Hooliganism & Film: The Dissertation




Pg. 3 Abstract

Pg. 4-6 Introduction – Before It All Kicks Off

Pg 7-21 Chapter One – English Football Hooliganism, What’s the Problem? : A Sociological Standpoint and Where It All Began

Pg. 22-36 Chapter Two – Green Street vs Football Factory: The Glamour of Hooliganism?: Critical Analysis

Pg. 36-49 Chapter Three – From Back Page To Front Page: The Representation of Hooliganism in the Press and the Effects of Hooligan Based Cinematography

Pg. 50-51 Conclusion

Pg. 52-54 Bibliography

Pg. 54 Filmography



The basis of this proposal is to look at how British film has depicted football hooliganism, in particular looking at how the films The Football Factory (2004) and Green Street (2005) conveyed to a film going audience on the subject and whether or not the films did anything to either increase or decrease the stereotypes and hysteria that can be related to football hooliganism and in doing so affected its status in the public eye.

The first chapter will include a brief outline of the history of hooliganism, giving a sociological background and the construct of a football hooligan and the communities they are in and will set the basis for the dissertation.

The second chapter will look at how the different films portray football hooliganism and its relevance and authenticity in regards to the subject in which it was based and the effects it may or may not have had on those that watched the films It will look at how The Firm portrays the hooliganism element of football in the 1980’s and then compare the approaches of Green Street and The Football Factory towards hooliganism at the start of the 21st century.

The final chapter will give an idea of the reactions caused by football hooliganism as a genre in film by looking at various press articles and news stories for the short time where football hooliganism was the boom business in British film and what effect these types of films have on public perception of football itself. It will also look at how the British press perceive the ‘hooliganism problem’ and how it reports on it at different periods of time.

The main points of research for this dissertation are a series of articles by Emma Poulton based on football hooliganism and its media perception, and the theories relating to the Leicester School of Sociology headed by Eric Dunning. It will also use a number of journal resources to help in bringing the relative theory up to date. While taking into account a number of press articles and news reports that have linked the films studied and hooliganism relating to the films, if any.


Before it All Kicks Off

Football is for a large number of people the primary source of entertainment for men, women and children across the continents, taking into account the levels of appeal differ from continent to continent.  On a Saturday afternoon, or Sunday lunchtime or where matters other than the game of football itself, are responsible for the kick off times of a football match fans will go and support their favourite teams. The stadiums and the surrounding areas can be seen as the meeting place for communities and viewed by some as the great leveller between the classes with lawyers and bankers standing side by side with builders, decorators and the unemployed, as Dunning states in Frosdick and Marsh (2005):

‘It is important to stress that it is unlikely that the phenomenon of football hooliganism will be found always and everywhere to stem from identical social roots. As a basis for further, cross-national research, it is reasonable to hypothesise that the problem is fuelled and contoured by among other things, what one might call the major ‘fault lines’ of particular countries’ (2000:141)

This statement in terms of English football hooliganism can be in regards to social class and regional inequalities.

Obviously as time goes by and money becomes just as integral as the results of the matches themselves it has lead to a degree of segregation between those in the director boxes, either it being dignitaries or sponsors sitting in the main stand ‘eating their prawn sandwiches’ as Roy Keane famously stated, and those ‘everyday punters’ seated in the ‘home end’ with a pie in one hand and a Bovril in the other (to draw comparison with Keane’s statement). However football does have its problems to deal with that are just as well publicised as the games themselves. Hooliganism has been perceived as the seedy underbelly since it came into prominence in the 70’s but as this study will attempt to prove you are just as likely to see someone from the upper class bourgeoisie fighting for the club as you would a ‘supporter’ from the lower class proletariat group.

This dissertation will also look at how football hooliganism has been portrayed in contemporary cinema from both Britain and in the United Stated. In doing this it will hope to show not only the ideas behind football hooliganism but also show some of the stereotypes and fallacies that are retold in terms of the subject. Green Street and Football Factory both will help in an understanding of these theories and how relevant, or if they have any relevancy, in football based culture.  It will suggest that if it was not for some of the stereotypes that occur in these films that football hooliganism may not be as well known problem as it is, or if in fact it has been a recurring part of underlying social constructs.

The final chapter will look at what impact these films have had on the audiences that have viewed them. It will also analyse how the press report on acts of football hooliganism and its reactions or overreactions to football hooliganism as a genre of film. It will also attempt to bring into focus the input of football hooligans in this field and how in the 21st century football hooligans they have become literal reference points for studies into the subject.

English Football Hooliganism, What’s the Problem? : A Sociological Standpoint and Where It All

Defining Football Hooliganism

How do you address football Hooliganism in a critical piece of work on the subject has often been a matter which has encouraged much debate, the reason for this being is that it is quite a difficult problem to define, as stated by Frosdick and Newton (2006):

‘The particular association with football caused the media to invent the label ‘football hooliganism’. However, the fact that violence occurs in other sports, albeit less often, suggests that ‘spectator violence’ could be a more accurate name. This implies something done whilst watching an event. Yet much of the violence takes place away from the stadium. So we might say ‘sports related violence’ instead. Only this could then include violence committed by the players also.’ (2006:404)


The highlighting of the problem of definition by Frosdick and Newton only goes to show the extent in which football hooliganism is open to both analysis and definition by a wide and varying range of theorists. It is fair to say that ‘football hooliganism’ is in itself a contemporary term just as it is fair to say that the attribution of hooliganism primarily to football can be seen as fair as it is often found to be the major protagonist in what Frosdick and Newton term ‘sports related violence’. To try and understand and define hooliganism in football it can be seen as essential to look back at its roots and formation.


Football Hooliganism: The Early Years

Initially football as a social concept was firstly attached to the upper and middle classes however as the game slowly began its evolution it gathered a following in the working class community, as Mason states ‘spectators appear to have been recruited mainly from ‘respectable’ rather than the ‘rough’ working class.’ (1980).


In understanding the social roots of football hooliganism in greater depth, you need to look back at the history of such a phenomenon.  It is a popular misconception amongst many that football hooliganism is a new social problem and that it is bred from the life that we live in the modern world, however reports of football hooliganism date back as far as to when Association Football first came in to existence in the 1863 and it was attributed not to those considered to be of the same ilk as a modern day football ‘supporter’.

Examples of the start of Hooliganism

Given below are sets of examples taken from Eric Dunning’s and the Leicester School’s ‘The social roots of football hooligan violence’.


  • 1885: Aston Villa v Preston – On Preston leaving the field they were attacked by a group of ‘Brummagem’ heavies with a wide variety of weapons and missiles to avenge their teams defeat
  • 1889: Nantwich v Crewe – Fans began jeering at each other at opposite sides of a train station after the Cheshire Cup Final, after a small fight breaks out between two of the opposing fans, the Nantwich fans decide to run across the line and charge at the Crewe supporters, resulting in everyone involved leaving with scars of the battle.



