Hooligan fights (Abstract only)

Jonas Lennartz (Ruhr-Universität Bochum)

Football hooliganism dates back centuries to England, but the violent phenomenon has exhibited a resurgence since the 1960s, especially in Germany and Russia, among other countries around the world (Ingle and Hogdkinson, 2001; Parkin, 2018). Although the intersection of football and violence dates back to the 1300s in England, more established hooliganism and contemporary football arose in the 1880s in the United Kingdom (Ingle and Hogdkinson, 2001). Hooligan groups often ardently support specific football teams (Ingle and Hogdkinson, 2001; Borden, 2018). This zealous support, however, extends beyond the typical support that most fans demonstrate toward a football team, moving into an almost exclusively violent sphere (Ingle and Hogdkinson, 2001; Borden, 2018). At football games, hooligan groups of the two opposing teams meet, often in parking lots, fields, or forests, and brawl en masse; in recent years, violence has also occurred within football stadiums and has begun to implicate innocent fans in the carnage (Borden, 2018). These brawls, in which dozens of people participate, are characterized by bloody, brutal fighting that is rarely regulated (Borden, 2018). The lawlessness means that those engaging in or unfortunately caught in the middle of the fights are sometimes seriously injured (Parkin, 2018). Hooligan groups also sometimes engage in vandalism and destruction of property, including in the violence that followed the 2016 Russia v. England football match in Marseilles (Borden, 2018).

In recent years, football hooliganism has been increasingly linked with neo-Nazism and radical far right ideology, especially in Germany and Russia (Parkin, 2018). Racist and xenophobic neo-Nazi ideology is inextricably tied to many hooligan groups, especially in these two countries (Parkin, 2018). Despite the extreme violence that characterizes football hooliganism, the troublesome practice infrequently makes media headlines, besides a few extreme outliers. Notable manifestations of football hooliganism include the 2016 football match between Russia and England, when violence between fans erupted during the game (Borden, 2018). Although the Russian government initially regarded its citizens’ actions during the match with relative indifference, it soon changed its view as the 2018 World Cup in Moscow approached (Borden, 2018). This example illustrates the political orientation and the increasingly neo-Nazi characterization of football hooliganism. Therefore, this paper will analyze the historical development and evolution of football hooliganism from violence to violence increasingly imbued with neo-Nazism, and its subsequent political orientation and implications.

Due to the illicit nature of football hooliganism, few hooligans have given first-hand testimony, although certain sources exist that engage directly with hooligans. Therefore, this research employs primary sources, including documents that engage directly with hooligans and sources from the media that recount specific instances of football hooliganism. Secondary sources will supplement these primary sources. Through qualitative analysis that will generate an aggregated understanding of football hooliganism through the ages, this research will especially inform the intersection of football hooliganism and neo-Nazism, as well as the political orientation of the violent phenomenon.


Borden, S., 2018. The New Hooligans of Russia. ESPN, [online] Available at: <http://www.espn.com/espn/feature/story/_/id/23659183/world-cup-2018-russia-new-school-hooligan-culture> [Accessed 17 May 2020].

Claus, R., 2017. Hooligans. Eine Welt zwischen Fußball, Gewalt und Politik. Göttingen: Die Werkstatt.

Dbate, 2016. Fußball und Gewalt – Wie ticken Ultras und Hooligans? [online] Available at: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8OProCfvSv0> [Accessed 10 May 2020]

Ingle, S. and Hodgkinson, M., 2001. When did football hooliganism start? The Guardian, [online] Available at: <https://www.theguardian.com/football/2001/dec/13/theknowledge.sport> [Accessed 17 May 2020].

Parkin, S., 2018. The rise of Russia’s neo-Nazi football hooligans. The Guardian, [online] Available at: <https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/apr/24/russia-neo-nazi-football-hooligans-world-cup> [Accessed 17 May 2020].

Roh, A., 2007. In kleinen Gruppen ohne Gesänge!: Unterwegs mit den Hamburg Hooligans. Quickborn: Trollsen Communicate.