In recent weeks, the British media have collectively churned out article after article about hooliganism in Poland and Ukraine. Many pundits have bashed UEFA for selecting the two nations as hosts for the upcoming Euro 2012 tournament. England’s holier-than-though attitude and short memory have allowed the media to seemingly dismiss Britain’s hideous hooligan history.
Instead of urging England fans to support the Three Lions, former player Sol Campbell decided to use scare tactics. “Stay at home, watch it on TV,” Campbell said. “Don’t even risk it … because you could end up coming back in a coffin.”
The former England international also slammed UEFA. “I think that they were wrong, because what they should say is that if you want this tournament you sort your problems out,” he said.
“Until we see a massive improvement, that you have sorted [it] out, you are never going to get the tournament. You do not deserve these prestigious tournaments in your country.”
One may ask Campbell to recite his knowledge regarding football violence in Poland and Ukraine. Judging by his elitist demeanor, perhaps he only knows what he has read in the English media. Certainly, Campbell and others who have repeated similar comments are aware of England’s inglorious past.
While hooliganism and racism is not as present in English football today, it was major problem less than twenty years ago. Huge riots ensued in London and various other sites after the Three Lions fell to Germany in Euro ‘96, which England hosted. In a related incident, a Russian student was stabbed because several thugs thought he was German.
Also during Euro ’96, a bomb exploded in Manchester one day before a scheduled match at Old Trafford, injuring 212 people. The atmosphere was definitely dangerous, especially after England were eliminated.
England supporters also rampaged in Belgium during Euro 2000. In fact, UEFA threatened to expel England from the tournament if the behavior of their fans did not improve. It is believed that the violence caused by Three Lions’ supporters in Belgium ended England’s chances of hosting the 2006 World Cup.
Hooliganism in English club football has declined rapidly since the 1990s, but its influence is far from dead. Many hooligan groups in Eastern Europe are modeled after infamous English firms, such as the Chelsea Headhunters. The actions of English firms during the 1980s inspired hordes of “supporters” across the world to engage in vicious brawls.
All violence and racism at Euro 2012 should and will be condemned. However, the British media has been hypocritical or simply ignorant in their coverage of hooliganism and racism in Poland and Ukraine. Some have frankly decided to forget England’s recent history.