Football hooliganism did have a founding in the early ages of the rooting of football in England however as Hutchison states, ‘Riots, unruly behaviour, violence, assault and vandalism appear to have been a well-established, but not necessarily dominant patter of crowd behaviour at least from the 1870s’. (1975)

It is feasible to theorise that there would be no reason for football hooliganism not have been  around at the conception of the game, in fact it can be argued that there would possibly be a greater likelihood in it as at the time the UK was going through a stage of transition in both its political and economical roots. It would provide an outlet for many a man, out of work or disgruntled at society, to vent there frustrations in what they could perceive as a productive way.

This pattern of early football violence continued throughout the inter war and post war years:

Examples of Inter-war and Post War Hooliganism

  • 1930: Clapton Orient v QPR – Police have to stop QPR supporters from fighting amongst themselves a week after their home ground was closed down due to violent fans.
  • 1934: Birmingham City v Leicester City – A coach carrying returning Leicester fans is trashed as windows are smashed and interior is destroyed.
  • 1949: Millwall v Exeter City – Match officials are accosted by nearly 200 fans after match and were subjected to both verbal and physical abuse.



These incidents were not isolated during this period of time and these examples go to show that despite the nostalgic opinion that both older generations and football hooliganism experts have with regards to football and the fans these have to be taken with a degree of scepticism in mind. In an article by Mark Rice-Oxley he states that some theorists only go to enhance the warnings of excessive nostalgia: 

‘Yet Fanshawe, Gregory, and others warn against excessive nostalgia. Graffiti, soccer hooliganism, and street brawling all date back decades, if not generations. Indeed, some point out that Britain has a long history of brusque and occasional brutish behaviour. In Victorian days, people could be raising their hat with one hand and picking your pocket with the other – there was a lot of hypocrisy about it,” says Gregory.’ (The Christian Science Monitor 2005)

What did occur however in the Post war era of football is a slow decline in the element of football hooliganism however as the examples show it wasn’t totally eradicated it was just a far less prominent component of football at the time.

Hooliganism in the Dock

It wasn’t until the 1960’s that football hooliganism came back into the forefront of the minds of those involved in the game, the re-emergence of hooliganism as a prominent entity surfaced during this time as the gap between the ’respectable’ and the ‘rough’ football fan started to widen, hooliganism itself while becoming a minority element of the sport in numbers was becoming more prominent in a media light, the social contrast in the way that each group led their lives translated itself onto the terraces with the ‘respectable’ supporter now looking at the ‘rough’ football hooligan with a degree of disdain as noted by Eric Dunning, ‘Match days and football grounds came to be portrayed, albeit inadvertently, as times and a place at which fighting could be engaged in and aggressive masculinity displayed with relative impunity.’ (1982:153).



The point made by Dunning in regards to the hooligan element in the 1960s can be described as a blueprint of the current state of football hooliganism, admittedly in the modern stadium there is segregation, police, CCTV and numerous other measures implemented to ensure the safety of the supporter and encourage the crackdown on hooliganism, however hooliganism is not only a problem of the bigger clubs such as Chelsea (The Headhunters), West Ham (inter City Firm) and Birmingham City (The Zulus), smaller teams with far less money to spend on prevention, such as Cardiff City ( the infamous Soul Crew) and Millwall, have the same problem and in this respect Dunning’s comments can be said to ring true in a modern football context.

The re-emergence of the problem led to the first legislations being drawn up by the government as up until that point there had been no political intervention regarding the issue, and with the impending World Cup in 1966, which England was hosting, it was seen as imperative for the FA and the government to nip the problem in the bud to prevent a negative portrayal of England to the rest of the football community.

However with the government now intervening it brought about a new problem for football chiefs in England to deal with as it created a greater media interest around the game than ever before that, coupled with the World Cup, had drawn the football into the media spotlight, and as will be discussed in greater depth later in the dissertation the effect that the media had on the football hooliganism question. This coverage led to a boom in the popularity in the game and the highlighting of hooliganism could be in some part responsible for that very fact as Dunning refers to,

‘the attractiveness of the game to adolescent and young adult males from communities characterized by ordered segmentation was increased and they started attending matches more regularly and frequently than ever before’. (1982:154).

It can be argued that contemporary hooliganism is a problem that is not only to do with the way in which hooliganism is portrayed to a readership through the press and news outlets or an audience through the cinema but the attitude of a minority of fans in an article by Tim Crabbe (2003) he discusses the concept of ‘Hooliporn’, and describes it as the workings of acts of hooliganism as a major thought out and constructed event. He says in regards to followers of the England national team:

‘The difficult and sometimes uncomfortable point is that the labelling, moralizing and boasting which surrounds England football fans and the associated discourse of ‘hooliganism’ , are wrapped in a wider commercial enterprise which constitutes a ‘reality’ through the need to feed the consumption of the spectacle’ (2003:418)


This statement was made in particular reference to the actions of football ‘fans’ at the European Championships in 2000. This statement can be read as a true look at the totality of the hooliganism problem. As television reports that are made highlight the issues that are perceived to be at the forefront of the problem and as Crabbe states through the accounts of a Journalist in Belgium at Euro 2000,

‘I was sat on my bed in my hotel room when I got a call from the news desk telling me that there’s a riot going on in the main square and to get the story. I told them well ‘I’m looking out of my balcony and there’s nothing going on’…..but they told me just told me ‘go and find a riot’ (Personal Communication, 25 Feb 2001)’ (2003:414)


 It does not blame the media but makes it just as accountable as the fans themselves for the problems that have emerged. It suggests that the actions of the media in covering these stories of hooliganism only help to massage the egos of the hooligans themselves as they see their handy work being shown to the world.

Can it be said that if the media coverage was not as great then hooliganism would not be as big a problem? Or would it be merely a case that ignorance is bliss and that the problem would remain except in a far less public domain? 

A Football Hooligan: What are They?

As hopefully you now have a clearer understanding about the roots of the game in England it is important for the understanding of the problem to define what a football hooligan is. By the dictionary.com definition a hooligan is a ruffian or a hoodlum”, however the make up of a football hooligan and hooliganism as described by Dunning is:

‘overwhelmingly a male preserve……….and that for males that attract the ‘football hooligan’ label, Association football forms a focus for aggressive behaviour, more specifically, for expressing norms of masculinity’ or what one might call a ‘violent masculine style’.’(1982:139)


If you were to take Dunning and their definition literally it could be perceived that football itself is to blame for the hooligan element it attracts. The perceived primary make up of the majority of football hooligans is one of a young working class male from an area of urban dilapidation. However as Bairner (2006) mentions, ‘Dunning and his colleagues admit there is a lack of ‘hard’ evidence about the social origins and current stratification rankings of English football hooligans.’ (2006:586). It can be therefore argued that opposed to young males from ‘rough’ backgrounds being the main protagonists of an environment at grounds involving football hooliganism, they may be being made a scapegoat by those who are of a better standing in a community to counter act this argument Dunning states in Barnier’s article (2006), ‘that between 70 percent and 80 percent of football hooligans are working class with low levels of formal education, and are mostly commonly employed in manual occupations’(2006:587)

When discussing the primary factors in the make up of a football hooligan it is important to note what can be perceived as the key reference points of a football hooligan in Dunning’s 1999 publication Sport Matters he says:

‘for the hooligans themselves, ‘football hooliganism is basically about masculinity, struggle to control territory, and excitement’ and fighting ‘is a central source of meaning, status or ‘reputation’ and pleasurable emotional arousal.’ (1999:13).

