Sport, Violence and Society

Sport, Violence and Society

Sport, Violence and Society

Sport, Violence and Society


  • Is violence an intrinsic component of contemporary sport?
  • How does violence within sport reflect upon the attitudes of wider society?

In this landmark study of violence in and around contemporary sport, Kevin Young offers the first comprehensive sociological analysis of an issue of central importance within sport studies. The book explores organized and spontaneous violence, both on the field and off, and calls for a much broader definition of 'sports-related violence', to include issues as diverse as criminal behaviour by players, abuse within sport and exploitatory labor practices.

Offering a sophisticated new theoretical framework for understanding violence in a sporting context, and including a wide range of case-studies and empirical data - from professional soccer in Europe to ice hockey in North America - the book establishes a benchmark for the study of violence within sport and wider society. Through close examination of often contradictory trends, from anti-violence initiatives in professional sports leagues to the role of the media in encouraging hyper-aggression, the book throws new light on our understanding of the socially-embedded character of sport and its fundamental ties to history, culture, politics, social class, gender and the law.


The idea for this book, which has taken far too long for me to write, probably started in the late 1970s when, as an undergraduate university student in the UK, I was exposed to one of the first in-depth sociological investigations into ‘football (soccer) hooliganism.’ Even then, long before emigration and travel provided an opportunity to witness global sports violence first-hand, it seemed unlikely to me that the phenomenon was so unidimensional that it was limited to the aggressive proclivities of young British soccer supporters (a stereotypical view popular at the time, and one that continues to be espoused by many North Americans). After all, if sports violence, as with sport more broadly, was indeed social and cultural – ‘lesson one’ in the sociology of sport – then other societies and other cultures must forge their own versions of it. And of course they do. This book represents a longstanding fascination with the varied manifestations of violence in the sporting cultures of many countries, and the sociological threads that tie together and underpin those manifestations.

Aspects of both organized and spontaneous violence in sport have been seen as a serious social problem in many settings for some time, both on and off the field of play. Fans of European sport, particularly soccer, have gained notoriety for their xenophobic rituals inside and outside stadia. Violent sports crowd disturbances have also occurred with predictable frequency in Australia, Central and South America, Asia and North America. In most of these contexts, particular behaviours have prompted solicitous responses from politicians, police, sports officials and journalists. Apart from its most familiar, and most consistently reported, dimensions (the two most studied likely being soccer hooliganism and player violence in ice hockey), scholars have been relatively slow in turning their attention to the problem. Indeed, although thousands of books and articles have been written on sport, until recently, little serious attention has been paid to the disorderly behaviour, roles and rituals of spectators (again, with the notable exception of . . .

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