The video posted by The Guardian on February 17th shocked the whole Kingdom when it showed hooliganism had resurfaced again. Of course, in reality it had never fully disappeared.
Since the 1970s, due to growing economic and cultural insecurity, nationalist and racist groups have become more influential in public opinion, typically in football stadiums throughout the United Kingdom. As “fans” around the country received banning orders from their local clubs, many of them looked elsewhere to spread their violence, particularly in elite clubs, which provided more visibility. Thus, many began to follow Chelsea and its visible hooligan and racist contingents. The racist hooligan of English football was born.
Chelsea’s Headhunters was one of the first football hooligan groups and it is now said to have been the most violent group of the 1980s. Groups of hooligans were very influenced by politics and used the slogans of nationalist parties, such as the BNP or the NF. With monkey-like chanting and smoke, the Headhunters spread terror across the Kingdom.
Former Chelsea chairman Ken Bates said at the time that the National Front activists who handed out leaflets on Fulham Road used to wait for the game at the bar at Stamford Bridge: if the incoming squad was white, then they could buy their tickets. After Chelsea signed their first black player, the “fans” would throw bananas at him when he scored and claim the score was still 0-0 because there was a “nigga” on the score sheet.
Despite the efforts of the Football Association, and the club – specifically since Roman Abramovitch took control of the Chelsea Football Club – hooliganism remains a main issue for the club and continues to threaten the club’s international image. Even if the club has cleaned the stands of Stamford Bridge (as shown by the sullen atmosphere against PSG), it can’t get rid of this negative image, which the Paris incidents have highlighted.
During the last thirteen seasons of Premier League, the Football Association has identified no less than 28 racist incidents at Stamford Bridge, 5 exclusively during the2012/2013 season. Moreover, everyone remembers the case of John Terry (who was suspended for 4 games for uttering racist insults against Anton Ferdinand) or that of the club’s gardener accused of insulting Patrice Evra.
Gary Gable, an antiracist activist, explains the current atmosphere by the fact that the former EDL (English Defence League), an utterly racist squad, was split into several small groups which still hold sway in the stadiums, especially at Millwall, regarded as the most violent club in the Kingdom, and at Chelsea. But, the general anti-immigrant climate in Europe could also be regarded as a key factor. Indeed, among the supporters involved in the Paris metro event, one is a City banker who is very close to UKIP, the anti-immigration party. Furthermore, many British National Party activists across the country worship Chelsea FC not for its sporting results but for its “glorious” past in hooliganism. The violent incidents in English stadiums are likely to continue and further deteriorate the image of English football clubs.
Be that as it may, the PSG supporters, after the qualification of their team, have not hesitated to exploit the February 17 video and mock the mistake of one of its players.
Pierre LE MARQUAND & Thomas MACIAZEK