Hooliganism and the Dark Side of Football Events

Monday, July 14, 2014: 11:00 AM
Room: 412
Oral Presentation
Kim-Claude MEYER , History and Sociology, Konstanz University, Konstanz, Germany
Marco GERSTER , History and Sociology, Konstanz University, Konstanz, Germany
Sport events in general and football matches in particular are often clouded by acts of violence. Hooliganism is a problem that is widely feared and thus is communicated throughout the media weeks or months before the actual event. Descriptions of raging masses, flying stones, lighted flares and wounded innocent victims dominate the coverage. At the same time the term “hooliganism” has very little analytical power, as it is used for all kinds of violent acts that occur during football matches including right-wing extremism. The underlying purpose when speaking of “hooliganism” is to make sense of seemingly “senseless” violence, to produce a surplus of order over disorder. From the hooligan's own perspective the violence is by no means “senseless” but is restrained by a diffuse moral code. These rules are similar to former ritualized – and thus “fair” – duels, in which the combatants could achieve or restore their honor. In this paper we want to address the phenomenon of “hooliganism” from a cultural sociological point of view. We contrast the “public” perspective and the media imagery of violent acts of hooliganism with the self-concept of the subculture in question. This comparison shows that hooliganism is a deeply ambivalent phenomenon. It is both playful and serious, sport and “war”. Hooligans are peaceful and “invisible” in everyday life, while they are violence-prone as long as the “moral holiday” (Randall Collins) lasts. We argue that this in-betweenness makes hooliganism so hard to grasp by science, politics and the media.