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The Game’s Gone Mad: The Dark-Side of English Football

Let me qualify what I am about to say by stating that I love football and its potential to thrill, excite, inspire and unite us. However, in recent times football has become harder to love.

You go to see your team play, and you have to sit there listening to the screaming swearing of thousands of depressed men using football as some form of therapeutic escapism. People become so angry about what they see on the field. Why do they feel the need to spend hundreds of pounds to become livid watching rich people playing a game? They call it passion; I call it swearing in front of families and children.

Outside of the stadium, these people are generally perfectly civilised. They are often mild-mannered and reasonable to talk to. Yet as soon as stands full of opposition fans are introduced into the equation, they immediately feel the need to vilify them. Has anybody else noticed that when their team scores, many ‘fans’ turn towards the other teams supporters and make hand gestures, obscene comments (usually along the lines of “f**k you!”), and generally make a twat out of themselves lording it over the losing teams fans? It’s embarrassing.

Another point to consider is this: why is football broadcast in the middle of the day? You can hear the crowd chanting “the referee’s a w****r” live on TV in the middle of the day. No other program could ever get away with it. It seems completely absurd.

Football is the quickest way to divide a room. You’re “one of us” if you support the same team; whilst the social outcast supports your teams rival.

The only conceivable way to rectify this shambles of a national sport is to remove the hate. The best way to do this? Remove the importance. If we begin to realise that football is ultimately just a game, and doesn’t mean much in relation to real world issues, maybe people would become less violent and less divisive in relation to the game we all love.

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  1. SoccerLimey

    February 2, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    Seems to me that this author hasn’t been around the game for very long. I’m not condoning the behavior at all but the culture hasn’t changed in generations. Football is a place where adult males let off steam and vent anger, as well as enjoying a sport they love.

    I recall my grandfather recanting the story of when he took the train to Wembley as a Preston fan in 1922 to see his team play Huddersfield in the FA Cup Final. Apparently, in those days, there was only one train there, and one train back, for both sets of supporters. The fans fought running battles on the train before and after the game. He wasn’t proud of it but that was all part of the game as he saw it, and he was one of the most upstanding men I’ve ever met.

    A rather naive article, I fear.

  2. Mike in Idaho

    February 2, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    I would like to suggest that the original poster not attend any of my rec league hockey games. Or any other sporting event, for that matter.

  3. robert

    February 2, 2011 at 12:40 am

    Fans?! You should try joining an adult league. Now THAT turns grown folks into a**holes. Don’t even play for a trophy, your socks don’t match your jersey, and there’s three year olds drooling on the sidelines, but everyone is Mr. Hyde once they’re on the field; male or female. Be glad you’re in the stands or in front of the tv.

  4. Smokey Bacon

    February 1, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    Awesome piece of fishing! 36 bites too! Nice job. Otherwise, what a load of sh*t.

    • jseabold

      February 1, 2011 at 9:47 pm

      This isn’t even a bait and post–like some of Gaffer’s ;). It’s just shockingly bad. Poorly thought out, poorly reasoned, poorly executed.

  5. R2Dad

    February 1, 2011 at 7:24 pm

    This is just crap. The EPL is the most successful league on the planet because they have the most enthusiastic supporters. Enthusiasm is derived from the game (which everyone has played) and the nature of the opponents. The Derby is the essence of the game, and that match is based on communal hate for your neighbors. Yes, we are a civilized society, but the wonder of football is the organized (and limited but allowed) hate for neighbors and they of you. Take that away and you have the MLS–a neutered league of mute fans most of whom don’t know what they are watching, but provides a suitable venue for mums to bring their kiddies.

  6. Dan

    February 1, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    This is the stupidest article I have ever heard, give me a f*cking break. If you want to complain about Football I will agree with you.

    The real problem are the wages being thrown around and then they pass that on to the fans asking for ludicrous ticket prices. I don’t care how good you are at playing a sport, no player is worth 50 million. Did Einstein get that kind of cash? And I am pretty damn sure he changed the world 100000 times more than Torres, Ronaldo, Kaka, Carroll every will!