It is important to note that in this definition as given by Dunning he does not mention the same social restraints that affect football hooligans and therefore this particular definition does not marginalise the ‘rough’ working class it could then be argued that in his definitions on the topic Dunning is contradictory or occasionally even forgetful. When reading the Leicester School findings on hooliganism it can be said that the article panders to popular opinion in some respects with its continual reference to the ‘rough’ working class, Richard Giulianotti one of the chief critics of the Leicester School has an alternative viewpoint with regards to the average football hooligan he describes them on first meeting:

‘for anyone who really meets with the hooligan groups themselves, what is most striking is the ordinariness of it all…A first glance at their clothes, girlfriends…wider environments and leisure interests testifies comprehensively to the mundane, even banal lifestyles of those who are well incorporated into mainstream UK society’ (1999:43).


Giulianotti’s standpoint is a refreshing change from what some may perceive as the stereotypical portrayal of a football hooligan as a loud mouthed, ill educated yob and more importantly in terms of understanding the make up of the hooliganistic culture opens up the option that the ‘respectable’ classes may have as much to do with the organised violence that occurs at football grounds across the country. This opinion does not necessarily say that all middle class men are involved in football violence, and it would be ill informed to say on this statement alone that the working classes have no part to play in relation to hooliganism, it merely suggests that as opposed to the theories that were put forward in the 60s and 70s regarding hooliganism in terms of it being a solely working class pursuit that elements of hooliganism can be attributed a far more further reaching community.

An aspect of research that perhaps gives Giulianotti’s research an air of credibility over the work of Dunning et al is the fact that he himself has integrated with the hooligans to try and improve his methods of research and final conclusions while as Bairner says. ‘The Leicester School, however, stands condemned of viewing the hooligans from a safe distance’ (2006:590).


The work of the Leicester School is based on the experiences of someone outside the school so the theorising done by Dunning and Williams is based on second-hand information. This apparent reluctance by the Leicester School has also led to criticism from the hooligans themselves as they believe that they are merely getting pigeonholed Martin King and Martin Knight two hooligan authors and writers of ‘Hoolifan’ say that many theorists and their attempts to get a theory that defines football hooliganism, in particular attacking the Leicester School disparagingly saying, ‘the research regarding unemployment and poverty, which was always crap.’ (1999:217)

This perception that the Leicester School has conveyed of itself to the hooligan element of football could be explained by the way they communicate themselves Bairner states in regards to Eric Dunning’s research, ‘They are not of course working class, although one might hazard a guess that given their close affinity with the football association many of them have working class or lower middle class origins.’ (2006:595) This statement to make assumptions of working class origins by Bairner is fundamentally bad theory as it is based on pure speculation, and it is also an important note that Barnier himself is not from a working class background, if one was to speculate as Bairner there would be an inclination to say that if Dunning was indeed from working class origins then surely the concept of mingling with contemporaries only a generation or two apart would not faze him. It can be argued that Dunning’s reluctance to involve himself with the hands on research element of the study shows him up to be more of a middle class nature, which in turn makes him, appearing to be unsubstantiated by the hooligans themselves.

The other main criticism that has been aimed at the Leicester School in the past is the choice of theory that they try to imply, Dunning tends towards the theory of Norbert Elias’ theory on civilisation and the Leicester School uses this to try and arrange their theory on football hooliganism. Eliasian theory is in essence a sociological theory based on the study of the relationship between power, behaviour, emotion and knowledge overtime. His work in relation to the subject of football hooliganism can be looked at as it deals with the pressures of a community and how these pressures are relaxed, in terms of hooliganism it can be termed as too broad a study to have any significance and detractors such as Giulianotti claim that the studies are too generalized to be attributed to hooliganism. It can be argued however that the concept of an imagined footballing community such as those in Eliasian theory can help with the construction of a football crowd. It can give an onlooker an easy way to read into the basic structure of hooliganism in a community even if it does not address the main issue of hooliganism itself, it can be used as a kind of beginners guide.

It can be argued, and as will be later discussed, that the media’s role in today’s society has a significant bearing on how the football hooliganism problem is seen through the eyes of a national community. 


As it has been previously stated football has been seen as a way for the supporter to vent any anger and frustrations from their everyday lives, this can be perceived as narrow minded and that purely because football is the most publicised it does not necessarily indicate that football is the sole protagonist in the hooliganism debate, and as Anthony King states:

‘it may be the case that legitimate concerns about hooliganism have unreasonably biased research into football, so that issues such as the administration of the game and its political economy have been wrongly relegated to a secondary position.’ (1998:3)


As long as football remains in the spotlight it will remain to be seen as the main cause for concern regarding hooliganism, something that can be shown when looking into readings regarding hooliganism with the vast majority being based upon football.

Although the primary aim of this study is to look at football hooliganism in English football it is also to realise that hooliganism happens all around the world. For example in South America instances of grounds being destroyed by fans and for players and their relatives to go missing as a result of kidnapping are perceived to be commonplace. As recently as 2007 Italy was embroiled in its own hooligan problem which resulted in the death of a policeman and the closure of grounds across Italy. Italian football history like that of the English is riddled with stories of hooliganism and it was not until these current events that Italy has brought in the radical reforms regarding stadium safety in line with those brought into England after the Hillsborough disaster to try and curb the effect the ‘tafiosi’, the name given to Italian hooligan groups, has on Italian Football. Even in Scotland where often the moral high ground is taken regarding hooliganism, teams such as Aberdeen and Hibernian have hooligan elements almost as famous the teams themselves.

There is no debate. Football hooliganism is a problem, fact. What is the debate though is why it is such a problem in certain parts of the world and do the media have to be held just as accountable as the fans, clubs, chairmen and shareholders who all equally sit on their hands while they watch it go on around them.

Green Street vs Football Factory: The Glamour of Hooliganism?: Critical Analysis


In looking at the emergence of hooliganism as a genre Crawford sums it up by saying:

 ‘In recent years ‘hooliganism’ has become a genre in itself within popular culture. Numerous television programmes and videos have been produced that either seek to ‘explain’ hooliganism, provide insight into its ‘murky’ world, or purely offer voyeuristic entertainment to the viewing public’ (2004:135)


It has even enjoyed somewhat of a boom phase in the early 21st century through films such as The Football Factory (2004) (appendix i) and Green Street (2005) (appendix ii). This chapter is going to critically analyse these two films, two of the biggest grossing films on football hooliganism as of 2007, and how they portray football hooliganism to a captive audience, while looking at where the films have been made in relation to whether or not they affect the narratives of the films whilst looking at The Football Factory being a British production and Green Street being American. It will compare and contrast the ideas that the two directors had regarding hooliganism in the films and as Poulton surmises in her article, ‘These products, along with books, films and digital cameras, all amount to what could be termed as ‘fantasy football hooliganism’. (2006:152)

Before starting I think it is important to understand the stories behind each of the films, Green Street directed by Lexi Alexander tells the story of an American student, Matt Buckner, who gets expelled from Harvard after taking the responsibility for his roommates drug stash. He ends up moving to the UK to live with his sister, this in turn leads to him meeting Pete, leader of the West Ham Green Street Elite hooligan firm, who is her husband’s younger brother and so Matt becomes embroiled in the workings of the group and its movements.

