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Monday, 26 June, 2000, 08:49 GMT 09:49 UK
Drink and violence: An English problem?
The violent behaviour of drunk English football hooligans at the Euro 2000 tournament has been dubbed the "English disease".
It's a problem that extends beyond football - English tourists are renowned for making a nuisance of themselves abroad.
Yet it happens at home as well - practically every town across the country suffers from drunk and disorderly punters spilling out onto the streets at closing time on a Friday night, getting into fights and causing trouble.
UK Home Secretary, Jack Straw says, "there's a social and cultural problem in this country to do with alcohol-related violence".
But is the problem really unique to English culture? Are we a nation of drunken thugs, or does the media just focus on the badly behaved minority? Would more relaxed licensing laws make a difference to people's drinking habits?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Across the board, there is no other nationality that gives the casinos this sort of trouble. We can tolerate a group of men singing soccer songs in the streets at four in the morning. Other, more childlike behaviour is unacceptable. I have seen English men urinating in the middle of hotel lobbies, too drunk to understand their actions. Groping cocktail waitresses or dressing down minorities, especially the Hispanics who work here seem to be par for the course. The US media has led this nation to believe that the British are more civilised than we are. Experience has proven otherwise.
The reason why most hooligans in Europe are from England is because we have the toughest drinking regulations in the EU. When English football fans travel abroad they are not used to the relaxed drinking laws, therefore they take advantage of it and go crazy. America is having the same problem - recently there was drunken violence on the streets after an LA Lakers victory. The Americans have even tougher drinking laws then we do. I say follow the European's by relaxing the drinking laws, that would really cut down in hooliganism.
Unlike you though, our officials have decided the problem doesn't really exist. I work as a taxi driver, so I see all of this. When a major newspaper study named our city, Thunder Bay, Ontario, as the most violent in Canada, our Mayor decided action had to be taken. He called the newspaper in question and threatened to sue if they did not print a retraction. In the meantime, the booze still flows and the violence keeps happening.
Let's face it. The English just cannot take their drink.
Here's a sure-fire way of promoting viewership of Euro football in America. After the official match, herd all the hooligans into the arena and let them go at it on live television.
Having seen Dutch, German and other so-called peaceful nationals, smash up bars and railway coaches on their way to and from football matches, why is it only the English who get highlighted on TV? Where were the cameras and condemnation when Turkish and local hooligans rioted through Brussels the other night?
We are programmed from a very early age to hit the pub at 1900 and sup 8 pints until we are kicked out at 2300. Then we hit the curry house / kebab shop and go home. We go abroad and hit the pubs at 1900 drink our 8 pints at 2300 and don't get kicked out so carry on drinking at 2 pints an hour. Is there any wonder the English have problems?
They have more sensible licensing laws in Scotland and, surprise surprise, the Scots manage to get just as drunk without the violence.
The answer ? Scrap licensing laws.
I must admit that I'm quite surprised that no one has suggested a possible link between the recent upsurge in violence (i.e. UEFA Cup and Euro 2000) with the movie "Fight Club". Although the film was essentially a film noir, I imagine it may have quite a strong effect on the less strong-minded individual.
The main problem is that football fans can't hold their alcohol. Go to a rugby international or in fact any rugby game and there is no segregation, no ban on alcohol. Many of the spectators will have drunk heavily but win or lose, you enjoy the game with other people who also love the game.
The attitudes displayed by our hooligans in France are not too far from those of, for example, the Euro-sceptic branch of the Tory party or The Sun newspaper. They take those a step further and are rightfully condemned for it. Britain as a whole needs to grow up and discard these outdated xenophobic attitudes. The same people who condemn the hooligans of today are breeding the hooligans of tomorrow.
It seems now that some people on the continent seem happy to blame 'British fans' for all the trouble even though there were no Scots, Welsh or Irish at the tournament. One comment by a German politician suggests that all British people should not be allowed to travel to the continent while a football tournament is on. Where do they get these insane Ideas'? If anything exclude England from all sporting tournaments until it is certain they can behave themselves.
The British disease is primarily caught by cowardly, beer-gutted and heavily tattooed mindless scum. These trash think they're 'hard', however, how many of them have fought in real wars for this country? They pick only on those who they believe they can intimidate.