    • Joe

      February 1, 2011 at 4:04 pm

      Fun fact about capitalism: people are paid based not on the value of their contribution to society, but on the monetary value their work creates. If Albert Einstein delivered a televised lecture series that was watched all over the world by hundreds of millions of people, if fans were clamoring to buy their new Einstein jerseys, then he’d be “worth” as much as Fernando Torres.

      Basically, don’t hate the player, hate the game.

      • R2Dad

        February 1, 2011 at 7:13 pm

        Is it OK to hate player agents? Because they are all manner of worthless dbag societal leeches. I think they’re related to real estate agents, in fact. I got me some pent up hate, now that I’m not supposed to be attending footie matches.

  7. tonyspeed

    February 1, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    is this post a joke?

    • Andy Kay

      February 1, 2011 at 1:47 pm

      From the headline “The Game’s Gone Mad: The Dark-Side of English Football” I would say yes.

      However this line “you have to sit there listening to the screaming swearing of thousands of depressed men using football as some form of therapeutic escapism.” moves it from the realm of a joke to borderline pathetic.

  8. warren

    February 1, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    OK, so to start the article with “I love football” and then go on to say that it’s “rich people playing a game” seems a bit disingenuous. Or, as I might say while down my regular gentlemen’s establishment, imbibing a demitasse of the finest local ale… “You’re having a f*cking bubble, mate”.

    Apologies for the awful language above. I hope there are no families reading.

    Here you go – perhaps this should be at the top of the article:

  9. KopOut

    February 1, 2011 at 11:39 am

    Poor baby. So you hear some bad language? Who cares? Too much for your kids? Here is a thought, how about you don’t bring your kids then. Since when is it the responsibility of 40,000+ free people in a stadium to make sure your children don’t the f-word? Are you going to attempt to keep them from hearing it for their whole life? Good luck with that.

    What is your next post gonna be about, there is too much sex in porn? “I want my kids to be able to watch porn, but there is just too much sex in today’s porn. Somebody do something so that my kids can enjoy this!”

    • Troy

      February 1, 2011 at 12:56 pm

      love it.. +1

    • Dan

      February 1, 2011 at 3:45 pm


      Please go tells this to the whining Seattle Sounders supporters

  10. Andy Kay

    February 1, 2011 at 10:48 am

    I’m guessing the writer has never been to a baseball game featuring fans from New York or Philadelphia, or to an NFL game featuring fans from just about anywhere. Drunks fighting opposing fans or alternatively just each other, people throwing up in the stands, people screaming obscenities at players and fans alike, threatening little kids because they have a shirt on of the opposing team (yes, I’ve seen that) and fights before and after the game in parking lots.

    Yep, that’s a real good family day out, and the only reason that you can’t hear all this going on on TV broadcasts is because American sports fans don’t chant in unison as they do in England and the TV doesn’t point its microphones at the crowd.

    Get over it. This is not a English or European or soccer phenomenon, only a societal thing.

    Oh and just so you know, 99% of the time the ref really IS a wanker.

  11. Odd

    February 1, 2011 at 10:40 am

    “many ‘fans’ turn towards the other teams supporters and make hand gestures, obscene comments (usually along the lines of “f**k you!”), and generally make a twat out of themselves lording it over the losing teams fans?”

    So the obscene comments aren’t acceptable to you, but calling someone a twat is?

    In that case, you, sir, are an ill-informed, misguided twat.

  12. El Tri 2014

    February 1, 2011 at 10:24 am

    Strange. Recently, I had to endure about 30 wasteful minutes listening to EPLTalk about sexism in football. Which would I prefer? To hear sexist talk from my commentators or listen to fans villify the ref? Personally, I don’t mind the fans going bonkers, I think that shows passion for the team and continues to ‘enrich’ the culture they espouse. However, I would draw the line at obscenity, unless its well deserved.

