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Posts from June 2016

Anarchy in numbers?

22 June 2016

chris3From June 6th to June 10th I was fortunate to be able to attend the 3rd international conference on Governance, Crime and Justice Statistics magnificently organised by the Center for Excellence in Statistical Information on Government, Crime, Victimization and Justice with support from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the Mexican Institute of Statistics and Geography. The programme brought together researchers and experts from universities and government agencies to discuss current progress in collecting data on crime and justice, continued challenges and novel solutions (see http://www.gsj.inegi.org.mx/programme.html). During four days of wide ranging conversations, the topics ranged from the difficulties of collecting standardised data on murder across different countries, through new procedures for sifting electronically among the exploding number of media outlets for reported cases of terrorism or arrest-related deaths, to the challenges of measuring corruption. Cumulatively, the sessions allowed an assessment of the state-of the art and discussion about ways forward.

What also struck me about the meetings were two things which were NOT discussed. First, speaker after speaker bemoaned the patchy availability of data: governments and other organisations cannot be compelled to collect, organise or publish data. And a related problem was the lack of comparability between data sets: for example, one country includes traffic deaths in murder statistics while another does not. From the perspective of research, quantitative approaches demand standardised data for all cases, but the production of statistical information on crime and justice does not comply with that methodological diktat. So in a way, the topic left silent was not about statistics on governance but about the governance of statistics. Adherence to the standards of methodology might require an authoritarian (or at least centralised) model of data collection; yet currently, the production of statistical data seems to be a model of anarchy – with varying degrees of organisation. Which might be the best model for statistical data production: organised anarchy; a federal arrangement; or a highly centralised bureaucracy?

Second, many papers presented the findings from research projects using different kinds of quantitative data, and most concluded with a call for further research. If murder rates had been compared with state-level social indicators; now it would be important to compare them with municipal-level indicators. If fear of crime was asked in relation the neighbourhood, now it needed to be asked in relation to the city centre. Calls such as these reflect, among other things, the inherent possibilities offered by quantitative research to develop multiple permutations of the measurement strategy by making just one change in any of the variables in the study. But how often does this call for additional research actually lead to new studies, particularly in light of the finite resources available for research (a common gripe); and would it be better to see this type of call as the ‘performance’ of a research project, which concludes by saying that the project really has not concluded (even though it effectively has)?

Of course, these two matters are linked. The multiple permutations available for data collection exercises exist alongside the social organisation of the data collection itself. Would a different model of organisation lead to a different style of research project ‘performance’?

Chris Birkbeck

Beyond drink, ‘thugs’ and ‘disease’: football-related violence at the Euros

14 June 2016

Tony Ellis

The 2016 European football championships currently being held in France kicked off last Friday evening. But so far events on the pitch have been largely overshadowed by violent clashes off it between rival fans. At the centre of the disorder has been one of the usual suspects, England supporters. These latest events seem to have resurrected somewhat the haunting spectre of English hooliganism which, on the back of declining recorded rates of football-related disorder, some have claimed is slowly being consigned to the dustbin of history (Ingle, 2013). While many have been asking the usual rhetorical – clichéd – questions such as, ‘why do they do it?’ and ‘what’s the point of fighting at football matches?’, some sections of the mainstream media have predictably vilified English supporters at the Euros, wheeling out the well-established and rather simplistic metaphor of ‘disease’ and its associated motifs of drink-fuelled ‘over the top’ patriotism and general ‘yobbish’ behaviour.

While there clearly are some England fans at the Euros engaging in ‘anti-social’ behaviour and a minority of committed English hooligans intent on engaging in violence, the evidence emerging out of France paints a rather more complex picture in terms of motivations behind the disorder and its broader context. In particular, the presence of what are being described as ‘organised’ groups of Russian fans reported to be indiscriminately targeting English supporters. This generates a number of important questions about the possible reasons behind football-related violence on an international stage.

In response to some of the clichéd questions mentioned above, men that actively involve themselves in football violence and disorder invariably identify the ‘buzz’ and the ‘thrill’ they get out of doing it. Men involved in football violence that I have interviewed and spent time with during my research (Ellis, 2016) value the reputation and status that displaying ‘bottle’ or courage in the face of threatening circumstances provides them. Football violence is bound up with notions of individual and collective reputations, status, as well as shame. It is a game of one-upmanship, in which both victory in a fight as well as stoicism in adversity, grants respect and potential bragging rights. Inevitably, on an international stage, nationalism and patriotism will become bound up with these complex cultural mores and this is evident in the clashes between English and Russian fans. England is a former colonial power, and, as part of the UK, it now has a significant influence in the global political economy. The violence committed by some English supporters historically during international fixtures, as well as the recent history of regular ‘organised’ fan disorder at domestic matches, and the highly stylised and exaggerated English hooligan film industry, have collectively established a specific reputation for English fans as a whole that is largely synonymous with dominance and the willingness to use violence. As a consequence of this socio-historical context, England is undoubtedly perceived as a significant scalp for some rival fans perhaps keen to bolster their own reputations. After emerging from the wreckage of the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia, particularly under the presidency of Vladimir Putin, has at times sought to re-assert itself as a global power; occasionally through displays of force. And the occasional aggressive actions of the Russian state has arguably not been lost on some of its citizens; particularly those involved in street-based violence (see Shashkin, 2008).

So, a critical appreciation of both the immediate and broader contexts in which football violence, and violence more generally, is enacted can aid our understanding of these incidents beyond some of the rather simplistic narratives currently been espoused that identify drink, ‘thugs’ and ‘disease’ as the causes of the disorder.

Anthony Ellis, Lecturer in Criminology and Sociology

References

Ellis, A (2016) Men, masculinities and violence: an ethnographic study. London: Routledge

Ingle, S (2013) Football hooliganism, once the English disease, is more like a cold sore now. The Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2013/nov/03/english-football-hooliganism Accessed 14th June 2016

Shashkin, A (2008) Origins and development of racist skinheads in Moscow. In Van Gemert, F Peterson, D and Lien IL (eds) Street Gangs, Migration and Ethnicity. Oxon: Willan p.97-114

  • Anthony discussed the Euro2016 football violence on BBC Radio Manchester 13/6/2016 listen here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03x0lgy (1hr 13 mins into the programme)