Slavia prague football club and its ultras: 125 years of pride and passion

Фотографии: 

Associate Professor P. Scholz1
Postgraduate student E.V. Gorokhova2
1College of Polytechnics Jihlava, Czech Republic
2Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow

Keywords: football, negative occurrences, questionnaire, football ultras, violence.

Background. Football supporters’ behavior during the matches has long been a popular subject for discussion in many European countries, particularly Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Belgium and the UK. The Czech football history has been clean of serious clashes during the matches so far, and reports only some minor incidents like street fights after the events.

Football supporters are well organized nowadays for the trips to other cities and countries to support their favorite teams and demonstrate their passion and devotion [3].

Presently the term ultras is commonly applied by the fans movements. It was first adopted by the Italian football community in 1960s from the radical leftist political groups that were highly popular and influential at that time [6]. Neither of the current football clubs can ignore its ultras for the reason that they are always among the leaders of the supporter groups in every football match. Most of the football clubs closely cooperate with their supporters [2] appreciating their devotion and knowledge of football, club life, its history and individual players [5].

The supporters movement, however, is still not fully free from hostilities that result in aggression and outbreaks of anger during the matches. The anger more often than not grows by the end of a football match [1]; and the stronger is the supporter group’s devotion to the team, the more it generally prone to aggression. It is important for the supporters to keep calm, positive and friendly to mitigate potential conflicts with the opponents and cool down aggression [11].

It is also quite common for the supporters to consider themselves an inseparable part of their clubs [4], with most frantic supporters often prone to hostile unlawful actions that may be unsafe for health and life of people in the crowd [7]. Potential aggression of supporters may accumulate [8] and outburst in violent actions, particularly when their favorite team loses a match [9, 10].

Objective of the study was to test and analyze attitudes of football supporters to different forms of aggression and disturbance at the football stadiums in the Czech Republic.

Methods and structure of the study.The input data for the study were obtained by a questionnaire survey (in PAPI format) at Eden Arena Stadium in Prague and some other stadiums in the Czech Republic in the period of August 2015 to December 2016 (in 25 matches), with the active ultras (n=158 aged 23.01±10.11 years) sampled for the survey. Special attention in the survey was given to the supporters of the oldest Slavia Prague FC established back in 1892. The supporters’ sector of the stadium with its 3,065 seats is traditionally called ‘Tribune North’. It includes 5 sectors of 28 rows with 25 seats each. The tribune is normally 2/3 occupied in most of the matches and fully occupied in the matches with the main competitors, namely Spartha Prague FC and Plzen FC.

The supporters were randomly sampled for the survey from seats 1, 3, 5, 7 of the first row; seats 2, 4, 6, 8 of the second row and so on. They were duly informed on the purposes of the survey and its anonymity, awarded Slavia Prague badges after the survey; and encouraged to contact the research group by email to obtain findings of the survey. Of the total 720 filled-in questionnaire survey forms, we selected 158 forms filled in by the club supporters and rejected 6 incomplete or erroneous forms. The average age of the sample was 23.01±10.11 years (25.44±10.20 years for the male and 24.87±9.69 for the female subgroups).

The questionnaire survey form offered 29 questions to find the supporters’ attitudes to different occurrences at the stadiums scored using the Likert 5-point scale, with the negligible offences scored by 1 point and the gross offences by 5 points. Applied for the study purposes were a quantitative data analysis and the standard mathematical methods of statistics.

Study findings and discussion. Demographic analysis found 90% of the sample being unmarried – unsurprisingly for this age group and in view of the modern trend to get married much later than before. About half of the sample (46.84%) reported still living with their parents; 20.25% being formally married or cohabitating; one of four (26.58%) being single; and three of four (82.28%) living in full families.

The supporters’ education profiling analysis showed one of three (35.44%) supporters having high school diplomas; 21.25% having secondary vocational backgrounds; and less than 15% of the sample reportedly having a higher education.

The supporters’ employment profiling analysis yielded the following data: 51.90% identified themselves as students; 3.80% private entrepreneurs; 2.53% managers; and 2.53% as waiters.

Furthermore, about a half (44.12%) of the sample reported having some football playing experience, with 53.66% reported having played in district competitions; less than 10% played in the Amateur League Hanspaulská; 7.32% in the regional championships; and 2.44% in the First Junior League. Some of the supporters reported having floorball (16.22%) and racing, fitness or ice-hockey playing experiences (10.81%). About a half (49.37%) of the sample reported being fully content with their lives; and 40.51% partially content. Plus 70.89% of the sample reported fair financial standings.

Analysis of the typical behavior of the supporters during football matches showed virtually all the sample (98.73%) coming to the games wearing club scarves or T-shirts; and 84.81% being highly excited during the matches. Negative emotions in the supporters’ community are reportedly triggered by the following: poor game level (78.48%); decisions of the referees (69.62%); average behavior in the crowd (11.39%); and unsporting actions of players/ coachers (11.39%). More than one of three (37.97%) supporters reported being terribly upset about defeats; and only 5.06% reported having no hard feelings because of that. Furthermore, two of three (70.89%) supporters prefer watching matches live at the stadium even when the game is televised; and 29.11% report visiting the matches sometimes or preferring watching them home – due to the tickets being unaffordable, or working late/ overnight, or being short of leisure time.

