The measures, through legislation, which are in place to control football crowds have developed over many years and in the main, have come about because of the sports controlling interests inability or lack of desire to exercise the measures voluntarily. As early as 1969, in the Lang Report, it was recommended that standing terraces be replaced by seating and that offenders should be required to report on subsequent match days at a place away from the ground (Carnibella G., Fox A., Fox K., McCann J., Marsh J., Marsh P, 1996). The report also recognised the influence the players behaviour has on the behaviour of the crowd, in stating that there should be universal acceptance of the referee's decisions
In 1985, the Council of Europe published the 'European Convention on Spectator Violence and Misbehaviour at sports Events and in particular at Football Matches' (Council of Europe, 1985). This treaty, consisting of 17 articles, set out a framework for member nations to control violence which was becoming increasingly associated with organised sports events. Predominantly dealing with football violence, the treaty had relevance for all sports and recognised that the problem was an international one.
Article 6, placed specific responsibility on National Sports Organisations to "review their regulations continuously in order to control factors which may lead to outbreaks of violence by players or spectators." An approach which recognised the role and responsibility of the sports controlling bodies.
The inclusion of 'players' was recognition of the fact that all violence associated with sport, is not confined to spectators. The high price of failure in modern professional sports is a factor that has led to the decline in sporting behaviour on the football field as well as in other sports. Players dispute every decision by the officials and feign fouls in the hope of gaining advantage by misleading the officials. Psychologists have shown through research that young children tend to model their behaviour on observations of adults, particularly those they admire. Major sporting figures therefore have a responsibility to behave in a way that reflects their role model status. Unfortunately this is not the case, and unsporting behaviour is now evident in even the most junior levels of football. Studies have shown that youths involved in organised sport, show less sportsmanship than those not involved. As they grew older, children placed greater emphasis on victory than on fairness and participation (Miedzian, 1991).
The 'tribal and territorial' behaviour of football fans is emphasised in segregation arrangements within football stadia. Those who argue that fans behaviour is influenced by this treatment, and that the removal of segregation would do well to investigate the extreme levels of violence that led to the strict segregation measures as any practitioner policing football games in the 1980's will confirm.
In contrast the other major spectator sports have no significant problems. Cricket and Rugby, similar to football in that they involve two teams pitting their skills against each other, supported by large numbers of partisan fans. Rugby with a high degree of physical contact, Cricket with none. Seeking to explain the violence among football fans, as in some way precipitated by the action on the field, would lead one to expect a greater degree of crowd trouble at rugby games and none at cricket matches. The answer may lie in the culture of the fan base of the sport.
Rugby, even at the highest level, was until recently an amateur sport. Grass roots level clubs were and still are social entities, which had a life outside of the duration of the Saturday afternoon match. Visiting supporters are welcomed into the club and the games are enjoyed in un-segregated terraces, with alcohol freely available for consumption at pitch side. As with cricket, the whole culture of the supporters is different to football.
The recent change to professionalism within Rugby, has not affected the behaviour of supporters and no reports of crowd disorder before or since can be found. The attraction, for families, of sports like cricket and rugby, has been the lack of any territorialism or tribalism inside the grounds. Spectators mingle freely, enjoying the game for the sport, not to see their side win at any cost. However, the increased pressure of the professional era may yet have an effect on the behaviour of supporters.
There have in the last two years, been incidents which have led to concern about the behaviour of cricket fans. Mostly occurring abroad during international tours, the behaviour is widely publicised through live televised matches, and is beginning to appear at the domestic grounds.
Recent events at cricket matches has led to calls for football control legislation to be extended to cricket, or new legislation drafted to control the crowds. Following disorder among spectators during the Nat West series in 2001, officials of the English Cricket Board (ECB) met with Government Ministers to discuss events. Lord Bassam, the author of a report into Football Spectator Violence, sounded a note of caution about rushing through new legislation. He stated that cricket authorities should consider what measures of crowd management could be undertaken before it was necessary to resort to legislation. Suggesting other avenues of response such as ticketing, improved training of stewards, entry control, post match celebration controls, which could be implemented to minimise the potential for crowd problems, he warned that a change in the law would be unlikely, and doubted whether it would be helpful. ( ECB, 27.6.2001)
Lord MacLaurin of Knebworth, Chairman of the ECB, separated events on the International stage from those at domestic games. Recognising the need to address safety issues for players, umpires and spectators. He did not wish to see any erosion of the freedoms enjoyed by families of spectators which were the traditions of cricket in this country, nore did not want to see events over the last few weeks happen again at cricket grounds in this country. It was clear that much of the responsibility for avoiding repetition remained with the Cricket authorities.