What happens when Wales or Scotland or Ireland plays abroad, do the fans riot? Why not put aside these petty national differences and have a British team anyway, then the likes of Ryan Giggs and others from different countries can show the world what British football is capable of. Other countries don't split up their teams, USA certainly doesn't field different States. So isn't it time for a team to represent Britain (would be fans be better behaved?)
Anne Peck, England
I think the Thatcher years have dehumanised the people at the bottom of the barrel in England. She was responsible for promoting our hatred of Europe and patriotism to stand against everything un-British and fight.
Football hooliganism is not an 'English Disease' rather it is a symptom of problems which affects this country and other nations, such as the USA. We no longer have any socially cohesive moral values, young people are not encouraged to educate themselves, but to grasp after material possessions, and short term thrill seeking.
They are human beings, just uneducated and uninspired human beings.
To blame the pubs' closing times for the outrageous behaviour of certain English specimens is really looking for excuses.
If I may quote an English friend of mine working in Germany. She recently said "It's wonderful going out with friends in Germany and enjoy a beer. Back home people don't drink, they guzzle. And on Monday morning the boast about how many pints the downed in one sitting!"
Makes one think doesn't it.
After watching Panorama yesterday I am frankly happy that England is out of the tournament. Hopefully UEFA saw that documentary as well and will decide to ban England for 5 or 10 years of all international football. "But it was just a small minority", people will say. Well if you lot can't keep your thugs in England; all of you should stay home.
Tim N, USA
I think the problem is because of relaxed drinking laws in Britain. Here in the US sports like baseball and football is marketed to families, in England soccer it is marketed to hooligans aged around late teens/early twenties! I also believe that the legal drinking age in the UK should be risen from 18 to 21. Since that law took affect here in the USA, most bars have become more civilised and binge drinking has decreased dramatically! Steve C, USA
I'm sorry to say it, but the English hooligans misbehaved and the Belgians were forced to treat them this way. The hooligans were not seen as English tourists but as English terrorists. They were a disgrace to the English people.
Maybe it's just me but I don't remember anywhere near as much violence during Euro '96 or the World Cup just two years ago. Perhaps the world has changed since then or perhaps the authorities during this event are either totally ineffective or totally over the top.
Real men don't get drunk. Too many of our cultural icons hold the view that the only way to celebrate anything is to get totally incapable. We need to grow up.
The main problem for the violence stems from the lack of law and order in our cities. Young, white males know they can act drunk and disorderly in the street, without much police interference. It is a habit so ingrained that it now passes for normal behaviour. Some English towns are now so dangerous, that from 10pm to 2am, they are effectively out of bounds.
Tom, London, UK
As a German national living in this country for some seven years now, I feel that it is not so much English society to blame but rather the somewhat outdated licensing laws.
I have to say that the majority of English and Scottish people have always been most polite and courteous towards me. I therefore, cannot see a general tendency towards disorderly behaviour and hooliganism as is often portrayed in the media.
I believe that the reason lies in the simple fact that if you throw a bunch of drunken, or shall we say intoxicated, individuals out together against their will at 11pm, the potential for violence is significantly higher.
The English have a problem when it comes to excessive drinking! They just can't handle it and they are brought up with this I'm hard attitude that is totally wrong...Ban the English from travelling anywhere outside the UK I say! They never win anyway.
Paul Mullins, England
This problem is not only English. There are English hooligans, German hooligans, Turkish hooligans, etc. No, this problem is universal and is due mainly to poor upbringing. These are people who have never learnt how to exercise self-control and cannot control their anger.
It is a sad reflection that most people here on the continent will be delighted that England have been knocked out not because they feared their team might lose to England but because of the violence seen on the streets of their own home towns. Just how many more events do England expect to be invited to participate in before other countries say enough is enough - we don't want your followers here. The reputation of British (not just English) people will be tarnished because of the disgusting behaviour of a minority. Take their passports and right to travel away from them.
Heavy drinking leading to violence is a cultural thing and is not
just men who get violent, I have seen women fighting just as hard.
It seems that many young and old go out Friday night blow all their
cash on drinking binges and end it all with a good old fight. I have heard
work colleagues bragging about it , sporting their black eyes. It's not just
cities that have the problem, in my home village there is a heavy police
presence required every weekend. The root cause? Frustration over lack of jobs,
expensive living in the UK , bad quality of life, bad relationships you name it.
I think we take ourselves to seriously and hence don't need an excuse for a fight.
