Officiating and Hooliganism in Nigeria Football

Officiating and Hooliganism in Nigeria Football
Officiating and Hooliganism in Nigeria Football


Traced back to the 14th century, football hooliganism is described as violent, disorderly, or destructive behavior by spectators of football events. A conflict that is often involving of gangs, or football firms, hooligan firms can even be referred to as an “army,” “boys,” a “crew,” or “casuals.”

These conflicts often occur either before, during, or after football matches. They typically occur away from the stadiums to avoid being arrested or further complications. Locations would be selected prior to the interactions even occurred.

Some of the behavior involved in football hooliganism includes taunting, spitting, throwing of objects, unarmed fighting, fighting with weapons like rocks, knives, machetes, firearms, bats, and bottles, and disorderly crowd behavior.

Some of these actions can even include fences, fixtures, and walls to collapse, due to the incredible force of pushing, fighting, and attempting to flee.

Three decades after football hooliganism first began to arouse major international concern, the so called ‘English disease’ continues to generate official and public anxiety. In spite of all the efforts made and resources invested over the past decades, it seems that football hooliganism remains, to varying extents, a disturbing social problem.1 However, important variations exist in the level and nature of football hooliganism in different localities. Although international structures and concerted responses are required, prevention strategies should ultimately be based on local practices and designed to fit local needs. The prevention of football hooliganism requires the continuous and long-term commitment of a variety of institutions and agents, including local clubs and fan communities. The purpose of this paper is twofold. First, it aims to provide some insight into the main cross-national and cross-local resemblances and dissimilarities in the patterns and forms of football hooliganism. Second, the paper attempts to stimulate the transnational exchange and dissemination of prevention strategies by discussing some of the ‘good practices’ carried out in different countries and at different clubs.


Officiating and Hooliganism in Nigeria Football


The Concept of Football Hooliganism

There is no precise definition of ‘football hooliganism’. It lacks legal definition, precise demarcation of membership and is used to cover a variety of actions which take place in more or less directly football-related contexts. To account for some of the phenomenon’s main features, a distinction should be drawn between spontaneous, relatively isolated incidents of spectator violence and the behaviour of socially organized or institutionalized fan (hooligan) groups which engage in competitive violence, principally with other hooligan groups. This distinction is historically observable through a shift from a pattern in which attacks on match officials and opposing players predominated over attacks on rival fans, to a pattern in which inter-fan group fighting and fighting between fans and the police became the predominant form of spectator disorderliness.


This shift has taken place in various European countries, but at different times. Regretfully, the ideal typal distinction cannot account for the complexity and versatility of the phenomenon with regard to the nature of the violence as well as the degree of organization involved. At least five conceptual dilemmas can be identified. First, while football hooliganism primarily consists of competitive violence between rival fan groups their violent behaviour is not restricted to inter-group fighting, but may include missile throwing, vandalism, attacks on the police and regular fans, or racial abuse. Second, the violent behaviour of hooligan groups takes places not only at or in the immediate vicinity of football grounds, but also in other contexts, for example city centres, pubs, clubs or railway stations. Third, football hooliganism involves a

Patterns of cultural resemblance and dissimilarity in football hooliganism

Football hooliganism transgresses national boundaries. The transnational subcultures surrounding football hooliganism historically evolved around British terrace culture. On the continent, the British subcultures underwent a process of cultural creolisation as indigenous fan groups merged the adopted patterns with their own distinctive cultural forms. The transnational diffusion of cultural practices also occurred in a reverse direction, as for example the introduction into British fan culture of continental designer clothing styles in the early 1980s. The ultra subcultures dominant in countries such as Italy, Spain, and parts of France have come to influence supporter groups in Northern and Eastern Europe, with similar fan groups being formed, to varying extents, in countries such as Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, the former Yugoslavia and parts of Scandinavia. British fan cultures of the late 1990s have also started to experiment with aspects of the south European model, through the use of Latin chant patterns and musical bands.

