British football crowds have always been known for their banter towards players, managers and opposing fans. Football terraces have traditionally been places to let off steam and behave in a way that would not be acceptable in other public spaces. Creating a hostile atmosphere often helps give your team the edge in a close encounter. Recently, though, some worry things have gone too far. They say the level and personal nature of the abuse is worse than in previous times, and that something needs to be done. The unpleasant invective directed by some Colchester United fans towards Norwich City manager Glenn Roeder, who had suffered a brain tumour, is a case in point. And while racist chanting is largely a thing of the past, the continued sectarian chanting between Rangers and Celtic fans in Scotland is seen by many as typical of the backwardness of football fans.
Is the problem of abuse in football getting out of hand, or are the recipients just becoming thin-skinned? Was the traditional terrace culture somehow more civilised, with banter infused with a dose of humour, however cruel? Or is this a nostalgic view, overlooking the menace of hooliganism and racism? Some argue all-seater stadiums and ‘family-friendly’ policies have turned the atmospheric stadiums of old into sanitised theatres with intensive surveillance and stewarding. At the same time, some fans have become so obsessed with football, even living their lives through it, that they no longer know where to draw the line. Do we take football, and ourselves, too seriously?
sports columnist, spiked; Crystal Palace fan
respect programme manager, The Football Association
|Dr Peter Marsh
co-director, The Social Issues Research Centre; author of many books including Football Hooliganism and Tribes.
football editor The Times; author Far Foreign Land
director, membership and events, Academy of Ideas; convenor, IoI Book Club; IoI’s resident expert in all sporting matters
England fans have the right to boo, sing and swearMick Hume, The Times, 14 October 2008
The vilifying of Sol Campbell is just the latest example of no-holds-barred barrackingRod Liddle, The Sunday Times, 5 October 2008
Portsmouth intend to make an official complaint to the Football Association over insults aimed at Sol Campbell by Spurs fans at Fratton Park last Sunday.BBC News, 3 October 2008
Celtic chairman John Reid has condemned as racist one of the songs chanted by fans of Glasgow rivals Rangers at the recent Old Firm derby.BBC News, 28 September 2008
The gradual dissolution of sectarianism has given rise to a new strain of intolerable behaviour: politically and religiously motivated classroom clypeing.The Herald, 22 September 2008
Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, is moved to describe British football as “a European role model for tolerance in sport”.Matt Dickinson, The Times, 12 September 2008
We should be proud of the Proms, but not the tired, jingoistic rituals perpetuated by the traditional Last NightAndrew Clements, Guardian Music Blog, 4 March 2008
Peter Marsh, Willan Publishing, 1 July 2005