More than three out of four (75.95%) supporters reported never making resort to improvised weapons during the matches; slightly more than 20% of the sample confessed using flagpoles, water bottles or newspaper rolls (known as the ‘Millwalls bricks’) in the clashes; 49.37% of the sample reported using flares occasionally excusing themselves by the popular say ‘no fireworks, no fun’; about the same share of the sample supports the fireworks; and only 1.26% reported firing flares in every match.

Furthermore, 54.43% confessed venting their emotions by crude language during the matches sometimes; and 44.31% doing it in every match. The top managers of the Football Association of the Czech Republic, heads of the Refereeing Committee, field referees and some players in the opposing team are often cursed by the crude language. Crude language is commonly believed to be a part of the supporters’ culture, with only 1.26% of the sample saying they never use it.

Only one of four (26.58%) in the sample reported never taking alcohol prior to or during a football match; 40.51% reported taking it occasionally; and 32.91% confessed habitual drinking during matches. It may be pertinent to mention that only non-alcoholic beer is now served in matches of the European League, derby and in other high-ranking events.

It should be emphasized that 15.19% of the sample confessed joining crowd disturbances at stadiums. Racism is now ranked among the most topical problems of the modern football. More than a half (58.23%) of the sample reported never using racist language to offend players of other races; albeit about one of three supporters confessed shouting offenses during football matches.

Noise of disapproval from the crowd may be heard when the supporters are unhappy with some decision of the referee; or action of some player; or feel that the team is too passive; or a foul is imitated; or when the team seems too overcautious passing the ball back. Virtually everybody in the sample reports joining the noise to express unhappiness with the referee (94.94%); or head of the Czech Football Association (92.41%); or the foes (91.14%).

Furthermore, one of three (36.71%) supporters confessed throwing something on the field like beer cans, coins, lighters etc. to vent their indignation by a line ref decision or their joy from a goal. And almost half (44.31%) of the sample confessed running to the football field during the famous match of the Champions League in 2007 and friendly match with Hajduk Split FC in 2014.

Analysis of the supporters’ attitudes to disturbances at the stadiums showed that 55.70% of the sample tends to downplay the seriousness of scheduled fights of the supporters beyond the stadiums; 56.96% of the sample rated vandalism and crowd disturbances at the stadiums among the most serious offences. (It should be noted that acts of vandalism at the stadiums most often take place in the guest sectors). And 87.34% ranked offensive shouts among the most serious offences: see Table 1.

Table 1. Supporter’s attitudes to classified occurrences in the matches, %

Disturbances

1

2

3

4

5

Firing flares

67,09

21,52

7,59

2,53

1,27

Crude chants on the tribunes

62,03

26,58

6,33

5,06

0,00

Individual offensive shouts

60.76

11,39

16,46

6,33

5,06

Aggression to guest supporters

16,46

11,39

29,11

17,72

25,32

Aggression to police and crowd disturbances

21,52

8,86

20,25

24,05

25,32

Scheduled fights of supporters

55,70

6,33

12,66

8,86

16,46

Throwing things to the field

11,39

18,99

26,58

17,72

25,32

Vandalism and fights at the stadium

6,33

7,59

12,66

16,46

56,96

Hostile shouts

87,34

8,86

2,53

1,27

0,00

Running to the field

24,05

15,19

22,78

17,72

20,25

 

Scores: 1 – negligible offence; 2 – minor offence; 3 – notable offence; 4 – serious offence; 5 – gross offence

Conclusion. Climate at a football stadium is highly important for the players and supporters, with some supporters even ranking the crowd spirit higher than success in the game. We performed a questionnaire survey of the supporters’ attitudes to classified occurrences in the matches. The survey found 56.96% of the sample rating vandalism (including damage to the sport assets) as the most serious act of aggression during football matches; with 15.19% of the sample confessing being prone to such outbursts. Furthermore, 87.34% tend to accept the noise of disapproval as no problem; and 94.94% of the sample confessed verbally offending the referees during football matches. Supporters tend to downplay seriousness of such offences as firing flares (67.09%), crude chants (62.03%) and individual offensive shouts (60.76%). The under-23-year-old supporters were found more tolerant to the sociopathic behavior at the stadiums.

Referenсes

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Corresponding author: petr.scholz@vspj.cz

Abstract

The study analyzes attitudes of football supporters to different forms of aggression and violence at the football stadiums in the Czech Republic. The study data were obtained by a questionnaire survey (in PAPI format) at Eden Arena Stadium in Prague in 2015-2016, with the active ultras (n=158 aged 23.01±10.11 years) sampled for the survey. The survey found 56.96% of the sample rating vandalism (including damage to the sport assets) as the most serious act of aggression during football matches; with 15.19% of the sample confessing being prone to such outbursts. Furthermore, 87.34% tend to accept the noise of disapproval as no problem; and 94.94% of the sample confessed verbally offending the referees during football matches. The under-23-year-old ultras were found more tolerant to the sociopathic behavior at the stadiums.