Notwithstanding the apparent transnational dimensions of football culture and hooliganism, I would argue that most academic studies underplay important cross-national and cross-local dissimilarities in the patterns and forms of football hooliganism. The intensity and rapidity of today’s global cultural flows contribute to the misleading belief that the world is becoming a more singular place.  The technologies of mobility have changed and a growing range of media reach across borders. More specifically, recent changes in the football industry, for example the expansion of the Champions League, are believed to enhance the homogeinization of football cultures. However, transnational cultural flows have not affected different countries to similar extents.

Football is one of the social spheres in which the dynamic intertwinement of the local and the global can be observed par excellence. The fan cultures of particular clubs share ritual elements, but at the same time each fan culture exhibits distinct forms of prescribed formal ritual behaviour and symbolism. 19 Local historical and cultural traditions and legacies continue to exert a strong influence over patterns of behaviour. Variations in the level and forms of football hooliganism need to be understood in terms of the way hooligan subcultures ‘are nested within the ritual and collective symbolism of each fan culture’. We should therefore take into account not only variations in football hooliganism between cultures, but also dissimilarities within countries, regions, cities or fan communities.

Within this local context we should also examine the interactional dynamics of football hooliganism. Local patterns and forms of football hooliganism evolve through the continuous interactions between authorities, club, fan community, and ‘hooligans’. One way of approaching these inter-group dynamics is to focus on the effects of official attempts to curb football hooliganism. Murphy and his associates argue that: as the controls imposed by central government, the football authorities and the police have grown more all-embracing, tighter and sophisticated, so the football hooligans in their turn have tended to become more organized and to use more sophisticated strategies and plans in an attempt to evade the controls. At the same time, football hooligan fighting has tended to become displaced from an immediate football context and to take place at times and in situations where the controls are, or are perceived to be, weak or non-existent.

Approaches of this kind tend to highlight the large number of measures designed to curb football hooliganism: the segregation of home and away fans, fencing, closed-circuit television (CCTV), conversion to all-seater stadia, identity card schemes, intelligence gathering, and so on. In recent years social psychologists have developed a more dynamic approach to the interactions between police officers and football fans. Where most scholars tend to concentrate on explaining football hooliganism in terms of the macro-social origins of conflictual norms, these authors emphasize more the ways in which understandings and behaviours develop in context, such that even those who initially and ordinarily eschew violence may come to act violently.  I would argue that while cross-national differences in policing in Western Europe appear to have diminished, police/supporter interactions still vary considerably across localities, depending, among others, on police professionality and culture, and fans’ perceptions of the police. Analysis of cross- national and cross-local variations in football hooliganism should also include other forms of interaction, notably the relations between hooligans and clubs, and fan-based activities and initiatives. The former type implies, for example, that important dissimilarities exist with regard to the extent to which, and the forms in which, football clubs engage in the prevention of football hooliganism.

Effects of Football Hooliganism

As just some of the many reasons why football hooliganism needs to be stopped, these violent behaviors due to football rivalries may cause not only destruction, but death. In some extreme cases of hooliganism, there have been reports of bystanders, police, and hooligans being killed.

It has gone as far as riot police intervening with the encounters. This would include water cannons, armored vehicles, police dogs, and even tear gas.

This violence has even been given its own name, with “aggro” which is short for aggravation, or “bovver,” a Cockney pronunciation of bother or trouble. Much of these disorderly actions are influenced by alcohol, drugs, and anger.


In a study done by Paul Gow and Joel Rookwood about sports in 2008 with Liverpool Hope University, the men discovered this:

“Involvement in football violence can be explained in relation to a number of factors, relating to interaction, identity, legitimacy and power. Football violence is also thought to reflect expressions of strong emotional ties to a football team, which may help to reinforce a supporter’s sense of identity.”

With this being said, the influence of alcohol, political conflict, and police handling are all causes of the issue. Other causes are simply the fact of a favorite team losing, causing frustration and anger, as well as a team giving an unsportsmanlike performance, setting the tone for their fans.

How We Can Fix This: Alcohol Limitations

Limiting alcohol consumption at football events is one of the best ways to limit football hooliganism. Though you can never ban alcohol consumption altogether, having stricter rules for allowing intoxicated fans to enter the grounds as well as limiting the serving of alcohol at the events is a great way to start.

In 2016, the French government even urged all of the host cities to ban the sale of alcohol in areas sensitive to hooliganism. Plus, the city of Lens that held the Wales and England match prohibited drinking on its streets 24 hours in advance of the kick-off.

