In December 2012 a Dutch linesman was attacked and fatally injured after serving as a volunteer linesman at a youth football match. For a while football violence was big news in the Netherlands and in Europe.
News about excessive violence on and around football fields surfaces with some regularity. How big is this problem in fact? And, what are we doing about it?
Insight and solutions
Commissioned by the Dutch Program ‘Police and Science’ DSP-groep interviewed stakeholders from 25 football clubs, the police and the local authorities about their experiences with football related violence. To gain insight into the extent and severity of violence on and around football fields. To identify specific factors that can be associated with this problematic behavior. And to look at possible solutions, in close collaboration with the Dutch Football Association (KNVB).
Roughly speaking, on the one hand we see the non-risk football clubs where incidents rarely occur and on the other the risk clubs where incidents occur several times a year.
Based on available figures and a practical research under 25 different football clubs, it is estimated that of the more than 750,000 games per year at approximately 1000 of these games excessive violence took place. This involved excessive physical violence outside a game situation, usually with injury. Light physical and verbal abuse are far more common and are a breeding ground for worse. A combination of frustration over (alleged) arbitrators ‘errors’, rough play and verbal abuse are often the cause of violence. Often the ‘logical perpetrators’, or the ‘short fuses’ are the ones who cross the line.
Because it involves incidents, there is often no clear agreement on the approach and handling of violence at football clubs. Police assistance is called only when the clubs themselves can no longer control the situation. Bureaucracy and fear of fines sometimes restrains clubs from reporting incidents to the KNVB.
DSP-groep recommends to raise awareness on measures that the non-risk clubs can take themselves to limit “hooliganism” as much as possible. Risk clubs, which are often faced with numerous internal problems and have relatively many problem groups, need more guidance. They present an important opportunity for an effective chain approach in the district. ‘Hooliganism’ will not completely disappear, but with the necessary precautions it can be reduced considerably.