When one side of a team must become a loser in sports games, huge support from teams’ fans helps the players a lot. In fact, most teams prefer to play in their home stadiums because they can play the matches with more fans’ support. However, if the support leads to extremism, it can be a problem. An example of that is “Hooligans.” The Argus takes a look at what to think about “Hooligans” through the movie “Green Street (2005)”
Representative of Hooligans in London, United Kingdom
West Ham United
West Ham United’s home stadium is in the east part of London, and they originated from the Thames Ironworks Football. It was founded by Thames Ironworks, and since 1900, it has had its current name “West Ham United.” They have the worst relationship with Millwall F.C., whose home stadium is also in the east part of London. In “Green Street”, The Green Street Elite (GSE) is a hooligan group that supports West Ham United with bloody fights in “Green Street.”
The situation makes Hooligans
Matt, who is one of the main characters of “Green Street” studied at Harvard University; however, he was expelled from school under a false accusation. He left for the United Kingdom(U.K.) to meet his sister, who was married to a guy named Pete.
Matt visited the stadium with Pete, who is the leader of GSE, the group of hooligans, to watch the game between West Ham and Birmingham. After the game ended, GSE members decided to fight with some Birmingham fans; however, Matt headed to the train station to go back home. On his way home, Birmingham fans jumped toward him, but GSE members rescued him. At first, Matt thought that it was impossible to fight with them, but GSE members said, “Just break someone you hate,” so he fought. They fought, throwing rubbish and punching each other. Matt did well in his first fight, so he felt a sense of belonging with GSE members, and he was admitted as a member of their club. We can notice that Matt was affected by the situation that the other hooligans made. Lee Ross, professor at Stanford holding the Stanford Federal Credit Union chair commented, “The most important situational factor is the presence and example set by other hooligans, and the fact is that when there are many engaged in group behavior, the identifiability and risk to each individual is diminished.” That is why we realize that the situation and environment could affect people.
Hooliganism became a sub-culture of U.K. soccer
In the early 1960s, the reduction of social welfare deepened the gap between the rich and the poor due to the conservative government of the U.K. Unemployed and poor people protested against the government and blasted their anger in soccer stadiums. In particular, the unemployment rate skyrocketed to 11.9 percent in 1984 from 3.8 percent in 1972 due to the serious economic crisis in the early 1970s. Soccer was an aspect of culture that most poor people could enjoy. They showed off their strength and power by supporting their team in the stadium, making a group called “Hooligans.” Joe Trolan, assistant professor of Division of International Sports and Leisure at HUFS, added that “There were a lot of poor and unemployed people when the U.K. was in a socially dangerous situation. After hooligans fought and showed off their power, they felt like they were the winners. They reduced their stress by enjoying soccer and supporting their team.”
Meanwhile, hooligans introduced a new sub-fashion culture in the U.K. Casual fashion represents hooligans. In preparation for the changeable weather of the U.K., they needed practical clothes in the stadium. We can see their casual fashion through the “Green Street.” Although hooligans belonged to the working class, they wore high-priced clothes. That is why they wore clothes from the famous brands such as Aquathum, Prada, Armani, and Ralph Lauren. Oh Wook-seouk, the editor of sub-culture magazine VISLA, said, “After hooligans went abroad to support their team, they stole some clothes from Italy and France. That was the start of casual fashion, and these days, some brands hold events that are targeted at hooligans. Moreover, police officers did not think that hooligans would visit the stadium wearing expensive clothes, so it helped them avoid police officers.”
Why hooligans are dangerous?
As shown in the movie, hooligans stirred up their opposing fans by slandering them in the stadium. The reason Matt was drawn into the fight was that Bovver, a member of GSE, slandered Birmingham City fans and said, “Listen to the barbarians of the north. Listen to the uncivilized guys. FUCK,” provoking the other team and shaking with his middle finger raised. Seeing this, Birmingham City fans became annoyed, so a collective fight broke out between GSE and Birmingham City fans after the game ended. Those conflicts often happen if there are rival matches, and if the game is more important such as tournament games.
In fact, U.K. soccer has bad history with the hooligans. The so-called “Heysel Disaster” happened in 1985 when Liverpool, which is a U.K. soccer team, had a European Cup final match against Juventus in the Heysel Stadium in Brussels, Belgium. At that time, Liverpool was the best team in Europe, so fans were eager to win the championship. However, their excessive desires to become champions led to violence. Liverpool and Juventus fans started to threaten each other by throwing stones, and Liverpool fans went over to the area of Juventus fans. Suddenly, the fence on the Juventus side collapsed causing some casualties. Because of this incident, Liverpool could not participate in all European soccer matches for seven years, and other teams in the U.K. were banned from participating in all European soccer matches for five years. This was considered the worst incident caused by English hooligans.
How are they doing?
The English Premier League (EPL) was started in 1992. Recently, the EPL and teams in the EPL have grown into a brand, so they are popular among sports fans. That is why the EPL is trying to reduce the number of hooligans as much as they can. Assistant professor Joe Trolan added, “The EPL is not just a simple sport these days. Hooligans can damage them, so each team makes a lot of effort to reduce potential harm. They are increasing the intensity of fines, and if there are incidents, they prohibit perpetrators from visiting the stadium.” The Football Association investigates information about hooligans so that they do not allow hooligans to leave for other countries.
However, hooligans still remain in the U.K. They are also spreading to other countries. Manchester United fans visited Seville, Spain in support; however, five of them threw stones at hotels and stores. In addition, they hurled insults at police officers. Aug. 5, 2019, there was a tussle between fans of Liverpool and Manchester City in the subway. Hooligans have a particularly greater influence in the lower leagues; 1,128 cases of violence occurred in stadiums in the 2017-2018 season, which is higher compared with 727 times in the 2012-2013 season. Among them, Birmingham City, playing in the Championship League, recorded 95 arrests. Westham recorded 46 arrests, which is the most among EPL teams. Coventry City, playing in League two, recorded 37 arrests.
“Stand your ground and fight.” This is what Matt heard from GSE before he got into a fight. For them, soccer was a great thing to enjoy, and they have expanded their presence in the soccer stadium with their own fashion and culture. However, recently, sports teams and leagues have been branded, so the punishment for hooligans is becoming stronger compared with the past. Hooligans are giving negative effects on and off the stadium, so it is time to regard them with criticism.
By Kim Ji-hyeon
Staff Reporter of Culture Section