No. XXXII (2010)

Stadium hooliganism as an independent social phenomenon and object of legal regulations. An introduction

Published 2010-01-01


  • stadium hooliganism,
  • deviant behaviour,
  • criminalization,
  • criminal control

How to Cite

Sochacka, J. (2010). Stadium hooliganism as an independent social phenomenon and object of legal regulations. An introduction. Archives of Criminology, (XXXII), 223–248.


The current form of the phenomenon termed stadium hooliganism differs substantially to the form characteristic of 1960-1970s, and even 1980s. This is, on one hand, a result of change in deviant behaviour of spectators, on the other hand a result of material change in what behaviours are labelled, and thus controlled, by the state. While initially hooliganism consisted in acts of violence and vandalism on stadiums and in their immediate vicinity, deviant behaviours of spectators fundamentally changed with time. Re-design of stadiums, introduction of exclusively numbered seats and tickets, spectator video surveillance, ticket sale control systems, and many other technical measures to eliminate the sense of anonymity in the football fans – along with extension of the catalogue of football-related behaviours which are criminalised – resulted in relative safety of European, and to less extent Polish, stadiums. This resulted in transfer of deviant behaviour of spectators outside stadiums. At present, two types of behaviours are commonly considered in relation to stadium hooliganism. First, all deviant behaviours of (some) spectators manifested on the stadium or in its immediate vicinity in strict temporal and spatial relation to a match. Second, all other deviant behaviours of (some) spectators manifested outside stadiums and in less and less strict temporal, emotional and spatial relation to a sport event. Until 1985 penal policy towards stadium hooliganism – on the tier of national regulations, international cooperation, legal acts by European organs and UEFA – was surprisingly uniform in perception of the phenomenon as a social problem which does not require any particular methods or measure of control and which does not require any particular legislation. 1985 was a turning point as far as legal position of the phenomenon is concerned. Accepting in Strasbourg on 19 August 1985 the European Convention on Spectator Violence and Misbehaviour at Sports Events and in particular at Football Matches by Council of Europe initiated an entirely new approach to the policy of prevention of the phenomenon. Since 1985, legal acts concerning stadium hooliganism have been passed both on national and international level. Stadium hooliganism was termed a serious social problem in the area of public order solution of which requires introduction and implementation of particular legal regulations and particular methods of supervision and control. Including stadium hooliganism into the category of social phenomena which carry a risk for functioning of the society as a whole, such as terrorism, delinquency of immigrants, juvenile delinquency or drug addiction is an effect of wider transformations in European penal policy which have been present since the end of 1970s. This is related to emergence of strong tendencies towards politicisation of internal security issues at the time.


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