Much of the crowd trouble recently associated with cricket, has been during international matches. Free of footballs constraints on drinking alcohol before or during the game, an identifiable element of football fans have been bolstering cricket crowds. Clearly identifiable by their football replica shirts and football chants, they appear to be uninterested in the game, but intent on drinking and taunting the opposing nations fans and players. However, the problem is not due solely to the influence of alcohol. Some of the worst recent disturbances have involved the behaviour of Pakistani fans. Muslims, forbidden to drink alcohol, there are other motives or drivers for their behaviour. Spectators throwing firecrackers and other missiles onto the field, and a pitch invasion during Pakistan v Australia, led to Australia conceding the game, when the Captain took his players off and refused to return to play in front of a mob. Such scenes are common in Pakistan, and the latest grounds feature 6 foot deep moats around the pitch, to prevent incursion, but allow genuine supporters an unrestricted view of play (Henderson 2001).
The deterioration of spectator behaviour may be viewed as a continuum which is a response to what occurs on the field. Researchers have noted a deterioration path as each change lowers the bar on what is acceptable behaviour: Players disputing the decisions of officials - leads to crowd derision of officials. Violent play or perceived cheating leads to abuse of opposing fans. Loss of the game due to poor decision by officials leads to attacks on officials. Taunts by the winning team lead to violent confrontation between fans and post game disorder. This then creates a 'history' between the teams, where honour must be restored by confrontation at the next meeting (Stewart, 2003).
Athletics is another sporting event which draws large numbers of spectators. Here the competition is among individuals more than teams, however, the individual performances do contribute to an overall team outcome. Spectators are not segregated and in the main are non partisan. There are no recorded instances of crowd trouble in Great Britain.
Other sports, which at the higher levels, can attract large crowds include Tennis, Golf, Ice Hockey, Boxing, Basketball and Rugby League. None of which require anything like the level of control associated with football crowds.
Tennis crowds are generally well behaved and very sporting, even maintaining silence during play. Likewise Golf, where the spectators are only restrained from entering the field of play by cordon ropes. The only incidents found, relating to both of these sports are:-
Tennis:1993 the stabbing of Monica Seles stabbed by a German fan of Steffi Graff
Golf: 2001 repeated complaints from players during the Open, about what they claimed were deliberate crowd distractions during play. (BBC Sport)
Ice Hockey, while of minor importance in this country, has a growing popularity. Although a violent sport, crowd disorder is rare. There is however, concern among the players associations that club owners encourage violent play as a crowd puller, and there are calls among the players associations to combat this with a code of conduct and expulsion of violent players from the game(NHPA Annual Report, 2001). The game in Canada and USA is marred by extreme violence on the ice, and this includes spectators. It was reported that a spectator attacked players on the team bench before jumping onto the ice and attacking players during an ice hockey game in Buffalo (Harrow, 2002)
There is a need for close co-operation between controlling bodies of major spectator sports, the police and local authorities where the venues are sited. The calls for legislation to combat the scenes at recent cricket matches may be a knee-jerk reaction, and certainly Lord Bassam appears to have this opinion. He recognises that the sports should keep their houses in order, and if and when anybody steps beyond what is reasonable and acceptable behaviour, existing legislation will suffice. The onus is on the clubs, to invest in the sports they control. The major sports which attract large crowds are commercial enterprises which profit from the sport. They have a duty to invest in the infrastructure to ensure that crowds behave, and games can be enjoyed in safety. Football has cleaned up its image and now attracts more families. The improvements in facilities and seating are in the main confined to the premiership clubs, but lower league teams with ambition, are also investing heavily [ i.e. Darlington] in new stadia.
The professional era of rugby is developing in a culture which is based on the social life of the club, not just around the activity on the afternoon of the game, and this may be what sets it apart from football. There are comparisons to be made between the fans of all sports. In the main they are well behaved, often dynastic, with as many as three generations of a family attending to support their team. The difference is that other sports are not infected by the minority who are intent on disorder and criminal activity, in the guise of support of the local team. It is this minority which are in part responsible for the action which brought about the legislation.
The lessons learned in dealing with football violence have been learned the hard way. As early as 1969, Lord Lang ( Lang, 1969) recommended all seater stadia. The 1985 Council of Europe (CoE, 1985) reiterated the recommendation, which had not been taken up. Again it was ignored. Several more disasters arising out of crowd disorder had occurred before the Taylor report (Lord Taylor 1990) into the Hillsborough Disaster repeated the recommendation for all-seater stadia. It was finally implemented, but only in the premiership.
Football is a case separated from other major spectator sports, by its history and culture. The legislation needed to control the crowds is not needed in other sports, and hopefully never will be.