How We Can Fix This: Match Time Changes

Beginning matches earlier is yet another way to try and fix this huge issue. As an attempt to stop the violence caused by football fans, pushing matches forward a few hours can help stop the misconduct.

As an attempt to stop heavy drinking and sneaky fighting, matches being scheduled for noon are a better bet for fans to be less violent. This way, there will be less irritability, more visibility for police, and less drinking.

How We Can Fix This: Bans

Having an overbearing punishment for football hooliganism that is made against all football fans will better allow people to understand the seriousness of this issue. During the Manchester City Champions League against CSKA Moscow in 2014, fans were banned as a punishment for hooliganism, racist chanting, and a series of offenses.

The stadium was empty for this match, and the fans were shaken with reality. A way to put the issue into perspective, banning fans from stadiums will allow them to understand the size of the violence.

How We Can Fix This: Segregation

Separating home fans from away fans is a great place to start to try and avoid hooliganism. This way, opposing fans will hopefully not be able to irritation, threaten, or cause violence between each other.

Separating the two teams into different stands will help avoid violence altogether, and to take thing further, there can even be separated entrances and exits.

How We Can Fix This: Community Building

As our last attempt at putting a stop to football hooliganism, community building among fans is just as important as anything we’ve previously covered. What can also be referred to as “fan coaching,” fans in each country should be taught about the respect of opposition, as well as the correct way to accept defeat by avoiding violence.

This must begin with our children and young people who play and watch football. This generation needs to be taught to hold higher values, and this can be taught by their own coaches as well as their favorite star athletes. Plus, law enforcement should also take a role in this education, as a great way to enforce the message, as well as educating them on the heavy consequences of hooliganism.

Violence at England’s Euro 2016 match with Russia in Marseille – in which more than 30 people were injured – has raised questions over how hooliganism can be prevented. What ideas are there and can they work?

Alcohol ban

The French government is urging all host cities to ban the sale of alcohol in “sensitive areas” near Euro 2016 venues on match days and the eves of match days.

This follows the city of Lens – where England play Wales on Thursday – prohibiting any drinking on its streets in the 24 hours before kick-off.

Alcohol bans have been tried before but haven’t always had the desired effect. During the 1990 World Cup there were clashes between police and England fans after sales were halted in Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia.

“This sort of policy can actually provoke a reaction,” says Geoff Pearson, senior lecturer in criminal law at Manchester University, who was in Marseille when the latest violence occurred.

“Prohibitions don’t work with alcohol. Fans can get angry or find a way around it by getting drink from another source.”

He also points out that the Russian supporters who charged at English fans inside Marseille’s Stade Velodrome didn’t appear to be drunk.

“What I would recommend is that the French police try to do something about bottles of beer being sold,” says Pearson.

“They were doing this quite well in Marseille. The bars weren’t serving beer in glass bottles but plastic glasses.”

Problems began on Friday – the eve of the match – when bars began running out of beer, he says. Fans started buying bottles from supermarkets, and these were used as weapons, he adds.

Mike Layton, co-author of Hunting The Hooligans: The Inside Story of Operation Red Card, thinks alcohol bans might help in some cases but don’t get to the root of the problem.

“The hardened criminals don’t need beer to stimulate their behaviour,” he says, “but others do – those aspiring to become part of the hardcore group and the ones moving around at the back.”

Early starts

Strongly related to alcohol bans is the policy of moving matches deemed to have a high risk of violence forward by a few hours – say, from 15:00 to midday on a Saturday.

The idea is to give troublemakers less time to get drunk during the build-up. The Football Association suggests this as a possible plan.

But Layton, who spent more than 40 years policing football violence in the West Midlands, Cyprus and for the British Transport Police, isn’t convinced.

“If they are going to fight, they are going to fight,” he says. “It doesn’t really matter what time of the day it is.”

And Pearson says early starts can increase the risk of drunken disorder, with fans coming out of grounds by about 14:00.

“They might then be drinking for another 12 hours, until two in the morning,” he says, leading to more late-night violence in city centres.

