It’s getting worse isn’t it? That football violence. Somebody threw a bottle at the Hibs vs Celtic Game. A Celtic fan threw a coin at ex-Ranger Kris Boyd. Rangers fans sang a song at the Kilmarnock manager calling him a ‘fenian.’ What is a fenian anyway? Remember the cup final in, when was it? You know, when the Hibs fans invaded the pitch. It seems like it’s getting worse. Something needs to be done. I blame the ……….
Whoah! Who inserted that? Is that all we have? Minsk 1983?
Or does it? Watching and reading reactions to these events over these last few weeks, I’m reminded of Stanley Cohen. In 1972, Cohen wrote a book called Folk Devils and Moral Panics about how the media and professional reaction to the conflict between the mods and rockers had amplified the actual level of deviance by melodramatic coverage and by influencing police behaviour.
Cohen says in the book’s introduction:
‘Calling something a ‘moral panic’ does not imply that this something does not exist or happened at all and that reaction is based on fantasy, hysteria, delusion and illusion or being duped by the powerful. Two related assumptions, though, require attention – that the attribution of the moral panic label means that the ‘thing’s’ extent and significance has been exaggerated (a) in itself (compared with other more reliable, valid and objective sources) and/or (b) compared with other, more serious problems.’
Notably, Cohen pointed out that deviants such as football hooligans are often picked out at times of ‘national strain’ (Brexit/Indyref2?) to ‘clarify normative boundaries’ or to put it plainly, to remind all citizens that the status quo (Union/EU) is under threat and requires you to behave accordingly to help preserve it.
Last night Reporting Scotland headlined the story and made much of it with images of quite a small number of incidents, going back into the days of black and white, but search for ‘Scotland football violence’ from 1/1/19 to 4/3/19, and you only get three Scottish matches where violence was considered serious enough to be reported on. Jackie Bird did say ‘a number’ of them so that that’s true. Several English matches somehow made the list too.
‘Tensions between Celtic and Airdrie fans boiled over into a brawl outside Parkhead. The Hoops won 3-0 against the League 1 side in the Scottish Cup fourth-round tie, but unsavoury scenes before kick-off saw bottles being thrown from one set of fans to the other.’
No mention of specific injuries or any arrests made is offered.
‘The clip shows large groups of fans descend into a huge fight – even throwing traffic cones at each other. The match itself was broadcast on BBC Alba. Police Scotland confirmed that there had been no arrests, but enquiries are ongoing.’
Again, no arrests. Does that tell us anything about the actual level of violence?
Note: As a Bairn myself, I take great offence at that headline’s pathetic alliteration.
‘The supporter was caught on camera towards the end of the game, with footage showing someone in the away section winding up a throw before sending a red seat flying through the air – across the divide of dozens of security staff and police officers and into the Dons supporter section.’
We must presume the fan missed as no report of injury is offered. Curiously, the offender is carefully referred to in terms of where he was rather than in terms of who he supports. That reminds me of Murdo Fraser’s warning on Debate Night that fans of one club might join another’s fans and commit an offence so as to get them banned. Hmmm….’Falkirk fan’ who ‘threw a traffic cone’ is exposed on his Facebook page as having been born in Greenock!
Looking at the previous three months, October to December 2018, only three matches, concerning Rangers, Celtic, Hearts, Hibs and Aberdeen, were reported to feature any supporter violence. Only one man was charged, at an Aberdeen vs Ranger game, with throwing a bottle. Remember attendance at these games tends to be between 20 000 and 50 000 people.
In the previous three months, July to September 2019, only one incident was reported, the stabbing of two Croatian fans near to Ibrox stadium and in the three months before that, there were none.
Here’s a thought or two. There is little serious violence at Scottish football matches, and it tends to be concentrated, each year, in those matches featuring the five biggest teams. It’s not a major problem and it’s not one really affecting all of Scottish football as some like to suggest. The Morton/Falkirk incident is not in any way typical of these clubs.
Why don’t these big clubs in cohort with the police, just use film evidence, arrest the culprits and, perhaps, ban them for life, pour encourager les autres? As for our media, to reduce copycat offences, why not ignore them?