If there is a cure for fan violence in the sport of soccer, it has yet to have been found.
On Sunday, September 23, 2018, an Indonesian soccer fan was killed by a group of rival fans prior to a match between Persib Bandung and Persija Jakarta of Indonesia’s top division. The 23 year old man was beaten outside of the stadium prior to the match, resulting in approximately 16 arrests of Persib Bandung supporters.
According to Channel News Asia’s article which broke the story, this was the seventh death of a fan in relation to matches between the two clubs since 2012, and the 70th Indonesian fan death in relation to soccer fan violence since 1994.
Less than one month after the tragic event in Indonesia, another instance of fan violence occurred, this time in the Greek SuperLeague. On October 7, it was announced that club AEK Athens would be penalized for a violent outburst by a fan, resulting in a three-point deduction in the league standings and an $85 000 fine.
Soccer fan violence, often known as ‘hooliganism’, has been an unfortunate part of the sport since it’s beginnings. Historically rooted in disputes over differences in religion, race, geographic location, and social class, sociologists continue to search for answers in terms of preventing fan violence from occurring.
As described by Stott, Hoggett, and Peasron in their work “‘Keeping the Peace’“, there are many measures being taken to discourage violence amongst fans, yet it still occurs frequently. Some steps being taken today and solutions being studied and tested include the increased level of stadium policing, separation of opposing fan seating, and codes of conduct being adopted and encouraged by clubs and their players.
With strides being made by sociologists, and soccer clubs and organizations, to find ways to discourage fans from engaging in violent behaviour, we can continue to wonder when tragic events such as those previously mentioned will stop occurring, or if they ever will. As more violent behaviour occurs at soccer matches and in relation to them, the sport’s reputation as “the beautiful game”, at least off the pitch, becomes decreasingly accurate.