Policing Football: Social Interaction and Negotiated Disorder


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What are we doing now that we will feel embarrassed about in a few years?

Hoggett, J. Emerald Group Publishing Limited. Please share your general feedback. You can start or join in a discussion here. Visit emeraldpublishing. Abstract Purpose — This study seeks to examine what theory of crowd psychology is being applied within public order police training in England and Wales and what accounts of crowds, police strategies and tactics subsequently emerge among officers who undertake this training. Findings — The analysis suggests that a form of crowd theory associated with the work of Gustave Le Bon has become institutionalised within police training.

Accounts suggest that people were kicked and beaten with batons while they slept. The police methodically went through the school beating all protestors in their way, regardless of their physical position. Several women were threatened with rape and all ninety-three occupants of the school suffered serious injuries, some life threatening.

Such tactics caused international outrage and strained relations with the Italian government. The heavy police presence at football matches, like the G8, provides several potential flashpoints that could generate forward panic. As described in the introduction above, a potential flashpoint occurred before the match between Livorno and Lazio at the Stadium Armando Picchi in May A group of over hundred Livorno ultras marched towards the gates of their curva.

As they approached the gates, armed riot police approached the gates from inside the ground in anticipation of an attempt to attack the gates. The ultras were marching, waving flags and chanting anti-fascist and anti-Lazio songs. They were not armed, throwing objects or performing any form of ritualized violence. In spite of this the riot police prepared themselves for violence and marched forward. No violence ensued, as the ultras were allowed into the stadium without having their tickets checked.

This was an apposite example of how forward panic could escalate; the police were responding not to any specific acts of violence but to the incorrect perceived threat of the ultras. In this case the Livorno ultras were more focused on their hatred of Lazio and fascism than confronting the police. In other contexts it would be clear that the police could ignite the emotional tinderbox.

A further example of aggressive Italian policing surfaced in the media in May The Gugliotta affair highlighted the aggressive approach taken by certain sections of the Italian police Corriere della Sera ; La Repubblica a. On the night of the Italian Cup final between Roma and Inter, Gugliotta was riding his scooter with his cousin in order to go to a party.

He had not attended the match but was stopped by a policeman. The incident was filmed from the window of one of the neighbouring apartments. Gugliotta had a broken tooth and evidence of head injuries. Only after I was able to sign a sheet with boxes still empty. The case demonstrates the forward panic of Italian police as they seek to use violence early, rather than as a last resort.

They subsequently attempted to fabricate evidence to suggest that he had refused to seek medical advice. As they act as an independent, politically orientated body, some police attempt to manipulate their position. Aggressive policing in Italy has not been restricted to Italian football fans. Fans of English clubs and the England national team have faced considerable difficulties from the Italian forces of order Stott and Reicher ; Stott and Pearson Similarly, recent games involving English clubs in Rome have highlighted the continued perceived threat against English fans.

Against Liverpool and Manchester United in and , respectively, similar patterns emerged. Roma fans attacked both sets of fans as they approached the stadium; the police did not intervene.

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Inside the stadium riot police were stationed in the away end. There were no police in the home curve , only stewards. The Roma fans threw missiles over the barrier into the English fans, who subsequently threw them back. In the case of the Liverpool fans, they were attacked by the police for throwing these missiles back.

Social Interaction and Negotiated Disorder

The incident involving the Manchester United fans occurred after United scored and Roma fans surged towards the barrier. The United fans responded, whereupon the riot police charged down and began to baton charge indiscriminately into the United fans. It is clear from the actions of the Italian police in relation to English fans that they police the situations based on perception of the fan group.

A video clip from Danish television highlights the treatment of young Danish Manchester United fans. The globalization of football, and English football in particular, now sees many clubs having an international fan base. Indiscriminately treating all fans as nationally homogenous is fundamentally flawed. The intricate political networks operating in Italian society legitimizes these actions.

Politicians and the media want to be seen taking a firm line and support the police in their conduct. I was there and from what I saw they followed the established protocol. This reinforces the prominence of police perception in their handling of these situations. If the authorities and police perceive a group to be violent, then they are more likely to adopt an aggressive stance. This increases the likelihood of forward panic and resulting violence.

Training needs to be undertaken by the police to understand the culture of the fans before a match Stott and Adang ; Stott and Pearson ; Foot a. Although public drunkenness is rare in Italy, it is relatively common around travelling British and north European football fans. Making the correct perceptions allows the police to operate more effectively and prevents the opportunity for forward panic to occur. At the highest level, the Italian police and politicians have not adopted a flexible approach to policing football fans. Fans are treated as one homogenous group, rather than dealt with as diverse individuals or groups.

Most of the focus is on the away fans in the settore ospiti , the area designated for away fans to park before being escorted to the ground.

Chief Constable Gavin Stephens explains the role of social media officers

There are extensive regulations governing the settore ospiti :. In Italy, I speak of our experience of Livorno, when we organise an away trip, a major part of the club organised trips is by coach. Therefore depending on the number of people going, the Osservatorio , or its better to say, the responsibility of the forces of order in Livorno, require a list of the number of people going. They order an escort of one or two patrols to go with us in police cars and therefore they escort us from the motorway toll booth and escort us to the stadium … When we make an away trip the questura calls every club to find out what time the coach is leaving and to know what route we are taking.

