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England Media Is Hypocritical About Hooliganism

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.

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  1. DS

    June 10, 2012 at 7:35 am

    If in doubt blame the English.

  2. Jamie

    June 9, 2012 at 6:33 am

    …and some of these comments reinforce exactly what the writer of this article is saying!

    It is not a ‘large scale group’ as Paul said, it is a bunch of hooligans. I could imagine if you found and spoke to a group of hooligans from any English club and asked ‘are you going to cause trouble?’ they’re going to say yes.

    The writer hasn’t denied that there is hooliganism. He is quite rightly pointing out the complete hypocrisy of the UK media and others (Sol Campbell included) judging entire nations on a 1 hour documentary focused solely on hooligans. I can assure you that had the tournament been in England, then a 1 hour documentary could be made to show things being just as bad. But that is not a reason to judge entire nations. It is like every game you go to (speaking as a Stoke fan who has travelled all over the country to over 60 different away grounds)…if you want trouble, you can find it. If you’re sensible and keep your wits about you, you’ll be fine 99% of the time. Even if you dont want trouble, if you decide to go somewhere else and take liberties, then the chances are you will attract trouble.

    Ukraine has been independent for approaching 26 years now having put up for decades with Soviet control. Those people who were included in the documentary weren’t even born when they were under such control, they enjoy some liberties and freedoms that their parents couldnt event dream of, and like EVERY society, there is a racist minority who abuses that freedom.

    I, also like Tamara, have spent a large amount of time in Ukraine and my fiancee is from Kyiv. I have stayed in many parts of the country, travelled all over the place. Even when I speak Russian, they all know I’m English (or maybe think I’m American) but I’ve not once had any problem at all. If I could afford to go, I would have no fears at all about going anywhere, to watch any game in the Championship. I know for fact and personal experience that collectively, Ukrainian people are of a far nicer, kinder, genuine, accepting and helpful nature than English people.

    PPS – IanCransonsKnees…brilliant comment!

  3. scrumper

    May 29, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    The Sun = Daily Enquirer Don’t think they’re representative of the English media unless you’re deranged like Rupert Murdoch. And Sol Campell’s mental problems have been well documented so he’s not exactly a reliable source. This whole piece is a joke and the author dug himself a HUGE hole with the ridiculous bombing reference and continued to dig himself to Australia trying to get out of it.

    What an idiot.

    • Jack Tomczuk

      May 29, 2012 at 11:17 pm

      I did not “dig a hole” with the reference to the 1996 IRA bombing. The editor of this website decided to strike out the reference, and I respect his decision to do so, but I did insert the reference on purpose to make a point. I am aware that the bombing didn’t have anything to do with Euro ’96, but it did occur one day before a match in a host city. If a similar terrorist attack and the were to occur in Poland or Ukraine during Euro 2012 (and I very much hope that it does not), you know that UEFA’s decision to select the countries to host would be blasted for lack of proper security… even if the attack had nothing to do with the tournament. This double standard should not exist.

      I should have phrased that section of the article better in order to avoid these different intrepretations, but please remain certain that my intention was never to connect the IRA bombing to hooliganism.

  4. Gooner

    May 29, 2012 at 6:58 am

    What a joke this article is.

    The bombing was by the IRA but you yanks support them anyway (JFK).

    • The Gaffer

      May 29, 2012 at 7:04 am

      Most Americans don’t support the IRA. What a ridiculous comment to make.

      The Gaffer

    • Guy

      May 29, 2012 at 7:56 am

      The joke here is your comment. You cite a dead U.S. President as substantiation for your statement that we Yanks support(ed) the IRA?


      You Brits supported Hitler (Chamberlain).

      Equally asinine.

  5. dust

    May 29, 2012 at 12:25 am

    As well as the sky sports investigation that unearthed the paramilitary nazi group planning to disrupt euro 2012, the BBC investigative show Panorama also has a piece on the stadia and home crowd. Here is a link to the story with a video excerpt.

  6. Guy

    May 28, 2012 at 7:56 pm

    This is an interesting debate. The proof will be in the pudding. I lean to the side that if you ain’t lily white things will be tight ……….but I would love to be proved wrong.

  7. Ben

    May 28, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    I have been to Poland and believe me it is pretty dangerous to go to a football game there during the Polish League, Hooliganism is present everywhere, family can not go to see a game… I hope everything will be all right for the Euro

  8. IanCransonsKnees

    May 28, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    I think part of the problem is the blind eye that gets turned towards rampant racisim in eastern european football by the likes of Uefa and Fifa, they may as well condone the actions of the fans over there. There was a story earlier this year where a side entered the field of play 30 seconds later than the deadline set by Uefa and they were fined more than another side whose fans were chanting racist songs throughout a match. How is that right?

