opportunity to get into a fight, and not from any "genuine" interest in the game itself. His violence, like the destructive behavior of the vandal [...], is perpetually described as "mindless, senseless, illogic and irrational.(Clarke 7)

The picture which is drawn in academic literature is different. This paper will compare gathered facts about hooliganism to explain the violent acting of hooligans. King argues that “the issue of violence at English football grounds has become of less pressing concern to the state and the media with the development of all-seater stadia. However, since fighting still occurs with regularity, the study of hooliganism is not without contemporary relevance." (576).

The approach I had chosen, is gender related and will seek for co-relations between doing gender and the violent behavior of hooligan. During the work a relation between change of the labour market and the influence on the gender identities of men became visible. The hooligan who is according to his stereotype a rowdy without any reason is restored by arguments which try to explain his behavior. The violence of these football fans shall not be justified by the explanations.

2. Football Hooliganism

2.1. History of Hooliganism

The violent football fandom has a long history. There was “fighting between groups of rival fans already … before the First World War.”(The Roots of Football Hooliganism, Dunning, Murphy and Williams 76). Even though hooliganism during that time emerged less than today, it appeared steadily “over the past 100 or so years”(ibid.). By modifying the football game the spectators' behavior was also influenced by these changes. A “diminution of violence between the players with the introduction of rules of play, and an increase of violence by fans” were the results(Roadburg 266). Even if hooliganism seems to be an newer appearance or which only occures from time to time. It cannot be seen as younger periodically appearing event since “there has never been a period in the history of modern soccer when spectator disorderliness on a greater or lesser scale has entirely absent from Britain.” (The Roots of Football Hooliganism , Dunning, Murphy and Williams 1). It seems that the violent riots in this context belong to professional football fan culture or are at least close connected.

In the last century the behavior of these extreme fans changed. While in the past the groups acted spontaneously they became more and more organized.

In the mid 1960s football stadia themselves were the major locations; however from the late 1960s onwards such encounters took place increasingly outside them. Indeed, after the 1970s, English football hooligans ceased to ply their trade solely in the domestic context and became involved more and more in hooligan activities abroad. (The Roots of Football Hooliganism, Dunning, Murphy and Williams 3)

2.2. Who is the Typical Hooligan

To determine the prototype of a hooligan from the usual spectator I will focus on sex, class, age and ethnicity of the typical hooligan as well as clothing.

Roadburg states “one need only attend a few British soccer games to notice the absence of women and small children and one need only stand amongst the crowd in the terraces to verify that the majority of spectators can be referred to loosely as working class” (271). While sex and class is determined as typical male and low working-class the age varies to a certain degree. In “the 1980s the vast majority of Blades[name of a hooligan group] were aged between seventeen and twenty eight, though a number were older.”(Armstrong 267). Often the marriage of a hooligan is the time when his involvement in hooliganism declines. With the rising age hooligans retire from the scene due to “peer-group pressure, and a man in his early thirties has few mates of that age to discuss hooliganism with”(Ibid.). While sex, class and age of hooligans can be determined quite easily by the existing academic material the question of ethnicity is more complex. This complexity arose through the involvement of racism in football per se since “the cultural context of football provides a platform on which racism can be expressed and celebrated.”(Back, Crabbe and Solomos 427). Nevertheless, Armstrong's study about big hooligan group reveals that the „Blades core always contained blacks, and no one have voiced … [racist] opinion about it.“(280). Hooligans dress casual by conscience to avoid suspicion by the police or rival fan groups(cf. Dunning 224). The hooligan culture had connections to the skinhead culture(see Clarke 10ff. ). The impact of the skinheads on the hooligans can be considered as relatively low nowadays. Dunning explains “they tend to dress according to the dictates of current youth fashion, partly because the older 'hooligan uniforms' are regarded as anachronistic and lacking n 'style', and partly, as we have said, to avoid advertising themselves too soon to opposing fans and the police." (224). The skinhead style was more popular... “in the late 1960s and 1970s”(Ibid.). As Clarke's book proves it since its publishing year is 1973.

While the hooligan is mostly from the working-class that is not an attribute which distinguishes him unambiguously from the usual fan who can be from the working- class as well. Dunning explains that “although many fans are drawn into hooligan incidents fans who did not set out for the match with disruptive intent-the hard core, those who engage most persistently in hooligan behavior in a football context, view fighting and aggressive behavior as an integral part of going to the match.”(221-22)

The relationship of a person or a group determines the individual from fan or hooligan. The violence is according to Dunning's distinction above a central part of the culture of hooligans.

The hooligan culture is a male dominated culture. In the violent fights only men participate. Furthermore it is a culture with strong sexual conventions: The hooligans' “very entrée to the hypersexist culture of male football fandom implies heterosexuality”

(Free and Hughson 138) The hypersexist culture maintains specific values which will be explained later in greater detail.

In the stadium the hooligans support their team by singing and chanting. Even though it is unpopular by some hooligans who consider singing as too soft, the ritual of singing during the match is a central aspect of the whole hooligan behavior during games. “Their songs and chants are in part related to the match but they also have as a recurrent theme challenges to fight, threats of violence towards the opposing fans and boasts about past victories.” (Dunning 225). Otherwise authors state the singing and chanting is completely separated from the hooliganism. "It is important not to confuse the participatory behavior of young fans with actual violence."(Finn and Giulianotti 270) Singing and chanting is hence not a hooligan only activity but it is something the hooligans do as well as the usual fan. Finn and Giulianotti locate the confusion of aggressive choirs in the stadium with actual violence “over the linguistic usage of the term aggression, to which is added a lack of clarity over what constitutes violence. Participation in aggressive and dismissive chanting is not to be equated with football violence in any of its forms “(Ibid.)

A definition of violence will be given later, however a generall distinction between physical violence and non-physical violence I do as well and focus on physical violence in my thesis statement.

3. Thesis Statement

I will focus on gender identity in the culture of hooliganism since being working-class does not make the hooligan. “Football hooliganism is, therefore, not an issue of class but of disrupted masculinity.” (Marcus Free and John Hughson 139). In my arguments class will play a part yet, and not totally omitted.

The kind of profession is not a marker for masculinity anymore, since by industrialization the importance of physical strength shrank. Violent acting replaces the function which work had as a domain to perform gender. Being violent is a socially accepted strategy to do gender.



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Universität Potsdam – Anglistik und Amerikanistik
male football hooligans doing gender physical violence



Titel: Male Football Hooligans Are Doing Gender through Physical Violence