This allows for coaches to convene at the motorway tollbooths and await the police escort. Usually two police cars will escort the away coaches — one at the front, one at the rear. On arrival at the outskirts of the destination city, the away coaches are collected by a police escort from that municipality and escorted to the settore ospiti.

This will comprise of a number of police patrol cars and motorbikes. In addition to the escorting patrol cars and motorbikes, the route will be well-marshalled by other police patrol cars and motorbikes that stop and direct traffic to facilitate a clear route for the escorted coaches.


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When away fans arrive in Livorno, as stated in the opening paragraph to this chapter, the road along the seafront approaching the stadium is blocked of traffic. In most cases, the settore ospiti is directly alongside, or inside the stadium. In the case of a trip to Brescia in March , the settore ospiti was on the outskirts of the city.


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  • The coaches parked in the designated zone and were escorted onto modified city buses to be taken to the stadium. The buses were fitted with a Perspex barrier separating the fans from the driver and front door of the bus. Alongside the driver, behind this Perspex barrier, stood two policemen clearly armed with semi-automatic rifles. Fans of all ages and genders are treated as potential hooligans.

    The political imposition of the Pisanu Laws reinforces how the authorities treat fans as one homogenous group. On arrival at the away end of the Italian stadiums, a wall of riot police, standing behind full-length riot shields, greets the visiting fans. They act as a funnel towards the turnstiles where State Police, Carabinieri and stewards meet the away fans. At this point, the stewards will check any baggage for prohibited items and ascertain the details of flags and banners. Any banned items can be confiscated for being too political, or for constituting a weapon. Prior to a match against Parma in December , two Livorno fans were prevented from taking a large flag sporting the image of Che Guevara.

    The pole accompanying this flag was about four foot tall. They were refused because the pole was too long and they had a political symbol on it.

    Policing football: social interaction and negotiated disorder

    Security checks are also performed on the fans. In compliance with the Pisanu Law, they have to ensure that the name on the ticket matches the identity of the person holding the form of identification. Once this check has been performed satisfactorily, the fans approach the turnstiles where they insert the barcode on the ticket into the barcode reader of the turnstile and proceed into the stadium.

    Stewards and police remain in the sections underneath the stadium but do not make their presence felt within the curva. The entire operation creates an overwhelming image of force and control and increases the tension and emotion of the situation. In a country where the state has faced a long-standing crisis of legitimacy, the presentation of force at away games is potent. Not only does it criminalize all fans; it can present an altogether different image. Armoured police and carabinieri confront fans, while helicopters circle overhead. It feels like a war zone.

    This analogy reinforces the notion of a lack of legitimacy. It also strengthens the suggestion that the police and fans are enemies. The police are acting not as intermediaries but as adversaries, and this provides ample opportunity for forward panic and potential violence. It is for this reason that a number of Italian authors utilize the analogy of war in their research. Despite this, however, no violence was witnessed at any of these games during the ethnographic fieldwork in , and none was reported subsequently in the media.

    As Collins highlights, it is rare when fights start as most people avoid them. However, when the ingredients are right, and the tension and emotion on both sides increases, it can lead to the flashpoints and forward panics that precipitate violence. By treating all fans as one homogenous group, politicians and the police do not take account of the range of fans within the curva.

    Not all fans are hooligans or looking for violence. This effectively criminalizes all fans that may have attended that game and restricts them from watching their team. The police response to away fans is to treat them all as potential hooligans. Consequently, when violent incidents occur, many fans sympathize with group members and understand why violence took place.

    This further delegitimizes the police. Despite the treatment of fans as one homogenous group by politicians and the police authorities, the officers on the front line operate with extreme flexibility. In specific situations, police officers circumvent the rules depending on circumstances. This is often done in coordination with the police hierarchy.

    The area was directly outside the Stadio Mario Rigamonti and entry was under police authority, although I was allowed entry without being questioned while waiting for my contact, who had my ticket. There was a delay in the arrival of the buses from the parking area that saw the buses immediately directed into the away end. This led to a series of negotiations inside and outside the ground to allow my admission into the ground.

    On admission it became apparent that no bags or other objects would be allowed on the terrace. As the fans had transferred to the specially modified city buses there was nowhere to store my rucksack. A negotiation took place with the Digos, who refused to take it and suggested to the officer in authority that it should be allowed to be taken into the ground. This was permitted, without being searched. This example, as well as the examples described above of English fans having bottles thrown at them in Rome, illustrates the way that some Italian police make an exception in certain situations.

    However, this can increase the opportunity for violence.

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    By not proactively responding to minor incidents, the police allow the tension and emotion to build. This increases the chance of flashpoints occurring and violence ensuing. Francesio argues that the British police take a more active role than Italian police at prevention and control. This is done as a person with a repertoire of status markers — in terms of age, educational background, class, ethnicity, and sexual orientation — together with their own beliefs, preferences and leisure interests. That said, we must be careful to avoid the simplistic binary model of gender and appreciate the complexities of gender expression and identities.