  13. jonathan

    February 1, 2011 at 10:15 am

    Disagree. It’s not the majority of people who are making asses of themselves. And the asses have their place in the atmosphere as well. If you don’t enjoy what goes on in a live match I suggest you stay at home and watch it on mute or go Catch a thrilling chess match

  14. Joe

    February 1, 2011 at 10:14 am

    The problem this author is overlooking or failing to grasp is that much of the hooliganism associated with soccer has little or nothing to do with soccer itself. The most heinous acts are usually perpetrated by people with a political agenda who use the passion of the game for their own nefarious purposes. The passion for the game itself AS A GAME is fine for the majority of fans. There will be knuckleheads and assholes in any popular sport or activity – if it were actually possible to “remove the passion” from the game (a preposterous idea), then the violence would just find another venue.

    • Maybee

      February 1, 2011 at 10:58 am

      Actually, I don’t even think this author is speaking about hooliganism. There is no real mention of violence. He seems to just be offend by the passion and anger of football fans and the their tendency to use naughty words in public. Apparently, it’s shocking to him that sports fans can be tribal and competitive with each other.

      I think any discussion of actual hooliganism would probably push him over the edge, so let’s keep that on the DL.

  15. Mission Man

    February 1, 2011 at 10:06 am

    I have to agree with pretty much all the above comments. Perhaps this writer should be in church on Saturday and Sunday during matches rather than in front of a TV set.

  16. brn442

    February 1, 2011 at 10:02 am

    Is it April’s fool or was this article written by a six year old? Otherwise – please tell me you are being sarcastic.

  17. Maybee

    February 1, 2011 at 9:42 am

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that this writer is American. You know how I know? Because in the US, “soccer” is a game played by children and attended by their moms. It’s a safe, wholesome, family-friendly game.

    How can you claim this is a game you “love” when you are clearly ignorant of its history and culture?? Read a book – just one – about the history and social significance of the game and you will see that intense, irrational, and sometimes violent feelings have often defined this game.

    I too am American. But I’ve educated myself about the game beyond just reading the laws. I’ve learned to love the sport on its own (and usually foreign) terms, and don’t get all holier-than-thou when it offends my American sensibilities.

    Word of advise: Anyone here who is morally offend by someone shouting “f**k you” in a public space, picked the wrong damn sport to love.

    I mean, THE. WRONG. SPORT.

    • mrditty

      February 1, 2011 at 10:33 am

      You can get internet service in your trailer now?

      • Maybee

        February 1, 2011 at 10:52 am

        What a clever insult! I feel properly burned. Well done, you.

        • mrditty

          February 1, 2011 at 12:18 pm

          Thanks Poser!

          • Troy

            February 1, 2011 at 12:50 pm

            ooooo, with a captial P no less. You must have really pissed in his cheerios, Maybee. Possibly could be an offended soccer mom or someone who despises written word.

    • Dave C

      February 1, 2011 at 10:28 pm

      Maybee- spot on analysis. As an Englishman, I had to laugh once when I read a list of rules for spectators at a baseball stadium(It was either the Yankees or the Mets, can’t remember which). It included:
      * No shouting obscenities
      * No heckling the players
      * No drunken behavior
      *And a bunch of similar outlawed activities.

      I looked at it and thought “man, what CAN you do???”

      Just goes to show it’s a different culture I guess.

      p.s. on the subject of someone shouting “f*ck you” at a game – I don’t think it happens that often. Football banter usually emphasizes some sort of humour/wit, and simply shouting “f*ck you” sounds a bit lame in that respect.

  18. Dave C

    February 1, 2011 at 9:35 am

    Another point to consider is this: why is football broadcast in the middle of the day? You can hear the crowd chanting “the referee’s a w****r” live on TV in the middle of the day.

    Ha…can you imagine what would happen if games were broadcast in the evening (after fans had chance to spend several hours in the pub)? Shouting mild obscenities would be the least of your problems! THAT is why they’re broadcast in the middle of the day!

    p.s. the chanting is rarely clear enough to make out unless you already know the chant (just like some pop lyrics are indecipherable if you haven’t already read the printed lyrics), so I don’t think you have to worry about children’s delicate ears too much.

