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Football Hooliganism: Why England Should Have Won Euro 2020

Sports has always been synonymous with the act of being a leader, a camaraderie and being a part of something greater than oneself. It is without a doubt that football as a sport aims to express the same abstracts. It has united countries, people from diverse races breaking the linear bounds of what it means to play a sport.

When the entire world is going through a prolonged isolation period, the idea to indirectly participate as a spectator and supporter for a game of football sounds like the best thing on the planet. So when UEFA postponed the European Football Championship (popularly known as Euro) to the summer of 2021; the spirits of the fans across Europe remained high.

But what happens when a sport brings out our regressive emotions? What happens when the spirit of sportsmanship is lost between a petty battle of winning and losing?

Sport: A Religion In Itself

One will not be understating while saying that football is equivalent to a person’s religion in Europe. According to a report by Nielsen Sports DNA, there are approximately 131 million fans in the five major European nations. While this number helps us understand the reach of football in quantifiable terms, it is far from being able to assess the emotional response a fandom may portray.

The world was shocked with the way the players from the black community of England’s football team were treated after their loss to Italy in the Euro 2020 finals. On missing the penalties Marcus Rushford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka were not spared by the angry fans.

When young people who have worked harder than anyone else to represent their nation at an unprecedented level, are disrespected because of their race and identity, it is gut-wrenching.

These continued incidents of racial abuse, both online and offline that followed, made it to the headlines, but for England these incidents were not new. In fact, the country is known for its aggressive football fans, with a limited tolerance.

Fan Behaviour vs Disruption

Hooliganism is understood as a conduct of aggressive or violent behaviour, subjected by a criminal gang. The toxic fan culture and its instigators need to take a step back and address the side they would rather be at.

In 2018, the England versus Russia World Cup match resulted in the former initiating a scuffle with the latter. Images of people of colour being abused flooded social media platforms and made it to news headlines post the Euro 2020. Twitter in fact, had to delete more than 1,000 racist tweets after England’s loss. One would term the incident of Marcus Rushford’s mural in Manchester being defaced as heartbreaking.

Statistics presented by the United Kingdom’s National Centre for Domestic Violence (NCDV) paint a horrific but realistic picture. They highlight the fact that instances of domestic violence go up by 26% in the UK when the England football team plays. When the England football team loses, it means that these cases increase by an overall 38%. With this, the world can understand the dark side of football: the hooliganism it carries

How does a game meant to uphold community values become an instigator of racial abuse and domestic violence?

Impact Beyond Sports

When we keep the entertaining and unifying side of a sport such as football aside, we find a deeply rooted culture of toxic behavior that channels from within. Consider a situation wherein a person has been raised within a toxic culture which uses sports as an outlet for rash behaviour. These dynamics are extended outside of sports along with the repression of emotions, again perpetuated by the said toxic culture. With misplaced loyalty or patriotism for a sports team, fans engage in aggression in a bid for claiming superiority over the opposing team.

This often prolongs within the domestic setting. Consider a situation wherein a fan watching a football match from their home sees their team lose and later exerts these violent emotions on the people nearby. Now apply this situation to a public setting, at a stadium or on the road.

Fans - regardless of their gender, have behaved aggressively and deemed it as a normal response. The statistics for toxic behaviour, however, are higher for men than they are for other genders. This then translates to abusive behaviour leading to cases of domestic violence. If we bring up the numbers, such cases increase when England loses but still exist when England wins; meaning that violence happens regardless of the outcome of a game at the hands of the same people who call themselves ‘dedicated fans.’ It has stooped to the level where the victims pray that England wins to spare them the violence, the only reason as to why England should have won Euro 2020.

Is There A Quick Fix?

Since a majority of these instances are reported as hooliganism through social media platforms, how can these institutions play a role in safeguarding the integrity of the players?

One suggestion could be with respect to verification of identity on joining a platform. This would ensure the legitimacy of social media accounts and prevent ‘trolls’, who exist to cyberbully.

In a stand, the Premier League and Women’s Super League had initiated a boycott of social media to make it evident that racism and abuse are not tolerated by the football community. Another question of differentiating genuine fans from hooligans lies in the hair. Even with controlling social media policy will it actually stop physical violence at homes?

Passion does not equal violence. This case calls for institutions and fans all over the world, especially England to take a step back and reevaluate their stance on their beloved game.

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