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Desire to protect fans lead to football hooliganism

Washington D.C., [USA] June 23 :
The desire to protect and defend other fans is one of the main reasons behind the consistency of football hooliganism.

The Oxford University has confirmed it in a recent study.

Previous research has linked sports-related hooliganism to 'social maladjustment'.
The study which tracked 465 Brazilian fans and other hooligans, found that members of super-fan groups are not particularly dysfunctional outside of football and that football-related violence is more of an isolated behaviour.

Martha Newson, a lead researcher said, "Our study shows that hooliganism is not a random behaviour. Members of hooligan groups are not necessarily dysfunctional people outside of the football community; violent behaviour is almost entirely focused on those regarded as a threat- usually rival fans or sometimes the police."

"Being in a super fan group of people who care passionately about football instantly ups the ante and is a factor in football violence. Not only because these fans tend to be more committed to their group, but because they tend to experience the most threatening environments," she added.

Martha further said that although the study focused on a group of Brazilian fans, the findings could help in understanding the fan culture and non-sporting groups including religious and political extremists.

She pointed out that the psychology underlying the fighting groups among fans are likely a key part of human evolution, due to which it is essential for the groups to succeed against each other for resources like food, territory, and mates.

Although the research does not suggest that either reducing membership to extreme football super groups will necessarily prevent or stop football-related violence, the authors believe that there is potential for clubs to tap into super-fans' commitment in ways that could have positive effects.
The findings reinforce the research team's previous work to understand the role of identity fusion in extreme behaviour.

They also suggest that fighting extreme behaviour with extreme policing, such as the use of tear gas or military force, is likely counterproductive and will only trigger more violence, driving the most committed fans to step up and 'defend' their fellow fans.

Another researcher Harvey Whitehouse pointed out that fusion driven behaviours need to be identified as violence comes from a positive desire to 'protect' the group and understanding it might help to tap into this social bonding and use it for good.

The study appears in Evolution and Human Behavior journal.

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