chapter  4
Football hooliganism and the working class before the First World War
Pages 17

To say this is not to claim that spectator disorderliness at football in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was identical to the football hooliganism of today. For example, despite our suspicions regarding the existence of a 'dark figure' of disorderly occurrences deep inside large densely-packed crowds and outside grounds, it is probably the case that the majority of incidents in that period did take the form of attacks on referees and players of the opposing team; that is, the appearance that this was the case is probably not simply an artefact of the data. Attacks against such targets are perhaps unsurprising in a mainly working-class leisure activity at a stage in the development of British society when local identifications tended to be stronger than is, for the most part, the case today. Such attacks would also have been more likely in a society where opportunities for travel were limited by economic constraints and the comparatively rudimentary state of the transport system. Strong local identifications, reinforced by the fact that a Saturday afternoon at the match was, for the working people who attended, a major leisure outlet, contributed to attacks on referees and opposing players. This was especially the case where the actions of the latter - the match officials as well as the players - were construed as unfairly impeding the achievement of victory by the side in which they had invested so much hope. The focus on these targets would have been intensified by the fact that travel to away matches at higher levels of the game was, for most fans, not a regular, fortnightly affair but limited to important Cup-ties, local Derbies and the occasional annual outing. As a result, away fans simply did not attend matches with sufficient regularity for fighting between groups support-

ing the different teams to attain the degree of - albeit informal - institutionalization that it has attained today.