While Green Street tells the story of someone first experiencing the hooligan element of English football, The Football Factory based on the eponymous John King novel and directed by Nick Love tells the story of Tommy Johnson a member of a group of Chelsea football casuals who live for the weekend, football and violence, however Tommy throughout the film slowly starts to want for a way out. The Football Factory is based far more on the groundings of a Football Hooligan firm and the trials and tribulations that members of these firms go through.

Camaraderie, Masculine and Feminine

In Green Street the film is based around a group of twenty something men who on first impressions appear to be of a low working class level however as it transpires later on in the film that they all in fact have a wide ranging number of jobs, Pete is a teacher, Dave is a pilot, Bovver works in a call centre and as it later transpires Matt is a student at Harvard, the following dialogue from the film describes a point that it is at first a surprise to Matt.

Matt: [surprised] You teach?
Pete: Yes… cheeky slag! History and P.E. What you think the GSE paid a bloody wage? Mate I’m smart as fuck!

This highlights an important aspect of the football hooligan construct as it shows the fact that not only hooliganism is an expensive business, in terms of match tickets, going to away games and picking up the tools of the hooligan trade, but that a hooligan can come from any walk of life and it is a misconception that it is the working class who are solely responsible for the make up of these groups.

The idea of employment as a way of life for a football hooligan is echoed in The Football Factory however it does tend to allow itself to show more of the less discerning side of football hooliganism business. A good example of this can be shown through the representation of Billy Bright one of the big names in the firm, on the face of it too an unwitting public he runs a florists, this however is used as a front for a drug trafficking business which he runs. It is also interesting to note that in this particular business he runs it in co-operation with other rival firms, including even there most fiercest rivals, in this case Fred from the Millwall Casuals. This depiction could be seen as a way of contradicting the common stereotype that all football hooligans hate each other, in fact there is an argument that suggests this business community shows a respect towards there fellow peers.

The make up of these groups can be said to be based on camaraderie and being inverted and cautious towards outsiders, this can be shown in the way Bovver reacts to Matt when Pete first brings him to the pub as he shows total disdain for him. It can be perceived as part of the make up of hooligan culture that the xenophobia shown here is symptomatic with the rivalries that exist in hooligan circles. It can be said that, in the main, running with a firm is about the territorial element between groups and as Lefebvre (1991) states as cited in Spaaj, ‘Hooligans define specific spaces as their home ‘turf’ or territory. Space’ in this sense, does not simply exist as an ontological fact: it is endowed with social meaning and regimes of signification (2006:24). This becoming a fact that government officials have become aware of in recent times on the issue of a brief to tackle football hooliganism:


‘Gangs emerged staking their claims to certain “territories” within football grounds, and strong “tribal” loyalties grew up intermingling gang mentality and support for particular teams. The territorial factor is widely accepted to be the principal reason behind the particular rivalries between neighbouring teams and the susceptibility to violence of derby matches – although other local factors are prominent in some cities (eg sectarianism in Glasgow).’ (www.politics.co.uk 2007)

Pete: [to Bovver] This is Matt, Shannon’s brother.
Matt: [Holds his hand out to Bovver] Hey.
[Bovver turns his head and smokes his cigarette]
Swill: That’s the painting on his face, he don’t give a fuck, does he? He don’t give a fuck.
Pete: Mate, he’s practically family.
[Bovver shrugs]
Swill: [Laughing] Oh mate, he’s fucking painful!

(Internet Movie Database:2007)

This can also be seen as a protection mechanism and as a way of ensuring the unity of the group, as it becomes apparent later on in the film that there is a measurable amount of distrust between the groups both inwardly and outwardly. Green Street as opposed to The Football Factory can be perceived as an outsiders view on hooliganism through the perspective of Matt while The Football Factory originates in the heart of football hooliganism via Tommy.

The relevance of the female character in these films is a subsequence of not only the research done but the stereotypes which are sometimes expected to be upheld by a film audience. In Green Street, for example, there is only one female character Shannon, and she perhaps plays up to the stereotype of the panic stricken woman unable to control the instinctive and in grated actions of the men in the film. The scenes filmed on match day in both films consist of a purely male population. As Free and Hughson argue when looking at Giulianotti’s thesis regarding the hierarchical role of gender to a football supporter, and what he thinks to what the supporters of the Scottish National Team sing, ’Scotland boys we are here, shag your women and drink your beer.’ Such objectification of women, however comical, ensured that one hierarchy remained intact.” (2003:144). It can be deducted that from that statement that femininity in Football Hooliganism is almost perceived by many theorists as a void subject and that has lead to it manifesting it self in fictionalisations of ‘football hooliganism’ by the lack of female characters in both Green Street and The Football Factory.


In fictional film it can be said that female characters are used primarily as a plot device. In The Football Factory in particular the reactionary point in the plot is when Tommy sleeps with a gang member’s sister. This leads to him becoming a marked man and leads the story on to him facing his demons and the threat of revenge another theme that is a recurrence in the genre that will be discussed later.

The Football Factory has been perceived to be a more realistic depiction of the make up of a football hooligan firm. The focal characters in the film are in some ways similar to those that are found in Green Street. There is the leader, Billy Bright, who is shrouded in legend and folklore due to his infamous temper, the average member as portrayed by Tommy and Rod and the young pretenders Zeberdee and Rafe who in some respects are similar to the character of Matt in Green Street as they both continue to seek approval form the heads of their respective firms, As Tommy describes: 


There’s nothing different about me. I’m just another bored male, approaching 30, in a dead-end job, who lives for the weekend. Casual sex, watered-down lager, heavily cut drugs. And occasionally kicking fuck out of someone.’

(Internet Movie Database 2006)

It can be argued that this description can be seen as a crude but not entirely inaccurate description of a football hooligan. It could even be described as being relatable to hooligan themselves.


The Significance of Folklore and Revenge

A recurring theme in both Green Street and The Football Factory is the idea of folklore throughout the films. This can be seen as a reflection of what at present is a part of football hooliganism culture. Many websites such as that of the home of the Chelsea Headhunters pay tribute to the life of past ‘legends’ such as Mickey Greenway. (appendix iii) This can be seen as an important issue to consider in the construct of football hooligan organisations. The website www.ave-it.net which is used as a forum for football hooligan firms across the UK can often be seen championing those that they describe as legendary in a review of the Cass Pennant book ‘Terrace Legends’ it says, ‘Meet the men who, for decades, have ruled the football terraces. They are the faces behind the biggest firms in football history; behind the rucks, the rules and the respect.’ (www.ave-it.net)  

In Green Street the recurring mythology that is told and retold to anyone who is a member of the Green Street Elite is that of the former leader of the firm ‘The Major’. The legend told tells of how ‘The Major’ won a battle with their greatest rivals the Millwall Casuals. It is posted in the GSE folklore as a way of showing that they are the best. It does not become apparent until later on in the film that the rivalry is of a deeper and more personal nature.

