Social Bonding Behind Football Violence, Political Extremism, Says Study
Social Bonding Behind Football Violence, Political Extremism, Says Study Header Image

Tribal social bonding has been labelled as the main motivation for men engaging in violent behaviours such as football hooliganism and political extremism, according to Oxford University research.

Lead author Dr. Martha Newson said: ‘Our study shows that hooliganism is not random behavior.

“Members of hooligan groups are not necessarily dysfunctional people outside of the football community; violent behavior is almost entirely focused on those regarded as a threat – usually rival fans or sometimes the police.”

While the findings were linked to Brazilian football fans, the authors believe that they are not only applicable across football fans and other sports-related violence, but to other non-sporting groups, such as religious groups and political extremists.

Dr. Newson added: “The psychology underlying the fighting groups we find among fans was likely a key part of human evolution.

“It’s essential for groups to succeed against each other for resources like food, territory and mates, and we see a legacy of this tribal psychology in modern fandom.”

The findings reinforce the research team’s previous work to understand the role of identity fusion in extreme behavior.

They also suggest that fighting extreme behavior with extreme policing, such as the use of tear gas or military force, is likely counterproductive and will only trigger more violence, driving the most committed fans to step up and ‘defend’ their fellow fans.

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