A few days ago I left a slightly over the top and unnecessarily aggressive comment at the bottom of an article about men and football. If you like you can read it here. If the author of that article is reading this – I am sorry, I didn’t mean to be a complete prick.
The reason I got so hot under the collar was because I felt this article played into an on-going problem – the discrimination of the football fan. Despite what some would have you believe, we are not all knuckle dragging Neanderthals unable to control our emotions.
Let me illustrate the problem. Think of football fans abroad and you see in your mind’s eye beer swilling sun burnt blokes with their shirts off starting fights. There is of course an element of truth in this image (as there can be with some negative stereotypes). Last year 14 British football fans were arrested whilst travelling abroad to watch football. This however was out of 60,000 who made the various trips abroad to watch their team. That is one in every 4,285 fans travelling abroad.
When we look domestically, these figures become even smaller – just one in every 12,249 fans viewing domestic football matches were arrested last season. Around 70% of all football matches saw no arrests what so ever. This however does not stop people labelling all football fans with the same negative perceptions.
What is more worrying is the eagerness in which the liberal establishment revels in this prejudice. When racists try to correlate violent crime figures around ethnic minorities to ‘an inherent aggressiveness’ there is an army of Guardian readers and bloggers to point out the absurd nature of this assertion. When someone suggests that ‘football fans are all hooligans’ because some football fans are violent everyone nods and jeers. There is an entire swathe of the middle-classes that would rightly condemn racism but openly contribute to the building hatred and misconception of the football fan.
As a football fan I am banned from many pubs (I have to come back in a few hours dressed in my respectable civilian clothes), I am openly legislated against (we can trust music fans to stand up at concerts but not football fans at matches, we can trust rugby fans to enjoy a beer pitch side but not football fans etc) and I face a barrage of low level discrimination on a day to day basis.
I will concede that the consequences of this prejudice and discrimination are less severe than say racism or homophobia – it is however still a form of discrimination that I would like our society to be rid of. Equally, the more prevalent these stereotypes become the more it becomes self fulfilling with a minority of fans who do perhaps fulfil one or more of these negative attributes.
We need to ensure all discriminatory laws which apply to football fans, and no other group in society, are changed without delay. We also however need to start standing up for ourselves and pointing out the massive institutionalised hypocrisy around football fans. I am sorry to rant, but I am a football fan and I am not violent, aggressive, racist, homophobic, anti-semitic, topless, drunk, tribal, narrow minded, inclined to sleep with my friends wives or any other crazy assertion anyone may have about football fans. Anyone who suggests that I am because I enjoy watching football is playing into a nasty prejudice and perpetuating a very real problem that needs to be addressed.