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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.


Your reaction



I have seen English men urinating in the middle of hotel lobbies, too drunk to understand their actions

Bill Rodgers, USA
I work at a major casino here in Las Vegas, and we receive millions of visitors each year from foreign countries. I think it is a sad commentary that the young tourists who are noticeably the most rowdy, rude, and belligerent, without question come from England. The wildly inappropriate behaviour that fellow co-workers and I have witnessed are not a string of isolated incidents, but rather, consistently boorish behaviour whenever a group of young English men congregate together.

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.
Bill Rodgers, USA

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.
Adrian, UK



Every night I see hundreds of drunks come pouring out of the bars

Christopher M. Patton, Canada
I live in a community of 120,000 in Northern Ontario, and we also have a huge problem with alcohol and violence. While we don't have to deal with the problem in the form of large groups of drunks making trouble abroad, we do have the same trouble you describe at home. Not just on Friday nights, but every night I see hundreds of drunks come pouring out of the bars. Street fights are common. Stabbings and robberies are not unusual.

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.
Christopher M. Patton, Canada

Let's face it. The English just cannot take their drink.
Shu Pei Ng, Malaysia



I don't believe that Britain's men will ever change from being a society of louts until they learn to "live" with their families

Ken, Austria
Having lived in mainland Europe for many years, I have observed the different attitude towards drinking here. First of all, most alcohol is consumed at home and "Pubs" as such are not so well patronised. Not so many men go out to drink with "mates" and public violence is practically unknown. Visiting the UK occasionally, I never cease to be surprised at the "Bar crowding" by men, already showing signs of aggressive behaviour to anyone simply waiting for a drink. I don't believe that Britain's men will ever change from being a society of louts until they learn to "live" with their families.
Ken, Austria

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.
Raf, USA

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?
Karl Bentley, Belgium



Maybe medieval behaviour should be rewarded with medieval punishment

Robin, England
Maybe medieval behaviour should be rewarded with medieval punishment. The stocks for those identified on the Panorama special report on hooligans, for the duration (night and day regardless of the weather) of any of the next big tournaments. The label round their necks will read "English hooligan". Their diet will be bread and water! No objection will be made if bad tomatoes or eggs are thrown at them.
Robin, England

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.
Roy Chapman, UK/ Germany

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.
R. Court, UK

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.
William Lack, England

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.
Richard, London



We need the elite to take responsibility for their so-called good-natured manipulation of our culture.

Dolph, UK
It is very easy to judge and condemn the extremes and exaggerated evil within our society. Every day I witness the racism endemic to our society. Whether it be nationalistic slogans on the front page of a newspaper or the 'humorous' mutterings of your average Joe. We need the elite to take responsibility for their so-called good-natured manipulation of our culture.
Dolph, UK

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.
Rod McEwen, Scotland, UK

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.
Andy G, UK

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?)
Peter Williams, USA



Drinking and antisocial behaviour is more of a class thing than linked to nationality.

Anne Peck, England
In my opinion it is not just the English who have their embarrassments - other nations do too. Drinking and antisocial behaviour is more of a class thing than linked to nationality. As for the football, I firmly believe that the press are as much to blame for the trouble as anyone - for being provocative, for giving the hooligans any publicity whatsoever, and for mis-reporting the facts.
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.
We have lost faith in our monarchy and we have no empire. We are an isolated island with not too many friends. It is sad to think that these peoples way of demonstrating their Englishness and patriotism is to cling to the flag abuse and fight. It is a sad reflection on our society.
Mark Grant, United Kingdom

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.
Conal Presho, England



In my opinion the English hooligan problem stems from the old empirical attitude most English people still harbour.

Damien, Ireland
In my opinion the English hooligan problem stems from the old empirical attitude most English people still harbour. They live with the illusion that the British Empire is still alive and well and that all others are beneath them. It is time for the British people to come to terms with the fact that they are not a world power anymore, they are just an ordinary nation like any other.
Damien, Ireland

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.
Mako, Germany

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.
Jose, Netherlands



I'm surprised that you haven't yet blamed the USA for you acting like complete fools.

Tim N, USA
The English make me laugh. You behave like complete idiots and then try to blame everyone else. I'm surprised that you haven't yet blamed the USA for you acting like complete fools. Thanks for the laugh and keep that stiff upper lip!
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.
Moataz Abou-Eita, Cairo, Egypt



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

Tim Welch, England
I think it's high time the powers that be stopped pointing the finger exclusively at English fans. Granted we do seem to have our fair share of mindless thugs, but two English men died recently in Turkey and we've all seen footage of violence involving other nations during this tournament.

