A big part of the football experience is the fans, whether it is at the stadium or the pub, watching the game with people that share the same passion for the sport has always been a staple of the beautiful game.
However, multiple reports of aggressive, abusive and racist conduct from the most extreme sections of the fans have been letting the game down.
From players being hit by objects thrown by the crowd in Manchester, to fans hitting horses and performing Fascist gestures in Glasgow, late 2019 saw a sudden increase in reports of aggressive behaviour by football fans, both in and out of stadiums.
While the incidents do not compare to ones from the ‘Golden Age’ of Hooliganism in the 1980s, this bad behaviour still appears as a problem which must be tackled, compounded by the issue of racism in football rearing its ugly head.
As an Italian football fan, this hits extremely close to home as most of the reports for racist behaviour seem to be coming from the Serie A, with racist abuse (and the lack of disciplinary measures against it), appearing as the main issue tainting the Italian league.
Players such as Romelu Lukaku and Mario Balotelli are just the high-profile cases of racial abuse this season, with many players in smaller leagues both in Italy and abroad suffering from the same issues.
It is good to see multiple leagues around the world trying to combat this plague with active campaigns, ‘No Room for Racism’ being the Premier League initiative to tackle the issue with other abroad leagues following suit.
Football leagues and teams now need to draw a clear line when it comes to abusive behaviour in the sport: there is a difference between showing support for your team, and demoralising the opposing side and abusing players and fans, both verbally and physically.
While we have seen leagues taking steps in the right direction with educational campaigns and with closed-door games, we have not seen enough from clubs.They should be looking to more efficiently identify offenders, as well as better organising with other clubs to standardise punishments, while at the same time offering room for individuals to come back in the future and show their improvement.