It transpires later on in the story when the totally is revealed in the confrontation in the GSE base pub that during that battle the head of the Millwall Casuals Tommy Hatcher saw his son being killed at that same battle in which ‘The Major’ was leading the GSE. At the end of the film in which the ‘final battle’ takes place the legend as far as Tommy Hatcher is concerned comes full circle, As a result in an act of vengeance for the death of his son at the hands of ‘The Major (Steve Dunham)’, Tommy kills Pete the Majors younger brother. This can be seen in some way as one of the foundations of the hooligan element in film and reality and it can be argued that this is one of the driving forces behind Hatcher’s disdain and strength of hatred for the GSE.

In The Football Factory revenge is a recurring theme throughout and can be seen as an integral part of the story that is told. As already mentioned one of the main narratives of the plot is that of Tommy being pursued by members of the Millwall Casuals for apparently sleeping with a sister and Rod smacking the irate brother over the head with a cricket bat after both he and Tommy wake up to find the brother staring over Tommy with a knife to his throat. It results in Tommy being a marked man and questioning the very reason for him being a member of the firm. The revenge thesis relates back to the idea of territory and that you do not step outside the agreed boundaries which are set within the firms or there will be consequences. As Spaaj suggests in his article on the aspects of hooligan violence:

‘hooligan encounters at concerts, dance parties or political manifestations have erupted into fighting. Furthermore, the personalization of animosities between individual rivals, usually founded in prior engagements, can threaten to break into a restoration of collective violence’ (2006:26)

An interesting point with regards to revenge that becomes apparent in both films is that revenge is not a pursuit sought purely between rival firms but can also occur between members of the same firm. While cross firm revenge is primarily exposed in the films, from the depictions on film of revenge it is also about garnering respect within a firm. In The Football Factory Billy Bright seeks revenge on Zeberdee and Rafe after they burgle his house as he sees it as a mark of disrespect that they had robbed someone that was higher up in the firm, despite their lack of knowledge that they were robbing Billy’s house at the time.  

In Green Street the revenge sought within the group arises after they accept an outsider, the revenge that was sought out could also be seen as an act of anger at the distrust that they felt had been shown to them by Matt. On finding out Matt was a journalist the members of the GSE take it upon themselves to find him in search of revenge, the fact of him being a journalist being particularly poignant as its is regarded in most circles that journalists are amongst the most hated within the football hooligan fraternity. As it transpires Matt is given a reprieve once he convinces the rest of the GSE that his motives and actions within the firm were honest. It can be argued that the GSE also taught Matt the nature of revenge as at the end of the film he catches out the roommate who had forced him out of university, not through brute force but by intelligence, for a crime that his roommate committed as Pete put it, ‘If he’s done that to me I’d have beat the seven shades of shit out of him!’. (Internet Movie Database 2006)


From the two films it can be seen that everyone is accountable for the actions within the football hooliganism business and to use a cliché, if you can’t do the time then you should not commit the crime.

Getting Out

In continuing the analysis of these films we can look at a theme that occurs in both films with regards to the desire, or lack of, to escape from the world of football hooliganism. While each film addresses this issue each one does it in a different manner and with differing sets of outcomes.

In Green Street the story told leads to Matt not wanting to leave the GSE. At first as would to be expected he is pensive and shows mo real sign of wanting to get involved, and Pete shows no signs of wanting to bring him into the fold either. However after the first fight which Matt becomes involved in he begins to find himself drawn into the way of life. He appears to have found a definition in what he should be doing with himself at that moment and he has no interest in leaving. It is therefore when the thought of leaving hooliganism all behind arises it perhaps come to the surprise of the viewer that it is Pete who tells Matt to leave and let it all go after the events in the Pub. This could perhaps provide evidence to the fact that camaraderie and the well being of people can sometimes overtake the pride of the Firm a theme that can be said to ring true in all football hooligan groups, As Spaaj states:

‘Narratives of hooligans reveal how group members claim to ‘look after one another’ and stick together through thick and thin. Group members are often also among their closest friends and collective experiences strengthen their sense of togetherness.’ (2006:26)

At the conclusion of the film Matt goes to the final battle against the wishes of everybody as he still feels a sense of belonging and responsibility to the GSE however as the fight rages it becomes apparent that the GSE is on the back foot and Shannon turns up to try and get Matt away form the scene. Pete then makes the ultimate cinematographic sacrifice in giving up his life for the sake of Matt getting away safely from the final battle. The leaving behind of Football Hooliganism that is experienced by Matt sees him making an attempt at starting his life fresh. However as the final scene shows, with him singing ‘I’m forever blowing bubbles’, the GSE theme, the experiences he had were ones that would stay with him for a long time.

The thought of getting out as experienced in The Football Factory are in some ways different to those that are experienced in Green Street. In The Football Factory Tommy does not experience a desire to leave the firm but more a re-assessment of why he does what he does and whether or not it is all worth it. His reservations manifest themselves in dreams in which turn out to be precursors of the events that will befall him.  In the dreams he almost dies as a result of a severe beating and he fears for the life of Zeberdee. He starts suffering from paranoia as billboards and shop signs question whether or not football hooliganism is the right thing for him to be doing. His old friend who appears as someone who used to run with Tommy’s firm tells him to get out and grow up and admonishes him for wasting his life.

Tommy has a psychological breakdown of sorts and it appears as the firm head towards their biggest battle with their biggest rivals Millwall that he is thinking about giving it up. This idea is encouraged further when Bill offers him a chance of a new life in Australia with him as a way of starting fresh just as Matt does in Green Street.

There is, however, a difference in the characters of Tommy and Matt, and Tommy decides against turning his back on the firm. He describes it as an easy choice when it came to staying or going and that it was something that he would always have in his blood. This perhaps was the ingredient lacking in Matt which led to his defiance to leave being wilted.

It is fair to comment that for the two films getting out always looms as an option for the characters. In Green Street, Matt was given a way out by Pete while in The Football Factory, Tommy had the same option but chose to stay and fight. In both sets of scenarios what is apparent at the end of the film is the fact that that the firms involved leave a lasting impression on the main protagonists in the films and there is an argument to say that could be a realistic portrayal not only of the make up of these groups but also the camaraderie that is felt within these groups.


Authenticity on Film

Before concluding the critical analysis of these films it is also important to discuss the relevance to the content of each film in regards to the subject of football hooliganism and whether or not it gives anything close to a true representation of football hooliganism as social movement. It can be argued that if a film has no real representation of the genre it is trying to depict then it is not true to the stories in which they are trying to tell.

In respect to authenticity both Green Street and The Football Factory have come under some heavy criticism from those who participate in football hooliganism and even film reviewers have criticised it for its lack of authenticity and as Poulton analyses in her article ‘Lights, Camera, Aggro!’ stating, “A reviewer in the Sunday Express claimed that The Football Factory was ‘like a 90-minute commercial for hooliganism, directed in the style of a Nike ad[vertisement]. (2006.403).


