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"Hooligan" redirects here. For other uses, see Hooligan (disambiguation).
For hooliganism in the context of soccer, see Football hooliganism.
Hooligans at an association football match of Spartak Moscow in November 2010

Hooliganism is disruptive or unlawful behavior such as rioting, bullying, and vandalism.


There are several theories regarding the origin of the word hooliganism, which is a derivative of the word hooligan. The Compact Oxford English Dictionary states that the word may have originated from the surname of a fictional rowdy Irish family in a music hall song of the 1890s.[1][2] Clarence Rook, in his 1899 book, Hooligan Nights, wrote that the word came from Patrick Hoolihan (or Hooligan), an Irish bouncer and thief who lived in London. In 2015, it was said in the BBC Scotland TV programme The Secret Life of Midges[3] that the English commander-in-chief during the Jacobite rising of 1745, General Wade, misheard the local Scots Gaelic word for midgemeanbh-chuileag—and coined the word hooligan to describe his fury and frustration at the way the tiny biting creatures made the life of his soldiers and himself a misery; this derivation may be apocryphal.

Early usage[edit]

The first use of the term is unknown, but the word first appeared in print in London police-court reports in 1894 referring to the name of a gang of youths in the Lambeth area of London—the Hooligan Boys,[4] and later—the O'Hooligan Boys.[5]

In August 1898 a murder in Lambeth committed by a member of the gang drew further attention to the word which was immediately popularised by the press.[6] The London newspaper The Daily Graphic wrote in an article on 22 August 1898, "The avalanche of brutality which, under the name of 'Hooliganism' ... has cast such a dire slur on the social records of South London."[2][7]

Arthur Conan Doyle wrote in his 1904 short story "The Adventure of the Six Napoleons", "It seemed to be one of those senseless acts of Hooliganism which occur from time to time, and it was reported to the constable on the beat as such." H. G. Wells wrote in his 1909 semi-autobiographical novel Tono-Bungay, "Three energetic young men of the hooligan type, in neck-wraps and caps, were packing wooden cases with papered-up bottles, amidst much straw and confusion."[7]

According to Life magazine (30 July 1941), the comic strip artist and political cartoonist Frederick Burr Opper introduced a character called Happy Hooligan in 1900; "hapless Happy appeared regularly in U.S. newspapers for more than 30 years," a "naive, skinny, baboon-faced tramp who invariably wore a tomato can for a hat." Life brought this up by way of criticizing the Soviet U.N. delegate Yakov A. Malik for misusing the word. Malik had indignantly referred to anti-Soviet demonstrators in New York as "hooligans". Happy Hooligan, Life reminded its readers, "became a national hero, not by making trouble, which Mr. Malik understands is the function of a hooligan, but by getting himself into it."

Modern usage[edit]

Later, as the meaning of the word shifted slightly, none of the possible alternatives had precisely the same undertones of a person, usually young, who belongs to an informal group and commits acts of vandalism or criminal damage, starts fights, and who causes disturbances but is not a thief.[7]

Violence in sports[edit]

The word hooliganism and hooligan began to be associated with violence in sports, in particular from the 1970s in the UK with football hooliganism. The phenomenon, however, long preceded the modern term; for example, one of the earliest known instances of crowd violence at a sporting event took place in ancient Constantinople. Two chariot racing factions, the Blues and the Greens, were involved in the Nika riots which lasted around a week in 532 CE; nearly half the city was burned or destroyed, in addition to tens of thousands of deaths.[8]

Sports crowd violence continues to be a worldwide concerning phenomenon exacting at times an inexcusable number of injuries, damage to property and casualties. No single account on its own can be used to understand or explain sports collective violence. Rather, individual, social and environmental factors interact and influence one another through a dynamic process occurring at different levels. Furthermore, any form of sport fan aggression should always be considered in reference to the wider social-structural and environmental context in which it takes place. Macro-sociological accounts suggest that structural strains, experiences of deprivation or a low socio-economic background can at times be instrumental to the acceptance and reproduction of norms that tolerate great levels of violence and territoriality, which is a common feature of football hooliganism.[9] Furthermore, social cleavages within societies facilitate the development of strong in-groups bonds and intense feelings of antagonism towards outsiders which in turn can facilitate group identification and affect the likelihood of fan violence.[9]

In the Soviet Union and Russia[edit]

Pussy Riot Performing at Lobnoye Mesto in Red Square, on 20 January 2012

In the Soviet Union the word khuligan was used to refer to scofflaws. Hooliganism (rus. Хулига́нство) was listed as a criminal offense, similar to disorderly conduct in some other jurisdictions, and used as a catch-all charge for prosecuting unapproved behavior.[2][10] Hooliganism is defined generally in the Criminal Code of Russia as an average gravity crime.[11]

Olympic medalist Vasiliy Khmelevskiy was convicted of hooliganism for setting a masqueraded[clarification needed] person on fire during a celebration in 1979 and sentenced to five years imprisonment.[12] Matthias Rust was convicted of hooliganism, among other things, for his 1987 Cessna landing in Red Square. More recently, the same charge has been leveled against members of the feminist punk group Pussy Riot for which three members have each received a two-year sentence on 17 August 2012. Hooliganism charges have also been levelled against the Greenpeace protestors in October 2013.[13]

Hooliganism in American Sports[edit]

