Football's Fighting Traditions

John Williams, Eric Dunning and Patrick Murphy discuss the long history of British football hooliganism.

The forthcoming European Football Championships in West Germany are already causing the authorities concern. Will England soccer fans disgrace themselves once again? Crowd trouble involving English fans abroad is largely a feature of the last twenty years. The history of football hooliganism in Britain, however, goes back much further and is the subject of our recently published book, The Roots of Football Hooliganism.

Most people imagine that football's fighting rituals are a product of the period from the late 1960s onwards. Our research suggests otherwise. Using national and local newspapers and the Football Association's disciplinary records as our main source, it emerged, for example, that the period prior to the First World War was one of considerable turmoil on the terraces. Referees and players were regularly attacked by local 'roughs', the former having frequently to be 'spirited away' by police after matches. For example, in what was described as a 'disgraceful scene' that took place at the match between Burnley and Blackburn in February 1890, it seems that:

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