Media coverage of football hooliganism
Football hooliganism can be seen as something of an easy target\' for the media. With journalists present at every match across the country, the chances of a story being missed are slim. TV cameras also mean that disturbances within stadiums are caught on video. Since the 1960s, in fact, journalists have been sent to football matches to report on crowd behaviour, rather than just the game 1.


The British tabloid press in particular have an enthusiastic\' approach to the reporting of soccer violence, with sensationalist headlines such as “Smash These Thugs!”, “Murder on a Soccer Train!” (Sun), “Mindless Morons” and “Savages! Animals!” (Daily Mirror) 2. Whilst open condemnation of hooligans is the norm across the media, it has been argued that this sensationalist style of reporting presents football violence as far more of a concern than it actually is, elevating it to a major social problem\'. The problem of press sensationalism was recognised in the 1978 Report on Public Disorder and Sporting Events, carried out by the Sports Council and Social Science Research Council. It observed that:


“It must be considered remarkable, given the problems of contemporary Britain, that football hooliganism has received so much attention from the Press. The events are certainly dramatic, and frightening for the bystander, but the outcome in terms of people arrested and convicted, people hurt, or property destroyed is negligible compared with the number of people potentially involved.”


Furthermore, some critics argue that media coverage of hooliganism has actually contributed to the problem . More recently, the popular press has been criticised for it\'s pre-match reporting during the 1996 European Championships.


History


Press boxes were first installed at football matches in the 1890s, although the reporting of football matches goes back considerably further than this. The study by Murphy, Dunning and Williams 3 shows that disorder was a regular occurrence at football matches before the First World War, and newspaper reports of trouble were common. However, the style of reporting was a long way away from the coverage which hooliganism receives today.


Most reports before the First World War were made in a restrained fashion. Little social comment was made and the articles were small and factual, often placed under a heading such as Football Association Notes\' 4.


“ ... Loughborough had much the best of matters and the Gainsborough goal survived several attacks in a remarkable manner, the end coming with the score:
Loughborough, none
Gainsborough, none


The referee\'s decisions had caused considerable dissatisfaction, especially that disallowing a goal to Loughborough in the first half, and at the close of the game he met with a very unfavourable reception, a section of the crowd hustling him and it was stated that he was struck.” 5


It is hard to imagine a present day report of an incident such as this being written with such impartiality and lack of concern.


During the inter-war years, the style of reporting began to change. As newspapers gave more space to advertising, stories had to be considered more for their newsworthiness\' than before. What is interesting to note about Murphy et al\'s study here is that they argue that the press facilitated (consciously or not) the view that football crowds were becoming more orderly and well behaved by underplaying, or just not reporting, incidents which did occur. At the same time, however, a small amount of concern and condemnation began to creep in to reports.


This trend continued for a decade or so after the Second World War and it is this period which is often referred to as football\'s hey-day: a time of large, enthusiastic, but well-behaved crowds. Murphy et al argue that this was not necessarily the case and that although incidents of disorder were on the decrease, those that did occur often went un-reported.


The roots of today\'s style of reporting of football violence can be traced back to the mid 1950s. At a time when there was widespread public fear over rising juvenile crime and about youth violence in general, the press began to carry more and more stories of this nature and football matches were an obvious place to find them. Although many reports still attempted to down-play the problem, the groundwork was laid as articles began to