  • On June 4, 1974, Ten Cent Beer Night occurred at Cleveland Municipal Stadium in Cleveland. Intoxicated Cleveland hooligans jumped onto the field and attacked Texas Rangers outfielder Jeff Burroughs with the score tied 5-5 in the ninth inning. This led to a riot in which the drunken and rowdy hooligans—armed with an array of debris including chunks of the stadium seating—brawled with players from both teams as well as with staff members. The umpires forfeited the game to Texas.[14]
  • On July 12, 1979, Disco Demolition Night occurred at Comiskey Park in Chicago, Illinois. At the climax of the event, a crate filled with disco records was blown up on the field between games of the twi-night doubleheader between the Chicago White Sox and the Detroit Tigers. Many of those in attendance had come to see the explosion rather than the games and thus hooligans rushed onto the field after the detonation. The playing field was damaged both by the explosion and by the rowdy fans to the point where the White Sox were required to forfeit the second game of the doubleheader to the Tigers.[15]
  • On October 14, 1984, serious disturbances took place in Detroit following the Detroit Tigers' victory over the San Diego Padres in the 1984 World Series. One person died, eighty were injured and eight rapes were reported. Millions of dollars in property damage were reported.[16]
  • On August 10, 1995, the Los Angeles Dodgers gave out baseballs to paying customers as they entered the Dodger Stadium gates for a game against the St. Louis Cardinals. However, hooligans interrupted the game in the seventh inning when they threw these baseballs onto the field. In the bottom of the ninth inning, the Cardinals were leading the game 2-1. The first batter, Raúl Mondesí, was called out on strikes and then ejected by home plate umpire Jim Quick for arguing, as was Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda moments later. Dodger hooligans, fueled by a series of close calls and a few rounds of alcohol, again threw their souvenir baseballs onto the field. The Cardinals left the field due to safety concerns and the field was cleaned up so play could resume. However, when the Cardinals returned to the field, at least one ball sailed out of the center field bleachers and the umpires immediately forfeited the game to St. Louis.[17]
  • In a 2001 NFL game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Cleveland Browns in Cleveland, hooligans protested a questionable call by the referees by throwing plastic beer bottles onto the field. The game would end prematurely, though the NFL ruled the last minute had to be played out.[18]
  • In a 2004 NBA game, the Pacers–Pistons brawl occurred. With less than a minute left in the game, a fight broke out between players on the court. After the fight was broken up, a fan threw a drink from the stands at Pacers player Ron Artest while he was lying on the scorer's table. Artest then entered the crowd and sparked a brawl between players and fans. Hooligans had entered the court and threw drinks and food at the Pacers.[19]
  • The 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup riot happened on June 15, 2011. The riots occurred after the hometown Vancouver Canucks lost to the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals. Hooligans burned several cars, many windows were smashed and some stores were damaged. There were 140 injuries. There were 101 total arrested in the hooliganism.[20][21]
  • On October 5, 2012, in the Wild Card playoff game between the St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves in Atlanta, after a questionable call on an infield fly rule on a hit by Brave Andrelton Simmons, hooligans protested the call by throwing several drinks and trash onto the field. The game had to be delayed by 19 minutes.[22]

Hooliganism in film[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "hooligan". Compact Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved 15 October 2008. 
  2. ^ a b c Harper, Douglas. "hooligan". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 15 October 2008. 
  3. ^ Scotland, BBC. "The Secret Life of Midges". BBC website. BBC. Retrieved 23 October 2015. 
  4. ^ "Who were the original Hooligans?". Daily News. quezi.com. 24 April 1894. Retrieved 12 March 2009. 
  5. ^ "Who were the original Hooligans?". Reynolds Newspaper. quezi.com. 29 April 1894. Retrieved 12 March 2009. 
  6. ^ "Who were the original Hooligans?". The Penny Illustrated Paper and Illustrated Times. quezi.com. 13 August 1898. Retrieved 12 March 2009. 
  7. ^ a b c Quinion, Michael (27 June 1998). "Hooligan". World Wide Words. Retrieved 30 June 2010. 
  8. ^ McComb, David (2 September 2004). Sports in World History (Themes in World History). Routledge. p. 25. ISBN 0-415-31812-2. 
  9. ^ a b Dunning, E., Murphy, P., Waddington, I., & Astrinakis, A. E. (Eds.). (2002). Fighting fans: Football hooliganism as a world phenomenon. Dublin: University College Dublin Press
  10. ^ Silverglate, Harvey (2009). Harvey Silverglate on 'Three Felonies a Day' (YouTube). 3 minutes in. Retrieved 12 February 2013. 
  11. ^ Johnson, Ben (1 August 2012). "Why Are Pussy Riot’s Alleged Crimes Called 'Hooliganism'?". Slate Magazine. 
  12. ^ Вечно третий или бронза тоже благородный металл. bmsi.ru
  13. ^ Russia drops piracy charges against Greenpeace group
  14. ^ "Dan Coughlin recalls the Indians' famous Ten-Cent Beer Night"
  15. ^ Joe Lapointe. (July 4, 2009). "The Night Disco Went Up in Smoke". The New York Times.
  16. ^ Mike Klingaman. (November 25, 2004). "Detroit fans have history of combustible behavior". The Baltimore Sun.
  17. ^ "Three Strikes and Dodgers Forfeit : Baseball: Game is called after fans throw balls on the field with one out in the ninth. Nomo overshadowed.". Chris Baker. (August 11, 1995).
  18. ^ Meisel, Zack (16 December 2014). "An oral history of BottleGate, 13 years after Cleveland Browns fans stole the spotlight". Cleveland.com. Retrieved 17 December 2014. 
  19. ^ Candace Buckner. "As 'Malice at the Palace' brawl turns 10, impact lasts". (November 18, 2014).
  20. ^ "Riots erupt in Vancouver after Canucks loss – Dozens injured amid scenes of violence, looting"
  21. ^ Lindsay, Bethany. (June 16, 2011). "From bad to brutal: Timeline of a riot".
  22. ^ "The pop-up heard 'round the world"
  23. ^ Becker, Peter Heath. "The Asphalt Jungle". Current. The Criterion Collection. Retrieved 5 August 2015.