Police may foster hooliganism

June 5, 1998

An expert on English football hooliganism has called for a big change in how football fans are treated at the World Cup, which starts next week in France.

Research by Clifford Stott, lecturer in social psychology at the University of Abertay Dundee, has shown that crowd violence can often by exacerbated by policing techniques. His findings, based on a study during the World Cup in Italy in 1990, were published last month in Sociology, the international journal of the British Sociology Society.

Dr Clifford challenges the view that blames hostile fans for crowd violence involving English supporters. He argues that although a small number of violent individuals attend matches, the attempts to control them may create the opposite effect.

"During Italia 90, there was a widespread expectation that English supporters posed the threat of hooliganism. Consequently, they were consistently treated in hostile ways by the police, who expected violence from them." Dr Stott suggests it was that treatment that changed the situation from one where only a few individuals were hostile towards the police into one where many English supporters felt antagonistic.

Dr Stott fears problems at France 98 may be exacerbated by supporters' resentment over problems in obtaining tickets. There is also a danger French authorities view supporters without tickets as a problem, feeding the notion they are there to cause trouble.

"The irony is that the issue of ticket allocation combined with the police's fear of hooligans may actually produce the very conditions where the most undesirable elements can gain influence over those who had previously ignored them."

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