    Reflexivity has become recognised as an important research skill in the social sciences because it actively takes into account the effect of the social identity and social presentation of the researcher on whom and what is being investigated Gertsi-Pepin Thus, our personal biographies shape our research interests, access to the field, relationships with the researched, and our interpretation and representation of the culture under examination. This is arguably more pronounced when there is gender incongruence between the researcher and the informants.

    Female researchers generally appear to be more acutely aware of being situated within gendered spaces and of the gendered interactions within them Gill and Maclean ; Woodward , with male researchers more prone to gender blindness. Armstrong and Giulianotti both advocate the use of snowballing to establish gatekeepers and engender further subjects.

    Both acknowledge they were at a distinct advantage in that they were natives of the cities where they conducted their ethnographies and knew some of the hooligan firm members as schoolmates, prior to their formal research, through their lifelong support of Aberdeen and Sheffield United football clubs respectively.

    What they did not explicitly acknowledge was that they were male. This gave them a distinct advantage. This confirmed my resignation that the hooligan subculture was a world that would always remain closed to me as a female researcher. I was invited to contact them if I was interested. Nevertheless, my curiosity and the whiff of an opportunity got the better of me and I replied a week later expressing muted interest and requesting more details.

    This culminated in a telephone conversation, first with the promoter and then with Chris, one of the retired hooligans, who had conceived the idea. My conversation with him lasted about 45minutes, which I took as testimony to how well it went. This was a complex strategic situation. Part of our discussion centred upon 'relations' between hooligans and academics. This put me in a disadvantageous position, but I reminded myself that they had contacted me after all. This seemed to help me and we had an interesting, open and relaxed conversation.

    I was comfortable using some of the vocabulary of the hooligan subculture and able to demonstrate my awareness of recent incidents of football-related disorder.

    Video Montage of "The Bubble" - Hampshire Policing Operation

    This was well received: Chris struck me as someone who sought approval and thrived off praise. Research bargaining either explicit or tacit quid pro quo is crucial to gaining access to the field and requires skilful negotiation and re-negotiation Giulianotti ; Lumsden First and foremost, they seemed to want endorsement from an academic institution to give their event series a form of integrity; they wanted to visit a university and present to undergraduate students, who they said frequently wrote to them for help with dissertations.

    As with other research where gaining and maintaining access depends on good relations with gatekeepers and respondents Sampson and Thomas ; Palmer , I openly presented my interest in them and stated my purpose as wanting to find out more about their subculture to develop my research. They were happy with this and over the next few months I corresponded frequently with Chris via email, SMS and phone.

    Chris decided to break from the project and instead sought to develop an anti-youth crime project. Upon reflection, I believe that my status group memberships as a female academic actually helped facilitate these interactions and the development of rapport, in ways that male academics may not have been able to do.

    In this way, my gendered self was a useful tool, not a challenge to the research process. In return — as part of our unspoken research bargain — I gained an exclusive insight into Chris and his firm through the regular conversations we were now having, which came to serve as informal interviews. Five months after their first speculative email, I was invited to attend the official launch of their anti-youth crime project, which coincided with a pre-screening of a hooligan film. Finally I had my ticket, not just to the launch press conference and the cinema, but into the hooligan subculture.

    At last I was going to meet some hooligans. What do you wear to go and meet a firm of hooligans?! But what to wear as a woman?

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    Do I power-dress? Rarely had I laboured over what to wear — this was like going on a first date! I was annoyed with myself for dwelling over the issue, but I knew that how I presented myself was important. Finally, I opted for my fitted, short-sleeved, navy and white, gingham-check Ted Baker blouse, a pair of smart boot-cut jeans and a pair of mules, which revealed my painted toe-nails Fieldnotes, 16 July Thinking his comment was a bit of an odd thing to say was it a flirtatious remark? At least my worrying about what to wear seemed to have worked.

    It was then I realised that we were both wearing navy and white gingham-checked shirts. We both laughed. My labouring over what to wear had worked: it had at least broken the ice. So how come you know him?

    Policing Football: Social Interaction and Negotiated Disorder Policing Football: Social Interaction and Negotiated Disorder
    Policing Football: Social Interaction and Negotiated Disorder Policing Football: Social Interaction and Negotiated Disorder
    Policing Football: Social Interaction and Negotiated Disorder Policing Football: Social Interaction and Negotiated Disorder
    Policing Football: Social Interaction and Negotiated Disorder Policing Football: Social Interaction and Negotiated Disorder
    Policing Football: Social Interaction and Negotiated Disorder Policing Football: Social Interaction and Negotiated Disorder
    Policing Football: Social Interaction and Negotiated Disorder Policing Football: Social Interaction and Negotiated Disorder
    Policing Football: Social Interaction and Negotiated Disorder Policing Football: Social Interaction and Negotiated Disorder
    Policing Football: Social Interaction and Negotiated Disorder Policing Football: Social Interaction and Negotiated Disorder

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