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.
Tim Welch, England

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.
Mike, UK

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.
TJ, UK



Play the matches behind closed doors - we are disgracing ourselves and ruining this tournament for many others

Tom, London, UK
Play the matches behind closed doors - we are disgracing ourselves and ruining this tournament for many others. Just allow people to watch the matches on TV from their own homes - this will stop the violence.
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.
Udo, Scotland

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.
Adam, England/Israel



These people should be totally humiliated. Lets turn them into the minorities that they themselves love to attack.

Paul Mullins, England
What ever the cause of the problem, the punishment should affect the liberty of people involved in such trouble. Stamping passports with the word 'THUG' would certainly make a point, as would 'RACIST'. The photo's, names and addresses of these yobs should be made more public. These people should be totally humiliated. Lets turn them into the minorities that they themselves love to attack.
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.
Sue, Germany

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.
Nick, The Netherlands

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.
Mark, Germany (UK citizen)



You only have to go to holiday resorts like Ibiza to see how rowdy young English men can be

John Darcy, UK
Every time England have played abroad, the fans have ashamed us to no end. The match in Dublin, the World Cup in France etc. etc. have all seen the ugly head of British Hooliganism. This awkward behaviour is seems to be due to up-bringing of these people and is a cultural problem. You only have to go to holiday resorts like Ibiza to see how rowdy young English men can be.
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).
So, now English fans are responsible for the violent thuggery of Turks as well as for their own conduct? Who ever heard such nonsense? And since when do you need to go to a "joyful party" armed with knives? What more evidence do you need of the double standards and anti-English racism that seems to be rife on the continent and within football?
Tony Bittan, England



It's fashionable to blame genetics and culture for undesirable behaviour these days

Paul Allen, Holland
Given that the England-Portugal match was notable for its lack of violence, the deportation of 800 English people (of which less than 2% were know trouble makers) says far more about the attitude of the Belgian police than it says about some obscure propensity of the English towards violence.
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 abolishment of "closing time" can not come soon enough. We should prosecute drunken behaviour more readily - penalise with community service. Remove passports from all known trouble makers. Reintroduce national service for hardcore repeat offenders.
Duncan, England

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!
Mike, USA



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
As an American living in London, I have long been shocked at how some English people do a Jekyll and Hyde after a few drinks.
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.
Robert Howard, UK



Alcohol of all types was readily available all weekend, yet there was no 'trouble'

John Harris, UK
I reject the idea that it is an "English" disease to create problems abroad through drunkenness. For instance, this last weekend an estimated 50,000 British fans attended the Le Mans 24 Hour Race. Alcohol of all types was readily available all weekend, yet there was no "trouble" and the Germans won!
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.
David Dodwell-Bennett, UK

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.
Doogie Brodie, Scotland

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?
JPS, Portugal



This heavy handed, blinkered policing is unnecessary and unacceptable

Alex S, UK
The footage on TV the night before the England v Germany game clearly showed armed Belgian riot police in full body armour blasting innocent diners with water cannon and dragging perfectly respectable, innocent football fans, by the hair to be sat on the street, handcuffed and imprisoned. This heavy handed, blinkered policing is unnecessary and unacceptable.
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".
James McIlwain, UK



The behaviour of even middle class fans in Frankfurt, where I watched the match, was appalling

Ed, UK
I have no sympathy for anyone deported after the violence. There was no need for trouble, we won. It is some sick element within the "worship" of football that will never be stamped out. The fact that innocent people were deported with those who did cause trouble is unfortunate, but not unreasonable given our track record. The behaviour of even middle class fans in Frankfurt, where I watched the match, was appalling. Jeering and ungentlemanly behaviour abounded. The German reaction? Nothing but congratulations and disappointment. Even the young people I met were more pensive than aggressive.
Ed, UK

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.
Douglas Young, UK



As is usually the case, mutual respect for all people should start with children at school, but for the people who cause this violence, they should lose their right to a passport

Colin, Netherlands
There does seems to be a number of English people who only want to get drunk, then fight. I don't understand their mentality, but drunken idiots have assaulted me many times in England. With the licensing laws "under debate", as the Government says, nothing will change there for years. As is usually the case, mutual respect for all people should start with children at school, but for the people who cause this violence, they should lose their right to a passport.
Colin, Netherlands

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!
Mark M. Newdick, USA/ UK

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.
Pete, USA (English)



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

Carol Noble, England
I do not condone football violence, but I think the UEFA authorities and the Belgian police were "racist" when UEFA threatened to ban the England football team from the competition, on the grounds of hooliganism and riots in the streets, but did not do the same to the Turkish team, when their fans caused even more damage last night.

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.
Carol Noble, England

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See also:

19 Jun 00 | Media reports
Europe condemns English hooligans
10 Apr 00 | UK Politics
Sweeping shake-up in pub laws
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