Media and police response to football hooliganism have tended to be disproportionate to the nature and extent of the phenomenon

Again, while hooliganism is hyped up and misrepresented in the media, one should not get carried away and come to the conclusion that it is a negligible phenomenon.  Football hooliganism in Britain especially, did not acquire its notoriety without a basis.  The exercise here is to understand its true extent as opposed to the exaggerations and falsities that the media dishes out. (Stern, 2000, p.29)  For example one only needs to take a look at sport-related violence and disorder in other countries to put things in perspective.  Japan, which is a land known for its resolute, hard-working and polite people presents an interesting case-study.  In the lead-up to the Football World Cup of 2002, which was jointly hosted by Japan and South Korea, the media in these regions were full of reports about possible British hooliganism.  Indeed, the very notion of fans turning hostile on each other is something that is alien to the genteel people of Japan and South Korea, that articles were published explaining what hooliganism entailed.

“Hosting the World Cup jointly with South Korea, Japan will stage the first-round qualifying matches of England and Germany — Europe’s most    notorious hooligan nations–and those of the potential troublemakers Italy and Argentina. Korea, which will receive the US team and has therefore upped security preparations against a possible terrorist attack, is thought to have much the better deal of the two host nations. “It is regrettable,” a British embassy spokeswoman protested in December, “that the news that England will play its first-round matches in Japan has been accompanied by extensive reporting of hooliganism.” Factor in diplomatic understatement and you have an idea of the state of terror in which the Japanese public — at least, in those cities with World Cup stadiums — awaits the arrival of England’s football fans.”  (James, 2002, p.23)

Acknowledging that football hooliganism is a real problem is one thing and the extent of objectivity in its reporting is quite another.  One of the often overlooked angles is the socio-economic context of football hooliganism.  Admitting that some miscreants do behave badly and have to be controlled with brute force, one wonders if the police would react in the same way toward members of the Royal Family or toward the business/political elite.  Seen from the Marxist perspective, the attitude with which both the media and the police generally react toward hooliganism can be seen as the contempt of the ruling classes toward the lower strata of society.  In this sense, there is also a strong ‘class’ angle to the hooligan issue.  For example,

“To draw even more firmly the line between football hooligans and the rest of the community, press reports seek to cut off the wrongdoers from their social context. On the one hand, football hooligans are not thought to be “genuine” football fans. On the other hand, this denial of group membership goes beyond the sports world to cover the whole society. Not only do journalists avoid mentioning the prevailing working-class origin of football hooligans, but also they avoid establishing any causal link between football hooliganism and the social position of football hooligans or they try to cast doubts on the very existence of such a link.” (Tsoukala, 2008, p.137)

From a historical perspective, since the 1960s football hooliganism in Britain started taking up newsprint space and news bulletin time. From the beginning the portrayals were about moral decline among working-class youth in the country, leading to a push for increasing the control and punishment of many delinquent young people and the groups to which they belong – which were seen as highly dangerous to law and order to prevail.  Football hooligans were definitely the core of this target group, whose behaviour the media projected as hazardous to social harmony and civil order.  Researcher Andrea Tsoukala, who has done extensive research on this subject from the backdrop of sociological theoretical frameworks, has little hesitation in inferring that there is a “prevalence of deviance-amplification process that rests upon various stereotyped binary modes of representing the wrongdoers.”  (Tsoukala, 2008, p.137) Despite many attempts to create awareness among the public and condemnation of media practices, these representation schemes have not altered in any significant way over the last five decades.

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