Leicester sociologist offers opinion on Swiss soccer violence
Think of Switzerland and you may think of cuckoo clocks, chocolate and downhill skiing. You certainly don’t think of football hooligans. But the country is experiencing a growing trend in violent clashes between rival fans, which culminated on Sunday with the unprecedented abandonment of a match.
swissinfo.ch, the international branch of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, interviewed John Williams from our Department of Sociology for an online piece about the situation and how the Swiss football authorities might learn from the experiences of British clubs in the 1980s.
John, who has published extensively on the sociology of football (sometimes even about clubs other than his beloved Liverpool!), told the website that it took two major tragedies for the FA and the British Government to take the problem of football crowd control seriously. A Liverpool-Juventus match at Heysel Stadium in 1985 resulted in 36 deaths when rioting Liverpool fans broke through fencing and Juventus fans trying to escape were crushed by a collapsing wall. This led to a five-year ban on English clubs playing in Europe. Then in 1989, 96 Liverpool fans were killed in a crush at a match against Nottingham Forest at Sheffield’s Hillsborough Stadium.
Swiss football has not yet experienced anything on that scale but the abandonment of Sunday’s derby between Zurich FC and Grasshoppers, when fans threw flares and fireworks at each other is being seen as a tipping point.
John also made the point that the early 1990s saw a huge infusion of money into British football from satellite TV rights which allowed clubs to greatly improve facilities and market themselves at a wider audience including families.