Stott, C., Adang, O.,
Livingstone, A . and
Schreiber, M. (2007) ‘Variability in the collective behaviour of
This is a test of a model
behaviour developed earlier. This model (
English football fans
have long been
associated with hooliganism, and this team are interested in the social
psychological mechanisms that seemed to produce disorder in some
and not in others. In this particular tournament, there was no fan
The model really needs to
be tested to
explain the non appearance of disorder [a strange idea of a test
model should explain everything! I think the intention is to install
was capable of informing any kind of policy analysis in any kind of
fans situation. It certainly looks pretty banal. Thus there was no
They seemed to have got
quite a bit of
support from the
The team used an ethnographic method, modified for crowd behaviour. They describe this as ‘semi structured observations’ (79) [the structure being provided by the model, presumably]. First they observed events, fan behaviour, fan group interactions, police deployment, and police interactions with fans. They used photos and video when possible. They also interviewed fans using a semi structured schedule. Obviously, interviews were not possible during periods of disorder. Interviews were ‘still driven by specific theoretical concerns and made relevant to the, often rapidly developing, surrounding events’ (80). There were also meetings with fans, and invitations to reply to website questionnaires..
The researchers first described the incidents that they observed, and attempted to triangulate these descriptions with data provided by interviews with the police and other observers on a parallel project. They also used photographs, video, and TV coverage. Then they analyzed fans' accounts, using a thematic analysis based on the concept of identities and how they evolved. ‘Our initial approach to the state or was therefore informed by our theoretical framework and linked to the analytical questions’ (81). [This raises all the doubts about circularity for me]. The data were sorted according to expectations, and the accounts of what happened, although fans were also invited to comment on ‘who counted as “in group” and who as “out group”’ (81). The intention was to achieve the best fit between the analysis and the data, and extracts are provided to illustrate analytic points. The team are aware that there might be a problem using participants' accounts as evidence of cognitive representations, but consider that they have produced a ‘parsimonious theoretical explanation’ (81).
[A series of descriptions of various encounters follows. For me, some of the most interesting episode seem to fall outside the model, however, and they include the curious beliefs about the English as a belligerent 'race' who will take no insults, and the strange self pitying nature of English fans who believe they are misunderstood as patriots. The accounts seem to set up the main theoretical findings pretty well—that excessive police intervention causes trouble. Some of the notes are quite odd, as in ‘a group of four males who, as a field notes record, did not appear to be English’ --how could you tell from appearances? (84). They claim that they have observed occasions where both hooligan and calm fans were present, and that the main variable appears to have been police intervention styles. In some circumstances, English fans were clearly willing and able to defuse situations and prevent confrontation.]
The analysis of the fans'
views indicate that
some fans found the police in
Overall, the authors think that their model has been shown to be useful [and their policy and recommendations to the police]. This is addressed in rather psychological terms about prototypes, [although there is little relation between these data and the psychological terms as such]. They admit thats football banning orders might also have been responsible for the lack of violence at other venues, but insists that policing is the main variable. There are some interesting policy findings, especially that fans can be persuaded to self police as long as the police are not too heavy handed. The previous study of Scottish fans showed that self policing was even prototypical.
The study concludes with
criticisms, especially about the data. They admit that they know very
about the actual social psychological mechanisms involved, and advocate
deeper analysis. However, policy implications are the most important
would seek additional quantifiable data, including on how fans labelled
themselves. They also agree that it would have been nice to follow the
fans throughout the tournament, although they argue that their cross
sampling is an valid way to assess differences and change, largely
claim ‘there is no evidence of or reason to assume a priori differences between
the fans in these two contexts, [which] suggests that the differences
as a function of contextual variation’ (93). The implications for
confirmed. High profile tactics only sustain expectations of violence
in the future,
and justify an argument that English fans are seen as troublemakers.
authors flirt with more general implications for social identity and
particular social relations inside a group can confirm particular
At its most general, this addresses theoretical concerns and
psychology about the causes of violence and the contextual elements.
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