John Darcy, UK
Turkish fans go on the rampage. 18 are charged with violence and possession of knives. But - it was just a "joyful party that got out of hand" (Uefa executive), and the Turks felt "psychologically attacked by English hooligans" (Belgian mayor).
It's fashionable to blame genetics and culture for undesirable behaviour these days. It makes about as much sense as blaming the weather, or radiation from mobile phones, or the current astrological alignments. It's simply a way of letting people of the hook for the consequences of their actions.
Paul Allen, British, living in Holland
The drinking culture in the UK has a lot to do with the way that certain mindless sheep behave. Getting stuck in a large round, not quitting when you know you should, buying two drinks at last orders instead of none. Everything is geared towards getting drunk rather than having a few drinks and enjoying the company.
The "violence" is not an English problem ... rather it's a product of poorly educated, poorly trained individuals that live their lives on the level of animals. Consider the roving thugs in NYC's Central Park or the fools that prefer to burn LA when the LA Lakers win a basketball game. I maintain that every single one of them has never accomplished a single thing!
I think that to look at the reason why they veer to the extreme of turning into violent monsters you have to look at the other extreme. In their whole upbringing at school and at work they are put into a straight-jacketed conformity which any one else would rebel against constructively.
They work too hard, are about the last people in the world who still wear ties, go to single sex schools which cripples them sexually for life, and generally have miserable lives. No wonder they drink heavily!
Nick G, USA/UK
I believe strongly that the closing time of pubs encourages binge drinking. You want to have a good evening out, but the time factor is always present in your mind. If the pubs closed later then I believe the atmosphere and the drinking would be much more relaxed. People could disperse all evening as opposed to all pubs kicking out a large number of people into a relatively small space such as a town centre.
John Harris, UK
Whilst accepting that the behaviour of a minority of fans was utterly disgusting, I have been finding out first hand just what the Belgian police were like. We know of two people who were sitting in a cafe nowhere near any of the trouble when riot police came in and arrested them, confiscating their (legal) tickets.
When they asked what they had done and why they were being arrested, they were simply told (with a smile apparently) that they were English. I suspect that this was not an isolated incident either. When I was out in Eindhoven/ Amsterdam for the opening weekend, we all got on very well with the locals and the police. I cannot see how such a massive change in behaviour is purely down to the English.
I love to hear of the football violence caused by English fans abroad, as it is the only chance we have of banning this ridiculous sport. I am sick to death of the whole culture around this nonsense, and if enough people kill one another, perhaps the Government will do something about it.
The Belgian police were quite justified in arresting all the people they did. Faced with a mob of drunken "tourists" it was perfectly sensible to round up as many as they could and hope to catch as many "bad apples" as possible. How do you distinguish a hooligan from another drunken fan once the violence has ended for that day?
Alex S, UK
In future all football completions should state that any team will be automatically disqualified if there is any violence before or after the match by their supporters.
Then we shall see who the "fans" are and who are mature enough not to be "provoked".
The media, and in particular the tabloid press, has incited such a xenophobic attitude among these people, who obviously rely on others for their brain cells, that they are already whipped into a frenzy before a drop of alcohol is involved. Face it - any decent, law-abiding football fan would not be out on the streets in a gang, in the middle of the night, and anyone who was amongst that lot, "innocent" or otherwise, deserved everything they got.
As I sit here ready to write a missive agreeing that UK drinking laws contribute to the outrageous behaviour of Brits overseas, the TV in the background is reporting a riot here in the US over a Lakers' game! Perhaps Youth + Alcohol + "Tribal" Sporting Event = Potential Trouble!
I agree with Carol Noble's comments. England were applauded for their behaviour in Eindhoven by the Dutch police.
All of a sudden the English are the scourge of Europe. England fans are always blamed for trouble yet the Belgians, Germans and most recently the Turks, have all been seen rioting.
The Dutch police were friendly but firm. The Belgian police just out and out antagonised the English. That is something you just don't do without expecting a response.
The Belgian Police admit they arrested and deported innocent English people along with the "hooligans". This can only be because they suspected everyone arrested of being English, not because they were guilty of committing a crime. I would suggest that all the innocent people who were arrested should go to the European Court of Human Rights and accuse the Belgians of being racist against the English. It would be better if the English media and politicians found out all, I repeat, ALL, of the facts before assuming the English are automatically to blame.
19 Jun 00 | Media reports
Europe condemns English hooligans
10 Apr 00 | UK Politics
Sweeping shake-up in pub laws
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