chapter  2
The football fever (1)
Pages 22

Soccer as we know it in Britain today thus evolved into something closely approximating its present form in the comparatively short space of thirty or forty years. Who were the people who attended matches in that period and what sorts of backgrounds did they come from? Were they exclusively working class, or did members of the higher social strata continue to attend'? Did women, children and adolescents go to matches and not just adult males? How was the growth of football as a spectator sport perceived by interested parties? Was it largely a peaceful process or was it contested and hence to a degree marked by tension and conflict? Above all, how, according to contemporary reports, did spectators in the late Victorian and Edwardian periods behave, and how reliable are these reports as indicators of what actually went on? And what were the 'causes' of such disorders as were reported? Were they solely or mainly connected with the 'teething troubles' of a newly-evolving professional sport? These are the sorts of issues that we shall address in this and the two subsequent chapters. We shall start by summarizing what is currently known about the size and social composition of football crowds before the First World War.