Causes of Spectator Violence in Sports
As a season ticket holder for all Philadelphia Phillies and Philadelphia Eagles home games, I’ve seen my fair share of spectator violence over the years. The fact that Philadelphia has a reputation of having some of the rowdiest fans in sports has given me the unfortunate ability to witness spectator violence right before my eyes. There are many different types of spectator violence, as well as many different causes for them. As spectators, we must not only think about the instant repercussions of this violence, but we also need to think about the future repercussions of these actions. As spectator violence is becoming more prevalent in sports, the children spectators are going to start to believe that this is normal, and the violence will continue to worsen. In order to begin to rectify this issue of spectator violence, we must first identify the causes and warning signs.
There are many different types of spectator violence. According to Tamara Madensen and John Eck, authors of “The Problem of Spectator Violence in Stadiums, these are the six most common forms of spectator aggression: 1.
Verbal – singing, chanting, taunting, etc.
Gesturing – signaling to others with threatening or obscene motions. 3.
“Missile” throwing – throwing items such as food, drinks, bricks, bottles, broken seats, and cell phones at particular or random targets 4.
Swarming – rushing the field or court trying to gain entry, typically resulting in trampling of spectators 5.
Property Destruction – either personal property or venue property 6.
Physical – spitting, kicking, punching, stabbings, and shootings (1-2) All of these types of spectator violence can be highly dangerous. The “Missile” throwing and the physical violence are the most prevalent. Spectators are not always the only participants in these altercations. There have been instances where stadium personnel or athletes have been involved in altercations with fans. When this occurs, the wrong message is sent out to the rest of the spectators. The second an athlete or security personnel become involved in an altercation, the situation immediately worsens because fans begin to think it is acceptable. According to Stacey Hall, Associate Director of the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security, “there are six event characteristics associated with spectator violence, including alcohol intoxication and availability, crowd demographics, event significance, performance quality, crowding, and performer behavior during duration of the event”(18). In order to come with a solution to spectator violence, it is important to identify the causes of these altercations.
The most common cause of spectator violence in sports is alcohol intoxication. Everywhere you look in a professional sports stadium, you will see a kiosk, vendor, or bar selling alcohol. We all know that alcohol intoxication leads to poor decision making. When thousands of passionate fans are crammed together in an arena with alcohol being consumed, altercations are bound to occur. Often times, spectators arrive to the game early and “tailgate” with large quantities of alcohol and food to get ready for the game. If the Eagles are playing a 4PM football game, you will find hundreds of spectators in the parking lot at 8AM with kegs full of beer and music playing loudly. Drinking all day, along with watching a violent sport like football often times leads to violence. “An angry, drunken sports fan, aggravated by the difficulty of getting to the event, parking, dealing with crowds, stirred up by a support group of pals, is easily provoked by the very presence of other violent behavior, namely that on the field,” Stanley Cheren, M.D., of the Boston University School of Medicine wrote in “The Psychiatric Perspective: Psychological Aspects of Violence in Sports” in the February 1981 issue of the Journal of Sport and Social Issues (Appelson 404).
The aggression that...
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