An interesting fact to note when you look at these two films however is the lengths as to which both Nick Love and Lexi Alexander went to in trying to portray as realistic as possible portrayal of football hooliganism. Real members of the firms from Millwall, Chelsea and West Ham were recruited in both films to work along side the cast and Poulton references this by saying, “Love further justified his casting by explaining he needed people who ‘understand football culture’ to give the film authenticity” (2006.418)


However this did not have the desired affect on many film pundits, the majority consensus agrees that out of the two films The Football Factory gives a more authentic example of Football Hooliganism while Green Street, due in part according to some reviewers, to the skill of the direction of both films, as it can be argued that both films followed the same thought processes with each having different degrees of success Matt Munday of the Daily Telegraph saying:

‘The Football Factory, directed by Nick Love, whose 2001 debut, Goodbye Charlie Bright, won acclaim for its gritty realism. That’s a quality also in evidence in his new film, notably during The Football Factory’s shocking climax – a mass brawl on a patch of south London waste ground between rival gangs from Chelsea and Millwall. A bone-crunchingly accurate and unflinching depiction of soccer violence, it ends with hapless lead character Tommy Johnson (Danny Dyer) being kicked half to death.’ (The Daily Telegraph Online 2001)

However in Green Street the idea of an American infiltrating a firm is one that many reviewers described as being at a totally different end on the reality spectrum and withdrew any reminisce of credibility that the film appeared to of had, even going as far as to make fun of Elijah Wood as being cast in the lead role as Tim Robey of the Telegraph Online states in Poulton’s ‘Lights, Camera Aggro!’ article:

‘The silliness goes stratospheric in a film about football hooliganism that’s as hard-hitting as a Hobbit. If football hooliganism is a disease you can call Green Street a laughing cure, a lager-lout melodrama so consummately rubbish it’s impossible to take seriously.’ (2006.418)


It is hard not to argue that indeed Green Street sometimes verges on the ridiculous with some of its plot ideas and the concept of an American journalist infiltrating a firm detracts from the films credibility a great deal. The Football Factory although also criticised seems to give a more digestible account of Football hooliganism in terms of reality.  Its documentary feel aiding in making the scenes shot feel more realistic.

What is apparent however when looking at all attempts at football hooliganism fiction is that there is great difficulty in being able to truly portray the subject as a genre. It is also apparent that in the eyes of the hooligans that there may never be a film that will capture what they believe to be the thing that makes them who they are.

From Back Page To Front Page: The Representation of Hooliganism in the Press and the Effects of Hooligan Based Cinematography

It could be argued that the reclassification of football hooliganism in a media context can be seen as a method of portraying, and sometimes exaggerating, the problems and issues surrounding an audience with regards to football hooliganistic behaviour. As Cohen (2002) states in terms of how the media goes about its business,

‘The mass media, infact, devote a great deal of space to deviance: sensational crimes, scandals, bizarre happenings and strange goings on. The more dramatic confrontations between deviance and control in manhunts, trials and punishments are recurring objects of attention.’ (2002:8)


All though this does not give specific reference to football hooliganism it can be said that the statement made by Cohen suggests that the media is the main instigator in heightening public panic around a number of issues. This can be seen as true of the relationship between football hooligans, the police and the press in mirroring the idea of deviance and control. However to give a balanced view on the subject before reaching any final conclusions it is important to take note of examples of press reporting not only on acts of football  hooliganism but also on the fans themselves. 


The Perception of an English Football Hooligan

As has already been mentioned in the 21st century football hooliganism has gone from being perceived as an uncontrollable problem which everyone had to live with in the 1970’s and 80’s to a bone of contention for not only the press but politicians as well. This final chapter will look at how football hooliganism has come to be represented in the Press and what effects it has had on the opinions people have in regards to football hooliganism Poulton describes this with reference to previous articles such as ‘Tears, Tantrums and Tattoos’ as:


‘The prevailing image of English football supporters, who are frequently assumed to be potential so-called ‘hooligans’, is that they are shaven-headed, beer bellied, tattooed, drunk and disorderly young males. This is due in the main to media representation, which continuously perpetuates the convenient, but simplistic, stereotype that it has helped to construct.’ (2005.26)


Poulton can be said to convey a fair argument for the images which we consume as being stereotypical and the arguments for the effect of the press and film in portraying these stereotypes is one that is hard to argue with when looking at the evidence on offer.  In referring to the perceptions made about football hooliganism, the foundations of the concept can be argued to be rooted within the media and through the mouths of politicians, ‘’football hooliganism’ is a ‘cover-all’ term that Dunning claims ‘is not so much a scientific sociological or psychological concept as a construct of politicians and the media.’(2005:32)


This concept adds weight to the arguments made by some that football hooliganism is, despite its sociological roots, a conceptualization of 21st century mass communicators such as Politicians and the press. The commonly held perceptions of the majority of a population can then be attributed to what is consumed in the media sphere. This stereotyping conveys a negative image of an entire fan base as opposed to the minority in which often the true blame can be attributed. An example can be referenced from the abuse David Beckham received during Euro 2000: In which a small minority if fans would sing, ‘Your wife is a whore and we hope your kid dies of cancer’, however when this came to be reported there was no mention of the minority involvement and instead seemed to be an indictment of the stereotype portrayed by the press by making it appear to be all England fans.

Fanning the Flames ad Keeping Quiet

Something that can be seen as becoming apparent in the press is the selectivity in which accounts of Football hooliganism are retold. First impressions on the matter suggest that the press can be prone to exaggeration to their reports on instances of football hooliganism, however under closer scrutiny the selectivity in which they report can be seen in regards to what is happening at the time of the incident and what implications a positive or negative article could have on the future of an event. It can be argued that the press acts as a self-saving mechanism at times to the benefit of promoting a national perception. On his accounts of the day England beat Germany 5-1 in Munich Crabbe tells of a group of young Germans being assaulted by a group of ‘Nazi-saluting’ Yorkshiremen, however on his return the papers did not report such instances:

‘the English press couldn’t resist the temptation to engage in a spot of vaguely disguised xenophobic German bashing in the aftermath of an astonishing 5-1 England victory. Those journalists who had been dispatched to cover the ‘hooligan’ story found their front page splashes either dropped or shifted inside and reframed within the prevailing anti-German discourse so not to the national feel-good factor’. (2003:415)


Crabbe’s telling of events as occurred as opposed to the headlines that appeared in the newspapers can only add testament to the concept of editors of newspapers covering the stories when they feel the desire too.

As Crabbe continues, with reference to England fans in Charleroi during Euro 2000, it becomes apparent there is another side of the coin in that there is an element of the media that results, in what could sometimes be described as hysteria, when the actions of football hooligans become eye catching and newsworthy headlines.


“Following street disturbances in Brussels involving confrontations between England fans and local youths of North African and Turkish extraction, general boisterousness and criminal damage on the day before the match, indiscriminate mass arrests were made and ‘hooligan’ stories began to hit the front pages”. (2003 .415)


This seems to occur when English supporters are on foreign soil, with the focus tending to be on the national football team at major events where newspapers tend to make outlandish claims like ‘the pride of the nation is at stake’.  Another interesting fact to note regarding this before leaving this subject is that the way in which football matches or tournaments are reported can rely upon how well the English national team is getting on. A successful team will result in the downgrading of hooligan based stories however a team in a slump will encourage editors of papers to look for stories of hooliganism to increase the gloom. 


