Through and true, the tides of war splash on the coastline of the new. Fans fight and people do: die, fly away from guilty scenes, and sometimes; “go ‘expletive’ mental”1 until their dreams. Throwing things can be an issue but is it possible for normal people to miss excitement, feeling abysmal.
Excuse my feverish explosion of poetry, I am very excited to have the opportunity to research a topic like spectator violence. As well I saw a Liverpool playwright do something of the same effect and thought I would give it a go. Ronald Reagan seemed to think, “Sport is the human activity closest to war that isn’t lethal.” I would have to agree with the former U.S. president on this specified topic. Violence in sport has been an issue since the beginning of leisure activities; my main goals in this project will be to: document English hooliganism from 1985 up to the end of their World Cup run in 90’ Italy, offer readers insight into the hooligan/fan life, and explain the immergence of hooliganism being seen as a societal problem in England in the late 80’s. I knew I wanted to examine a topic like this when I first saw the movie Green Street Hooligans, starring Elijah Wood and directed by Lexi Alexander. It is based on Matt Buckner, a Harvard journalist student, who visits England after being wrongfully accused and kicked out of his school. He finds himself swiftly in one of the most infamous hooligan ‘firms’ in all of England: The Green Street Elite (GSE). Cheering on their beloved West Ham Hammers (London based football team) they will go to any end to humiliate or oust other firms; mainly through fighting. Matt becomes very attached after a few weeks but relations get stressed and people end up losing their lives. One of his friends/members sees him ‘rolling around’ with “journos”; as he was walking into The Times. His father is a big-time journalist or “journo”. This movie, though rarely quoted, is relevant because you get to see one of the main themes of this paper: the hate-filled relationship between the media/politicians and the fans who participated in sport related violence in England that was exceptionally rampant, in the mid to late 80’s. I came to find as well the main antagonist of this fictitious movie, Millwall fans, were rivals in real life. Especially in 1976 when Ian Pratt, a Millwall supporter, was pushed in front of a train by West Ham hooligans. The Millwall hooligans pledged to get revenge on West Ham’s Inter City Firm (ICF), which lead to the most complex and high-tech policing of a club football match in England. Nearly 500 police officers were hired for this one event; so this fictional picture I came to find, had more elements of truth than I originally thought. As I said earlier, violence in sport and the spectating of sport is no new sociological phenomena. In Sports Violence edited by Jeffrey H. Goldstein, Allen Guttmann speaks on violence in the Roman Empire’s sporting competitions:
“ The Greeks of Homer’s Iliad were content that the funeral games in honor of the fallen Patroklos terminated not in literal but merely in symbolic death, that is, in athletic defeat, but the Romans...celebrated funeral games in which the dead were honored by additonal deaths...One can assume that the number of spectators was fairly small. In the centuries that followed...other Roman historians recorded an apparently irreversible tendency towards the spectacular in that the number of gladiators continually increased and the facilities available to the spectators grew ever grander. By 183 B.C., there were 60 duels; in 65 B.C., Julius Caesar celebrated his election to the aedileship with combats among 320 pairs, staged in a wooden amphitheater constructed especially for the event,”.2
Bauckman, A.J., "An English Struggle (1980's)" (2013). History Class Publications. 40.