Football confronts its Clockwork Orange tendency

Football violence

Football violence


Updated [Jan 2011] to link with the story of Andy Gray’s dismissal by Sky Sports for inappropriate behaviours.

Original Post

In Coleraine, in Northern Ireland , a mob of so-called football supporters beat up and murder a community worker in an unprovoked attack. In Rome, a city braces itself for violence in advance of the UEFA Champions League cup-final. Football’s Clockwork Orange Tendency persists

One week. Three events. An artistic treatment of football hooliganism. A sectarian murder. A city-wide ban on drinking during the period in which thousands of fans of Manchester United and Barcelona arrive in Rome for what has been described as the dream final to Europe’s premier football competition. Is it simplistic to link the three through the theme of football violence?

A Sectarian Murder

In Northern Ireland, Kevin McDaid’s violent death [Sunday May 24th 2009] was described by the police as a sectarian murder.. Mr McDaid was a social worker known for his commitment to reconciliation among the catholic and protestant communities. The mob of youths appear to have been watching and then celebrating Glasgow Rangers’ triumph as Scotland’s Premier League.

The Film

Awaydays which premiered this week [May 22nd 2009] is a film centring on Liverpool and its football culture.

The film was praised by critic Frank Mark Kermode [BBC Five Live] who considered that other commentators had wrongly considered it primarily as an account of working-class deprivation and football hooliganism. He pointed to the film’s ‘homo-erotic relationship’ between the two youthful protagonists. I couldn’t help thinking of the influence of the violently creative Clockwork Orange.

The Champions Cup Final

In Rome, in advance of the Champions’ league cup-final, [Wed May 27th 2009] the city police anticipated a repeat of the violence that has accompanied recent international matches including a recent bloody affair at a game involving Manchester United.

The final has been billed as the dream match between Manchester United, and Barcelona, the champions of the English and Spanish premier leagues, and clubs famed for their commitment to imaginative and attacking football. The travelling fans of the clubs are not considered to be particularly noted for their violence although from time to time there have been problems internationally, and Rome would be a potential hotspot for a continuation of earlier troubles.

The Clockwork Orange tendency

Is there an inherent streak of violence permeating football culture? Surely it was co-incidence that Glasgow Rangers so-called fans were as involved (at least by association) with the brutal subsequent sectarian murder, and in events that turned violent in Manchester after an important international cup-match some while ago? LWD reported on those because of the coincidence of space. I happened to be a bystander who witnessed some of the scenes.

And so we construct our story. Football provides a ritualised set of opportunities through which testosterone and alcoholfuelled young men direct their aggression towards symbols of their resentment, be they standing as representing authority systems, temporary enemies from an opposing club, or representing more permanent enemies from differing religious groups.

And if that makes sense, you arrive at the conclusion that The Clockwork Orange tendency is deeply instilled in football culture.


“Football provides a ritualised set of opportunities through which testosterone and alcohol fuelled young men direct their aggression towards symbols of their resentment”. Much later, [January 2011], LWD reported on a case in which not-so-young men directed their aggression towards symbols of their resentment (women referees).

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