You’re not singing anymore!
Is abuse ruining football?
Sunday 2 November, 10.00am until 10.45am, Café Breakfast Banter

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?

Duleep Allirajah
sports columnist, spiked; Crystal Palace fan
Dermot Collins
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.
Tony Evans
football editor The Times; author Far Foreign Land
Geoff Kidder
director, membership and events, Academy of Ideas; convenor, IoI Book Club; IoI’s resident expert in all sporting matters

 Produced by
Geoff Kidder director, membership and events, Academy of Ideas; convenor, IoI Book Club; IoI’s resident expert in all sporting matters

 Recommended readings
Free speech only matters when you want to say something offensive

England fans have the right to boo, sing and swear

Mick Hume, The Times, 14 October 2008

An awful lot of football chants are difficult to defend

The vilifying of Sol Campbell is just the latest example of no-holds-barred barracking

Rod Liddle, The Sunday Times, 5 October 2008

Portsmouth report Campbell abuse

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's Reid condemns Famine Song

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

Football authorities must act to eradicate the mindless minority

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

Pride not prejudice: what we can teach Europe about tackling racism

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

Is Margaret Hodge right about the Proms?

We should be proud of the Proms, but not the tired, jingoistic rituals perpetuated by the traditional Last Night

Andrew Clements, Guardian Music Blog, 4 March 2008

Football Hooliganism

Three fallacies provide themes which run through the book: the notion that football hooliganism is new, that it is a uniquely football problem, and that it is an English phenomenon.

Peter Marsh, Willan Publishing, 1 July 2005

Session partners

in association with