Violent and Antisocial Behaviours at Football Events and Factors Associated with these Behaviours

A rapid evidence assessment

by Lucy Strang, Garrett Baker, Jack Pollard, Joanna Hofman

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(ملخص) السلوكيات العنيفة والمعادية للمجتمع في أحداث كرة القدم والعوامل المرتبطة بهذه السلوكيات: تقييم سريع للأدلة

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Research Questions

  1. What violent and antisocial behaviour takes place at football matches?
  2. What factors are associated with such behaviour?

Football is the world's most popular sport, with millions of fans annually watching professional football on their television or at public viewing places such as fan zones, or attending matches in person. Negative behaviour at football matches is a widely recognised issue that has garnered international media attention for decades. However, violent and antisocial behaviour at football matches remains an issue that needs to be better understood.

To this end, RAND Europe was commissioned by Qatar University to provide a series of reports looking into the issues of violence and antisocial behaviour at major sporting events. This first report observes the key antisocial and violent behaviours that may be witnessed in relation to football events, such as verbal abuse, destruction of property, acts of vandalism and assault, while also noting that football environments can foster positive behaviours and social dynamics. In addition, it acknowledges that definitions of antisocial behaviour are to some degree subjective and contextual.

It is important to acknowledge, however, that while the identified studies consider specific factors driving fan behaviour, the available evidence supports the notion that no single factor can be found to be responsible for violent or antisocial behaviour by fans at football events. Rather, multiple factors are often in play simultaneously.

Key Findings

Factors which may drive violent and antisocial behaviour in football fans include:

  • The influence of alcohol, which the evidence suggests may be a contributing factor to such behaviour, although the causal relationship between alcohol and hooliganism is unclear.
  • Internal and external or relational psychological factors, such as rushes of adrenaline and a sense of meaning gained through these behaviours, and capacity to self-regulate emotions.
  • Sporting rivalries, which have been shown to increase aggression in fans.
  • Socio-political factors, such as unemployment, repression by state agents and ethnic-nationality tensions.
  • Spatial factors, particularly given that large numbers of football fans may travel to a football tournament host city without the intention of attending a match, but rather will congregate in public spaces and fan zones.
  • Situational and atmosphere-related factors including the day of the week on which the match is held, the match venue, the kick-off time, crowd size and the size of support groups in attendance.
  • Reaction to play, for example a team's performance on the pitch and their style of play, as well as fans' expectations of their team.

While the identified studies consider specific factors driving fan behaviour, the available evidence supports the notion that no single factor can be found to be responsible for violent or antisocial behaviour by fans at football events. Rather, multiple factors are often in play simultaneously.

The quality of the identified literature varied significantly, and the research team rated only a handful of studies as being very high quality.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    Violent and antisocial behaviours of football fans

  • Chapter Three

    Factors behind violent and antisocial behaviour of football fans

  • Chapter Four

    Discussion

  • Annex A

    Methodology

  • Annex B

    Data extraction template

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was prepared for Qatar University and conducted by RAND Europe.

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