Empty stadiums

When Manchester City played a Champions League away fixture against CSKA Moscow in 2014, no-one came to watch. Fans were banned, as CSKA were punished for series of offences, including racist chanting.

Clubs in Turkey have faced the same sanction following poor behaviour by fans and players.

Layton thinks locking fans out of stadiums is an “option” for the worst-case scenarios, where violence between rival supporters is expected or has happened recently, but adds that this also punishes the “vast majority” of fans who behave well.

“What are people going to do when it’s on TV but they’re not allowed into the stadium?” asks Pearson.

“Go to bars. The idea that you want to take people out of what should be a well-manned, secure environment and go to bars that are widely spread out and could turn violent – I’ve never heard of anything so ludicrous.”


The Football Association says having clearly separated areas – a common feature at grounds since the 1970s – “has significantly reduced problems of spectator misbehaviour inside stadia”.

Clubs often create “sterile areas”, involving fabric netting placed over rows of seats, sometimes reinforced by a line of stewards.

But, says Layton, stewards “need to complement overall tactics, not replace the police officers”, while barriers must be strong enough to keep fans at high-risk matches apart.

He backs the use of sterile areas, adding: “The problem is that it means not selling all the seats.

“But it reduces the costs for hospitals treating injured people and policing. It also helps prevent any costly damage to football’s reputation and image.”

At Euro 2016 and Premier League matches there are “football tourists”, people who come and watch but have no affiliation, or whose affiliation might change even during the match, says Pearson.

“Policing should be a fluid situation. We should be able to put in a segregation line with short notice.”

Fan coaching

The ideas mentioned so far deal with the symptoms rather than the causes of trouble. With this in mind, in the late 1980s Belgium’s Standard Liege club decided to educate supporters on appropriate behaviour, setting up a programme known as “fan coaching”.

Mimicked in several other countries, it emphasises respecting the opposition and referee and accepting defeat without violence.

Layton calls this technique “diversion”, teaching young people who play and watch football to hold better values. It includes talks from star players and reformed hooligans, who can tell young people that violence leads to injuries and criminal records.

Layton thinks the best way to get this message across is to enforce the law. Twenty people have been arrested over the Marseille violence, but he thinks this isn’t enough.

“Lots of people have got away with it,” he says. “I would have thought, with CCTV cameras, the police would have caught a lot more.

“There needs to be speedy justice in these cases. A lot of football hooligans think that because they’re in a group they’re anonymous. We have to show them that they’re not.”


Football hooliganism is an issue in our society that has been around for centuries. To start spreading the word on how can it be prevented, we first must educate those unaware of the issue.

So what exactly is football hooliganism? How is it even caused? And what are the repercussions if we don’t put an end to it? We go over each of these questions, as well as five ways to put an end to the violence.

However, the good practices highlighted in this paper indicate that the prevention of football hooliganism depends on the efforts of a variety of institutions and agents. The prevention of football hooliganism requires a concerted and continuous response. Cross-national and cross-local dissimilarities in the patterns and forms of football hooliganism reveal that, despite important transnational resemblances, football hooliganism is nested within particular (local) fan cultures.

Prevention strategies should therefore be designed to fit local needs. The good practices discussed in this paper may help to promote a more profound understanding of possible strategies for the prevention of football hooliganism. To advance such an understanding, the transnational exchange and dissemination of local knowledge and practices are required.


Dunning, Eric: “Towards a sociological understanding of football hooliganism as a world phenomenon”, in:  European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research 2 (2000), 141-162, p.142; Williams, John: “The costs of safety in risk societies”, in: 12 The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry 1 (2001), 1-7, p.1.

Giulianotti, Richard: “A different kind of carnival”, in: Perryman, Mark (ed.): Hooligan wars. Causes and effects of football violence, Edinburgh and London, 2001, 141-154, p.141; Stokvis, Ruud: De sportwereld. Een sociologische inleiding, Alphen aan den Rijn, 1989, pp.148-152.

Dunning, Eric: “The social roots of football hooliganism: a reply to the critics of the ‘Leicester school’”, in: Giulianotti, Richard, Bonney, Norman & Hepworth, Mike (eds.): Football, violence and social identity, London, 1994, 128-157, p.136.

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