Unsporting Behavior: The Control of Football and Horse-Racing Crowds in England, 1875–1914

Part of the Springer Series in Social Psychology book series (SSSOC)


Almost any event in Victorian England which brought together a large gathering of people could result in crowd disorder. Violence frequently broke out at all sorts of mass meetings “from Salvation Army processions to demonstrations of the unemployed, industrial disputes,… eviction scenes, Orange celebrations, public hangings” (Richter, 1971; see also Bailey, 1977; Cunningham, 1971; Price, 1972). Sports crowds were no exception.1 Disorder was common at horse-racing events in mid-Victorian England. At several metropolitan meetings the disturbance was so bad that in 1879 Parliamentary legislation was used to suppress them (Spencer, 1900). Other meetings also had their troubles, particularly when backers felt that they had not had a fair run for their money or when bookmakers welshed on winning bets (Cur-zon, 1892; Fairfax-Blakeborough, 1927). Writing in 1870, J. H. Peart, right-hand man of the famous trainer John Scott, unfavorably contrasted the English situation with that of Chantilly in France where “the arrangements on the racecourses are far beyond what they have in England. The roughs are kept in their proper place, and there was no hustle or confusion, and no fear of being robbed of your wallet.” Football (soccer) too had its crowd problems. The minute books of the Football Association and the Football League Management Committee clearly support the conclusion of one football historian whose study of contemporary comments revealed that “riots, unruly behaviour, violence, assault and vandalism appear to have been a well-established, but not necessarily dominant pattern of crowd behaviour at football matches at least from the 1870s” (Hutchinson, 1974).2


Sport Event Football Club Crowd Behavior Crowd Density Football Association 
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© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1983

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