Does the media depict fans in a negative Way?

Football fans, as with many other working-class subcultures and subgroups, have battled unfair media representations for decades.

Does the Media Generally Depict Football Fans in a Negative Way?


Such is the prevalence of football to culture in the United Kingdom, escaping media coverage of the beautiful game is near impossible. With journalists reporting on every game, TV broadcasters capturing footage, and fans recording clips to post on social media, even those with no association with the sport are likely to have a strong understanding and awareness of what football culture represents to the people of the United Kingdom.


It is rare, if not entirely unique, for a singular cultural or sporting entity to have such a profound impact on the way a country views themselves. The influence football has on the identity of an individual, a community, or a team in the United Kingdom cannot be understated. When a struggling lower-league team makes an unlikely promotion charge or goes on a giant-killing cup run, football can unite communities and create magical shared experiences of ecstasy among friends and families, building a sense of belonging for those with limited social opportunities or representation.


As we enter an increasingly secular society, with numbers of worshipers visiting religious establishments at the weekend dwindling, attending the local football stadium in the middle of a community represents perhaps it’s closest possible replacement. Rather than God’s in the sky, supporters worship their football heroes on the pitch, living in the hope that one day they can produce a miracle title-winning season and create memories with their peers that last a lifetime.


So why, given football’s clearly identifiable benefits and contributions to enriching local communities, are supporters sometimes demonised, scapegoated, and belittled by national media?


A History of Poor Media Representations


Football fans, as with many other working-class subcultures and subgroups, have battled unfair media representations for decades. ‘Hooligans’ was a term first used in the late 1960s to sensationally characterise football fans as dangerous to wider society and culture at large.


In the following years, hysterical headlines, emotive language and evocative imagery all contributed towards framing football fans as ‘drunken, tattooed, crop-headed oafs’, as the Sunday Mirror described them.


Undeniably, violence on the terraces of United Kingdom football grounds in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s had some prominence. A cultural phenomenon labelled by those in Europe as ‘the English disease’ saw years of violence, criminal damage, and threatening behaviour on our terraces, eventually resulting in a ban from European competitions for English clubs.


However, as bad as this was, the media utilised it to create moral panics around football fans and scapegoat groups for tragedies they played no part in producing. Most notably, the Hillsborough disaster in 1989 saw The Sun newspaper untruthfully claim Liverpool supporters contributed towards the death of 97 of their own fans. It took until 2016 for Liverpool fans to receive justice and acknowledgement that they played no part in the tragedies that occurred that day.


Today’s Suspicion of Football Supporters


In the years since Hillsborough, the landscape of supporter culture in the United Kingdom has changed dramatically. The introduction of the Premier League, all-seater stadiums, and changes in wider social attitudes have seen a great decline in the prevalence of violence in and around football stadiums.


While instances of violence do still occur, it can often be attributed to the large congregation of people rather than a football-specific problem. Yet, bizarrely, the media still often describes football fans with the same limited representations attributed to them in the 1980s.


As a result of the constant moral panics, scaremongering, and government legislation, football fans are still treated with aggressive policing, and general mistrust today. For example, in all other professional sports in the United Kingdom alcohol can be consumed in sight of the pitch, football fans aren’t granted with the same luxury.


It makes you question; are football fans more dangerous and likely to incite violence that followers of sports such as rugby and cricket or is the mistrust and beliefs around the behaviour of football fans as a result of limited media representations and general classist attitudes in the United Kingdom?