    I’ve followed by team home and away for over 18 years, we were relatively notorious for the hooligans that attached themselves to us and at one point to travel away you had to have an ID card (which was basically a police check). I can only remember one away match where I saw trouble starting and that was Stockport away. If you want trouble you’ll find it, if you’ve got a reputation other clubs morons will play on it.

    With regard to the Ukraine I’ve heard nothing but good reports from the Stoke fans that went to Kiev, they were treated incredibly well and some even went back for their new year celebrations and are going back for the Euros. People on the Stoke forum were even offering to pay for Kiev fans who couldn’t afford to, to come over for the return leg. A lot of it will hopefully be overblown hype.

  9. Michael

    May 28, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    On World Cup Buzz (, I covered a lot of the same things England is going through. I had a person who commented that the sensationalism of the media is wrong and that the Ukraine is a peaceful nation. However, like your article, he brought up statements which put England under a bad light when it comes to race relations. But here’s the thing, it is a fact that while Britain was notorious for football hooliganism back in the 70s and 80s, in the present, football in Britain is less chaotic because of the significant improvements in security and staffing. While I’m sure there will be heightened security for the Euro, there is clear evidence that many football fans in the Ukraine, Russia, Poland, and other parts of Eastern Europe show racist behavior at football matches. Furthermore, unlike Britain nowadays where people get punished for hate crimes, that doesn’t exist as far as I know in the Ukraine and in other parts of Eastern Europe which certainly influences why there is much more racist xenophobia in football stadiums in the Ukraine and Poland vs. Britain.

  10. Evan

    May 28, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    So the general point is that, because England has problems dealing with hooliganism in the past, their news media don’t have the right to point out the significant issues Ukraine has at the moment? Sol Campbell was probably out of line with his comments, but it’s not like he’s a journalist. As far as I see it (and this was pointed out during the paper review on Sky Sports News last night), the overarching issue is that problems like hooliganism and racism seem to be overlooked in favor of “spreading the game” to the far corners of the world. If issues like these were present in England, France, Germany, etc., there would be outrage from international governing bodies and threats of sanctions. But when places like Qatar and Ukraine want to host major tournaments, their metric for acceptable violence/racism changes. It’s more of a statement of governing bodies looking the other way in selective cases.

  11. Matt

    May 28, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    overblown by the English media in my opinion…if you don’t make a fool of yourself over there nothing will happen

    • Paul

      May 28, 2012 at 1:18 pm

      Don’t make a fool of yourself and you’ll be fine? Try telling that to the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s family who are seriously thinking of missing seeing their son play for his country because the threat is that real because of the colour of their skin. Try telling them to not make a fool of themselves and they’ll be fine… See how they react to that.

      Sol Campbell could have picked his words a bit better today… But the threat is very real!

  12. David Owens-Callan

    May 28, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    I think that the writer has some valid points, I do think that the media has a tendancy to blow everything out of proportion. Most societies, developed or otherwise, have pockets that go against accepted social norms. Away from football the Western Baptist church are not a true representation of America, or even Kansas for that matter. In the same way that the BNP are a minority group in the UK.

    I imagine that the average British or American person knows very little about Ukranian life so when a respected media source broadcasts something showing videos as vile as Sky Sports or BBC did, then of course you are going to get moral outrage. But for Sol Campbell to tell people not to go is mis-guided, small minded and unfortunate.

    You cannot deny countries like Ukraine to show the world that they have reformed and changed, or where will progress come from. Look at South Africa, before that World Cup people were saying children would cut off your feet to steal your trainers. Yes I imagine it happens, but again I imagine the whole of South Africa isnt walking around on stumps with a kid holding a machete stands surrounded by trainers.

    Populist media is the problem, how about show another video about the other 99.5% of the Ukranian population that are not neo-nazis to put peoples mind at ease.

  13. Dust

    May 28, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    Very misguided article, the special by sky that exposed the paramilitary nazi organization that is intent on causing harm to England supporters is probably something you should have watched before writing this article. Or something the editors should have fact checked before allowing this article to say that an IRA bomb was an act of football hooliganism.

    Also as someone that attended games all over England in the 80’s and early 90’s, 2000’s im proud to say it is something that this behaviour has been successfully reduced to levels that are far lower than those still in Italy, Germany, Holland and France who all still have fences around the ground and dividing supporters because violence and pitch invasions.

    A prime example being the incident in Italy few weeks ago where the players were blocked from leaving the field and made to remove their jerseys by the fans as they were deemed not worthy to wear them anymore. I’m sure if that did happen in England UEFA would ban all English clubs for 10 years from Europe.

  14. Alex Wolcott

    May 28, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    Agreed with Stu and some of the earlier commenters. And WTF about implying that IRA bombing had anything to do with football. Terrible, terrible article. Writing malpractice, if there is such a thing.