  19. phillyred

    February 1, 2011 at 9:21 am

    Let me guess, author is an Arsenal fan?

    • Jaime

      February 1, 2011 at 10:43 am

      You’ve obviously never been to an Arsenal game mate…

  20. Jason

    February 1, 2011 at 8:57 am

    If you “remove the importance”, what’s left? The whole reason I started loving this beautiful game was due to the passion which millions of supporters follow it. We wouldn’t have a game if not for the passion. Take away the passion, you take heart of the game with it.

  21. Astonfan

    February 1, 2011 at 8:30 am

    As an American who has never attended an EPL game, I cannot say much about this post except that fan behavior can’t be any worse than an american football game in Philadelphia, Cleveland, Baltimore or numerous other locations. It’s just part of professional sports, my friend.

  22. Steve

    February 1, 2011 at 7:55 am

    I agree with john, I have been reading this website for a decent amount of time (years) and this post is a huge shock to me. It is hands down the worst post I have read on this site and could not disagree with it more. In America we are struggling with this same issue. A bunch of soccer moms come to MLS games with their children and complain about the swearing and aggression. Little do they know, these supporters are the ones who are buying insane amounts of merchandise and season tickets. These ‘depressed men’ are the ones who keep the beautiful game as pure as it can be in an age of million dollar players and billion dollar owners.

  23. Jaime

    February 1, 2011 at 7:54 am

    If you don’t like it find a different sport. The atmosphere at the games and the fans is part of the game, you need to accept that. If not there’s always American football or baseball 🙂

    • Guy

      February 1, 2011 at 8:22 am

      That pretty much says it for me. I am also a rugby fan and am always cognizant of the difference in the crowds between the two sports. However, I don’t lose any sleep or time over it. I like each sport for what it is and that’s that. As you say, there are other options…..god forbid. 🙂

  24. Richard b

    February 1, 2011 at 7:46 am

    Having started going to the football in the late 70’s , I can’t believe somebody would even write this. English football is “clean” compared to what it used to be like. When I first started going the abuse, racism and violence was widespread.

    I think the originlal poster wants football fans to become “prawn sandwich” fans like Roy Keane suggested back in 2000!

  25. john

    February 1, 2011 at 7:25 am

    don’t agree at all. One of the worst posts ever by someone who doesn’t have any passion or understanding of people who do.

  26. Gaz Hunt

    February 1, 2011 at 7:17 am

    Like the above commenter said, I think that maybe you are putting too much importance in football and the supporter’s actions.

    Taunting the opposition after a goal is silly but for most it’s in good fun. You will always have the idiots but life goes on.

    I’d say that the least of most parent’s worries is the muffled chants of “wanker” during a broadcast football match.

    Dividing the room is only a problem if you’re an active participant in it. Don’t let it bother you and keep it light-hearted.

    As you suggest, relax – it’s just football.

    • Dave C

      February 1, 2011 at 9:26 am

      Agree with you (Gaz) about taunting the the opposing fans generally being in good fun. It’s basically a form of participatory pantomime.

      When team “A” goes 1-0 up, and they mock their opponents, they KNOW there’s always a good chance that the team “B” could equalize or even go on to win, and then team “A” will be the laughing stock. If anyone actually took it seriously, they wouldn’t set themselves up for a fall like that.

      Likewise when someone jeers an opponents star striker everytime he scuffs a shot. They know eventually he will net one and mock them back. It’s all part of the game.

  27. joe

    February 1, 2011 at 5:40 am

    Don’t agree, not a bit. Swearing on TV doesn’t matter a bit, kids can hear it anywhere and anytime. Sports are sports. Normal people go watch good sportsmen (that are rich because they are good) – the reasons may vary, but they do. All supporters don’t yell “f**k you”.
    Also, “dividing” the room may be a case in some extreme cases, but me & my friends always had a great time watching a game, especially when we are divided in the teams we support.

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