ABSTRACT

Several groups surrounding the football industry – including clubs, police o cials, the press and the state – created a moral outcry about the increasing outbreaks of violence among working-class youths. ough some scholars have noted the development of a moral panic in football, especially as articulated within the popular press, this chapter aims to analyse the construction of this moral panic and contextualize it within the political and social context of the late 1960s and 1970s.1 While press discourse certainly contributed to the sensationalization of football violence, this cultural crisis cannot be understood without attention to the leading role of political rhetoric from moral entrepreneurs and police agents who powerfully engaged the public and used football disorder to displace anxiety from the material to the cultural realm. Certainly, supporters instigated, organized and carried out violent activities, forcing political authorities to act. Public and political fears of football violence were not unfounded. Yet, given their inability to prevent the phenomenon or e ect improvement in British society and the football industry in material terms, politicians instead used the occasion to address propriety and perceived national decline. e moral reactions against football disorder provided opportunities for British politicians from both parties to rede ne and maintain ideas of nationhood, acceptable working-class conduct and suitable masculine behaviour. eir political arguments displaced responsibility for poverty and unemployment through the revival of Victorian discourses. Further, I suggest that the panic over football violence cannot be removed from the other cultural dynamics within British society, including concerns about lawlessness, moral degeneration, and the national ethos, in a time of economic struggle for working-class men and women.