It’s Not Our Fault

In 2007, journalists had seemed to come up with a new theory as to why football hooligans tend to find themselves in more trouble when they are in a foreign country as opposed to being back in England. The theory that appears to have been created is that it is the poor managing of English supporters by the authorities of other countries, and that any hooliganistic behaviour that has arose while English fans have been at venues around Europe are a result of victimisation not the misbehaviour of ‘supporters’.

Example of Hooliganism in 2007


Roma 2 Manchester United 1, Champions League Quarter Final

‘Supporters clashed with Italian police last night after missiles were thrown during United’s 2-1 defeat to AS Roma in the Champions League quarter-final tie.

Roman police confirmed 18 Manchester United supporters were taken to hospital for medical attention, with two kept in overnight.

Five United supporters were hurt during clashes with Roma fans near the Stadio Olimpico before the game while baton-wielding riot police laid into United fans inside the stadium after trouble broke out during the match.’ (The Independent Online 2007)

Sevilla 2 Tottenham Hotspur 1 UEFA CUP Quarter Final

‘Seats and punches were thrown as riot police waded in to the Spurs enclosure and things did not appear to settle down until they left at the start of the second half.

Spurs believe there was “no fan-to-fan fighting” at any stage in Seville and are to demand an explanation from Spanish police after riot officers clashed with English fans.’ (www.itv.com/football 2007)

There is an argument to say that the concept of victimisation against English fans is in some respects true. Admittedly what the reports on these events did show that there was indeed an element of heavy handedness in the way in which the Spanish and Italian authorities handled the matches. Leading UEFA delegates have stated that crowd control is better managed in England than its counterparts in Italy and Spain, in a statement made by UEFA director of communications to the BBC, William Gaillard it read:

“Our president Michel Platini has repeatedly asked police to learn from the British experience and way of handling things. A lot of the crowd control practice in England has been established over 20-25 years, given that there was a very serious problem before that. Now, through a number of measures that are not all linked to policing, though many are, we have got a situation that is far more acceptable than in other countries and it is vital to learn from that.” (BBC Online 2007)

However police prowess does not necessarily mean a solution to hooliganism. In the interest of fairness any attempts to admonish the behaviour of the fans as provocation could be seen as an error, as much as the authorities in Spain and Italy could be accused of being heavy handed the fans, surely, also have a responsibility to behave in the proper manner. However the responsibility of blame may not be accountable to the English supporters according to the press and it appears a communication breakdown over the language barrier to be the preferred reasoning of these incidents.

Reactions to Hooliganism in Film


With football hooliganism becoming the genre that it did at the beginning of the 21st century in the film industry it is interesting to note the way in which the press and the hooligan’s themselves, who had openly derided the idea of hooliganism as a genre, reacted to the ‘glamorization’ of the subject through its conversion onto film.

Perhaps unsurprisingly given the nature of the press the reaction to these films has been of a nature that may be described as scaremongering and can be seen to show the lack of distrust that reviewers and social commentators feel towards the average football fan, in an article by Paul Kelso in The Guardian it says:

‘Mark Perryman, an academic who campaigns for England fans to get a more positive image, was concerned about the timing of the release. “This does give the impression that hooliganism is the dominant experience for fans, when it is not. Portraying that sub-culture risks encouraging ‘wannabe warriors’ who will head off to Portugal thinking, ‘Doing England’ means ‘Doing violence’. The film will be popular with the firms because it helps justify their way of life.’

(The Guardian Online 2004)

While Alan Keen, the head of the Parliamentary Football Group in 2004 on the release of The Football Factory said, ‘It is unfortunate this film is being released just before Euro 2004.There is no doubt some football hooligans will be influenced by the contents to cause trouble in Portugal.’ (BBC Online 2004)

It is not only in the thoughts of those who believe that the films are only portraying negativity in relation to English football supporters, some reviewers of these films seem to think that the films will have an adverse effect on those that decide to watch them:

Green Street Reviews

A review by Joe Utachi read:

“There are good ideas for films and there are bad ideas for films. Being very careful not to press the wrong buttons with Lexi Alexander, director of Green Street and former football hooligan herself, this is a bad film. It’s so bad that one gets the impression, however unlikely (and I stress this is an impression, not a statement of fact), that it was green-lit by a studio exec who was just too terrified to say no.” (www.filmfocus.co.uk 2005)


While a reviewer who only goes by the acronym Gazz said:

“the extremely poor level of direction resulting in some irresponsible, gratuitous scenes of violence. Director Lexi Alexander states in the press releases and magazine articles covering this film that anyone who comes out of this film wanting to commit violent acts or become a football hooligan is an idiot. Well let me tell you Ms Alexander, anyone wanting to commit violent acts or become a football hooligan could use your ridiculously poe-faced film as a step by step manual thanks to your over-dependence on slow-motion, close up and over exaggerated acts of violence.” (www.filmrot.com 2005)


The Football Factory Reviews

In a review by Jay Richardson on futuremovies.co.uk it read:

‘The Burberry and trainers uniform haven’t changed and neither have the ‘fackin’ carnts’ wearing them. But there’s something almost quaint about the fights here, an insidious nostalgia for the kind of mob clashes settled away from the stadiums.’ (www.futuremovies.co.uk 2003)


However Gary Panton has a harsher critique of The Football Factory, ‘It Needs: To be associated with football about as much as football needs to be associated with it.’ (www.movie-gazette.com 2004)


The opinions which are given in some of these reviews give the impression that an individual cannot grasp the concept of a fictional piece of cinematography and that in seeing these films it will lead to acts of mimicry by football fans who were once, before seeing these films whether it be Green Street or The Football Factory, normal trustworthy football fans. The idea of it being a users guide as mentioned by one of the reviewers shown can be seen to show a lack of comprehension of a decision making process of a rational human. However to come to these conclusions on the basis of a fictional narrative would be ill advised and as O’Sullivan, Dutton and Rayner state in their article on studying the media:


‘Despite the continuous alarms about the power of the media over audiences, much of the concern has been based on flimsy evidence. In the case of Natural Born Killers, the BBFC followed up the alleged ten cases of copycat killings and in only two cases had the accused seen the film in question, and these involved one with a record of violent crime, and another who had repeatedly expressed his intention to commit the murders prior to seeing the film.’(2003.125)

The interesting thing to note when discussing the impact of these films on a football attending public is that despite all the stories that it could lead to copycat football hooligans it very rarely becomes the case just as was mentioned of the murders in relation to Natural Born Killers. However in regards to that issue it can be argued that the authenticity of these films is continually being called into question and therefore any copycat behaviour could be described as ‘imperfect’ and so it can be argued that football hooliganism would hold less accountability for any actions relating to these films. Admittedly, however, there are reviewers and theorists that do give credit to the idea of independent thought of a film consumer such as Emma Poulton, and that will say that although the topic is one that should be approached with caution there is no evidence to suggest that it will result in an imitation of actions.

