Violent and antisocial behaviour at football events

To help Qatar prepare to host sporting events in 2019 and 2022, researchers examined the nature of, and the factors associated with, antisocial and violent behaviour at football matches and how effective existing approaches are in preventing and responding to these behaviours.

The research so far found that troublemakers are in the minority among most groups of football fans, and while multiple contributing factors to disorder have been identified, no single factor is found to be responsible in all cases. Even so, they were able to identify four interventions with evidence of effectiveness and two with mixed evidence. Fan registration schemes and alcohol bans were found to be ineffective.

Background

Antisocial behaviour at football matches is a well-recognised issue. Police, football associations and governments have implemented numerous interventions and strategies intended to prevent and respond to such behaviour. Ahead of the upcoming international sporting events in Qatar – the World Athletics Championship in 2019 and the 2022 FIFA World Cup – more needs to be understood about the causes of violence at sporting events and how it can be effectively prevented.

Goals

Qatar University has commissioned RAND Europe to provide a series of reports on the nature of, and the factors associated with, antisocial and violent behaviour at football matches. To help Qatar prepare for upcoming sporting events, the research examined how effective existing approaches are in preventing and responding to these behaviours.

Findings to date

The nature of antisocial behaviour

Troublemakers are in the minority among most groups of football fans.

There are a range of violent and antisocial behaviours identified in the literature: physical and verbal aggression (including racist abuse), destruction of property, acts of vandalism and other destructive activities. However, football environments can also foster positive behaviours.

The influence of alcohol, sporting rivalries, spatial factors, socio-political factors, psychological factors, situational factors and reaction to play are all factors that drive violent and antisocial behaviour. However, these factors typically interact, and no single factor is found to be responsible in all cases.

The quality of evidence varies significantly and there is not enough evidence about behaviour trends over time or in different contexts.

Interventions

Interventions with evidence of effectiveness:

  • Security cameras in stadiums
  • Mandatory transportation arrangements for visiting fans
  • Early kick-off times
  • Policing approaches aimed at establishing dialogue and lines of communication with fans

Interventions with mixed evidence of effectiveness:

  • Banning orders for high-risk supporters
  • Use of mounted police

Interventions shown to be ineffective:

  • Fan registration schemes
  • Alcohol bans

Publications

The research project will provide a series of reports. The first two reports published to date are rapid evidence assessments that look at the factors associated with violent and antisocial behaviour at football events and interventions effective at mitigating these behaviours respectively.

A third, forthcoming report will look at case studies of major sporting events and how those organising the events managed or mitigated against antisocial and violent behaviour. A fourth report may look at some of the available data and look at patters within the data. The project is scheduled to finish by the end of the autumn 2018.