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Youth and Hooliganism in Sports Events


This new OSCE-publication covers the problem of youth and football violence in Serbia. It's making was supported by the Police Academy and the Interior Ministry of Serbia. It is based on a survey conducted in 25 secondary schools throughout Serbia on a sample of 3662 pupils. The survey addressed issues of football hooliganism, awareness of young people, involvement in fan groups, delinquent behaviour, alcohol and drugs abuse, and linkages to racism.


Violence and supporters’ behaviour at sports events in the region have been subject to innumerable newspaper articles, TV reports, including several sociological studies. Despite this, public hunger for information about extreme supporters and their behaviour (considered provocative by the public) and numerous explanations of the phenomenon are certainly not definitive. Each new fan incident only further amplifies the interest in this matter and replicates attempts to finally answer numerous intriguing questions raised in this regard.

Over the past years, the Republic of Serbia has doubtless faced hooliganism at sports events. This phenomenon is developing both in qualitative and quantitative terms, and will persist in future as well. In addition to poor quality of the game and the visibly lower standard of living, the fact that fan incidents have become much more frequent and serious has also affected the diminished interest in sports and dissuaded many fans from visiting sports arenas. In contrast, it seems at first sight that the crisis of the sports public has affected the least the grandstands reserved for extreme fans. Some young people, who otherwise would not be directly interested in watching matches, consider the behaviour of extreme fan groups attractive and exciting. It is exactly such behaviour that attracts them to sports premises. All this has brought about the formation of an aggressive subculture of violent fan groups and constant provocation of incidents as the arrival at a sports event is not motivated by club support, but by the desire to manifest violence and vent negative emotions.

Solving the problem of hooliganism at sports events is not an easy and simple task. Hooliganism at sports events may be reduced to a socially acceptable degree with the implementation of quality security assessments of the risk of incidents, by monitoring extreme fans and pre-empting their intentions, isolating them, performing efficient intervention, and by ensuring coordinated cooperation among government authorities, sports organisations and clubs, educational institutions and the media. In tackling violence at sports events, repressive measures should not be entirely disregarded, on the contrary. However, a proactive police approach and preventive measures should be given priority. Such an approach enables mingling of different, opposing fan groups, and need not result in conflicts and violence. Namely, fans may together support their favourite club and establish good, or at least satisfactory mutual relations.

According to results obtained in empirical research, Serbia faces a serious problem of hooliganism at sports events. What is also alarming is that a significant percentage of young people (14.7%) join organised fan groups that initiate hooligan behaviour. A better situation in the field may not be expected in the coming period with the repressive approach applied towards young people in Serbia so far. Therefore, preventive programmes should be designed, offering young persons an exit from the current situation. Some of these programmes were discussed in the previous chapters, but the question is posed as to the age of persons that these programmes should be targeted at. Research has shown that the number of secondary school students in fan groups increases in the first and second grades, and declines in more senior grades. This is an important fact as it indicates the opportune time for launching programmes aimed at preempting violence at sports events. Another highly important fact is that the male population joins fan groups to a larger extent, which should be taken into account in planning these programmes. Of course, these are general facts, but to ensure their success, each preventive programme should account for all specificities of the environment, school, club, age and other characteristics of individuals involved.