What the ‘Hooligan’ Would Say

Before concluding this discussion on ‘The Depiction of English Football Hooliganism on Film’ it can be seen as significant too look at the reaction of the hooligans themselves to the sudden growth in popularity of football hooliganism as a genre in film. As the main protagonists in the creation of these films it can be perhaps said that their reaction of football hooligans to the films are the sole vindication of whether or not a film has been a success. In a way of gauging reaction before mass release the director of The Football factory, Nick Love, invited 250 members of the Cardiff City Soul Crew, one of the notorious firms in British football, to an advanced screening of the film and to give their opinions on it, on the event Love said in an article by Steve Hawkes, ‘It was a pretty terrifying experience,’ (BBC ONLINE 2004)

As it occurred on the release of The Football Factory at least the ‘hooligans’ gave it a thumbs up as realistic portrayal off the business of running with a firm. However the judgement made by those that were in attendance of that advance screening has to be questioned as those that viewed were participants in the film themselves.

What is apparent however, from the reviews that are previously stated in this discussion, is that Green Street was a film that did not sit well with football hooligans, due to what some perceived to be unrealistic content, that being the afore mentioned use of an American lead in a film supposedly about British football hooliganism. 

A phenomenon that is almost coincided with the emergence of football hooliganism in film is that of the rise of football hooligans becoming authors, novelists and film writers on the subject of football hooliganism. Men such as Tony Rivers and David Jones who wrote the book ‘The Soul Crew’ (appendix iv, appendix v) following the hooligan element associated with Cardiff City are now seeing their life experiences turned into films. Their opinions are also used by directors such as Nick Love and Lexi Alexander in the attempt to make films made even more realistic.

This new raft of hooligan driven literature has also been shown to be a success in reference to these new found resources Poulton says:

‘There certainly appears to be a popular niche market for literature on the phenomenon. The online sport book store www.sportsbookdirect.co.uk lists over 50 titles on ‘football violence’. Only a handful of these are academic texts; the majority are either autobiographies or biographies’ (2006.153)


It can be argued that these books in the main offer readers an insight into the world of football hooliganism, however some critics would argue that they may encourage a hooligan element in those who would previously not have indulged in such activities.


So what conclusions can be drawn from the efforts made in this study? There are four main points in which we can try and categorise the hooliganism problem in the media and whether or not it is indeed a problem.

Historically it would be a fair assessment to say that ‘sports based violence’ by association is more commonly or not referred to as football hooliganism. The effect of historicity on these firms is something that is taken in great pride by the firms as it is seen as a definition of what they are and who they stand for. There backgrounds helping to form the identities in which the firms are created and stereotypes that they battle against whether it be the ‘Spurs Yids’, ‘Birmingham Zulu’s’ or the ‘Chelsea Headhunters’ each group using the nature of the community around them to distinguish themselves from other firms it be Jewish, Black or Right-Wing.

Socially it is still attributed as being a working class pursuit however when it is looked at in greater depth it can become apparent that the class divides that were once so crucial to the rivalries within football have become merged when it comes to the issue of running a football hooligan based firm.

Thirdly the effects of football hooliganism on film has perhaps changed the perspective of which some people view football hooliganism both as a problem and as an act of social interaction or disorder. While it has brought a greater focus onto the issue itself, there are many that will argue that it has only led to the ‘glamorization’ of the subject and will only result in the ‘imitation of the art’. However it can also be argued that this study has shown that to suggest the effects on these films on an audience would result in copycat actions would be a misjudgement of the human psyche and it should be believed that an individual is able to objectively view a subject matter without feeling a desire to become a hooligan. Films made with football hooliganism in mind could be now not only seen as a genre but a pursuit by directors for authenticity on the subject, either by using hooligans in their films, Green Street and The Football Factory or by basing films on the life’s of hooligans, The Soul Crew.

Finally this discussion should have given an insight into how the media reports on news stories relating to football hooliganism, addressing the issue of both the downplaying and upgrading of stories into relation of how significant they are at the time for the country as a whole, and that the argument for the press as a self-serving entity for football can be somewhat believed to be true.

In summing up anyone who comments on the football hooliganism problem without conducting thorough research into the matter could seem ill informed. The use of stereotypes and cliché in describing football hooliganism can be seen as a hit and miss method in trying to define if there is a problem or not. It would be very hard to argue with the idea that there is not a problem with regards to football hooliganism, and as recently as 2007 these problems have been highlighted however to suggest that films will only serve as an advertisement or a piece of propaganda for recruiting football hooligans only goes to suggest that in the 21st century, the concept of freedom of thought by what we say and do.


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Poulton, Emma (2006) ‘Lights, Camera, Aggro!’: Readings of ‘Celluoid Hooliganism’, London, Routledge 

Poulton, Emma (2003) ‘New Fans, New Flag, New England?’, London, Routledge

Poulton, Emma (2001) ‘Tears, Tantrums and Tattoos’, London, Routledge 

Smith, Tom (2000) ‘Bataille’s boys’: postmodernity, Fascists and football fans, London, Routledge

Spaaj, Ramon (2006) Aspects of Hooligan Violence: A Reappraisal of Sociological Research into Football Hooliganism, Amsterdam, Amsterdam School of Social Research

Internet Resources


Edited by Bose, Mihir (2007), ‘Uefa criticises European policing’, http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/europe/ accessed 11/04/07


Edited by Carmichael, Alistair (2007), ‘Football Hooliganism, What is Football Hooliganism?’, http://www.politics.co.uk/issuebrief/domestic-policy/crime/football accessed 11/04/07


Garcia-Bennett, Cindy (2007) ‘United Fans Hurt as Violence Flairs in Rome’, http://news.independent.co.uk/europe/article accessed 06/04/07

Gazz (2005) ‘Gazz takes a walk down Green Street with some hooligans to meet the yank!!’,  http://www.filmrot.com/articles/reviews/ accessed 21/02/07


Hawkes, Steve (2004) Football firms hit the film circuit, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/film/ accessed 20/02/07


ITV Sport (2007) UEFA launches Seville violence probe, http://www.itv.com/news accessed 06/04/07

Kelso, Paul (2004) ‘Just when football needed it least, films revive the spectre of hooligan gangs’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/footballviolence/article accessed10/02/07


Munday, Matt (2004), ‘Hooligan Movies are All the Rage’, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts, accessed 20/03/07


Oxley-Rice, Mark (2005), ‘Is Britain still home of mannerly charm? Don’t be Daft!,  http://www.csmonitor.com/, accessed 17/04/07

Panton, Gary (2004) ‘The Football Factory Review’,  www.movie-gazette.com/cinereviews , accessed 04/02/07


Richardson, Jay (2003) ‘The Football Factory Movie Review’, http://www.futuremovies.co.uk/review  , accessed 04/02/07


‘The Football Hooligan Firm Forum’, http://www.ave-it.net/ , accessed 20/02/07

Utachi, John (2005) Review – Green Street, http://www.filmfocus.co.uk/review.asp  accessed 10/02/07

Various Artists (2007) ‘Green Street’, http://www.imdb.com/, accessed 10/02/07

Various Artists (2006) ‘The Football Factory’, http://www.imdb.com/, accessed 01/12/06


Green Street (2005), dir.: Lexi Alexander, Odd Lot Entertainment, USA

The Firm (1988), dir.: Alan Clarke, BBC Productions, UK

The Football Factory (2004) dir.: Nick Love, Vertigo Films (theatrical) Momentum Pictures (DVD), UK



  1. This is AMAZING! I’m currently doing my dissertation on the the culture of football hooliganism and the role the media play so reading through this was very helpful. Thank you!

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