    Blaming that IRA bombing on Euro ’96 or hooliganism is kind of like blaming the KAL 007 shootdown on American football fans, given that it occurred on the opening week of the NFL season in 1983.

    • The Gaffer

      May 28, 2012 at 12:36 pm

      I struck out the reference to the IRA bombing. I should have caught that one!

      The rest of the article stands.

      The Gaffer

      • Jack Tomczuk

        May 28, 2012 at 1:15 pm

        I am completely aware that the bomb attack was claimed by the IRA. My point is that Euro ’96 was held in England, and danger and violence were present. Perhaps better security would have prevented the terrible attack. If such a terrorirst attack were to occur in Poland and Ukraine this year, I bet that many would slam UEFA’s decision to select the countries due to a lack of proper security.

        • Paul

          May 28, 2012 at 1:23 pm

          You’ve clearly got no idea what the hell you’re on about so I’d quit while you’re behind if I was you. Can’t believe you’ve just suggested ‘better security’ would have prevented a terrorist attack which involved a bomb being placed in a van. The IRA issues were very severe for many years and it’s something you clearly know nothing about.

          You’ve clearly got no idea what the hell you’re on about so I’d quit while you’re behind if I was you.

          • Paul

            May 28, 2012 at 1:24 pm

            I’m on my phone – didn’t mean for a sentence to appear twice there!

          • Jack Tomczuk

            May 28, 2012 at 3:35 pm

            I do know what I’m talking about. Better security can prevent terrorist attacks. There are a number of planned bombings that have been reportedly been stopped because of good security and police work, even before the attacks of 9/11. Members of violent organization can also be identified by intelligence agencies.

          • Paul

            May 28, 2012 at 4:07 pm

            That is a very broad and naive statement. It’s also a debate I don’t wish to enter into on a football forum.

  15. Stu

    May 28, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    Outrageous article. As a Mancunian injured by said bomb, I would tell YOU to go and do some research and learn about what you’re actually talking about. The bombing was by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and had absolutely NOTHING, NADA, ZILCH to do with ‘English football hooliganism’.

    Euro ’96’s violence is better known by people who were there, of which, judging by the content of your article, you were not.

    Our ‘hooliganism’ and racism is about as low as it will ever be. We’re a very accepting country (which you cannot say for about 90% of US states) and yes we’ve had our history but for the most part it’s gone. Every country has it’s idiots, and you should know that. And our idiots are the vastly tiny minority.


    • CTBlues

      May 28, 2012 at 12:43 pm

      Lol 90% of the US isn’t accepting, your funny man.

    • Jack Tomczuk

      May 28, 2012 at 1:24 pm

      Hooliganism and racism has declined in England drastically since 2000, but, before then, there were many incidents of violence caused by England supporters. So, if a country hasn’t reached a level of hooliganism equivalent to post-2000 England, they do not deserve to host a major tournament? That’s simply not fair.

    • IanCransonsKnees

      May 28, 2012 at 2:28 pm

      “And our idiots are the vastly tiny minority.”

      There’s about 4000 who go to Port Vale every fortnight up this way and around 60,000 who watch the opera at The Emirates library.

  16. Paul

    May 28, 2012 at 11:51 am

    This article is bloody ridiculous! Nobody is claiming England – or anywhere else for that matter – is hooliganism free. That’s always been attached to football in some capacity no matter what the country.

    The reason the issues have arisen surrounding the Euros is because a large scale group over there have said they’re looking to start fights and attack the English. The Metropolitan police are being sent over there to work alongside the local police force because the threat level has been labelled as pretty high. What on earth that’s got to do with news reports not talking about previous incidents though I really have no idea? They’re referring to the here & now and a very possible and likely huge problem for everybody.

    One last thing – you’re totally out of order mentioning the Manchester bombing because that had NOTHING to do with football. That was an act of terrorism by the IRA.

    Sometimes I do wonder if people write articles like this just to get a rise out of people!

    • Tony Butterworth

      May 28, 2012 at 12:03 pm

      Wow, you completely saved me the time of responding. Perfect response.

    • Frill Artist

      May 28, 2012 at 11:13 pm

      Couldn’t have said it any better. This article is nothing but a storm in a tea cup.

    • Tamara

      June 8, 2012 at 10:29 am

      I think the issue here is that they are claiming Ukrainians and Polish fans are incredibly racist and therefore everyone should boycott the games. That’s the ubsurdity. I have lived in both countries and can attest that these instances of racism are limited to a handful of fans. No country is free of racism, everyone needs to consider their own countries issues before attacking Ukraine and Poland. They most definitely deserved this tournament and no one should be allowed to say otherwise.

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