Thoughts on the tribal nature of football supporters

Posted in opinion on February 29th, 2016 by John Coxon

My view of football characterised by tribalism is based on historic rivalries originally between groups of traditional, formerly almost exclusively largely working class football fans ( fanatics ) and their rival fans here in Britain teams usually in the same league  within their own town or city or between rival towns and cities.  Very often tribe membership is a family affair with kids  making a life long allegiance to the club their family  align with. There can be tribalistic tensions where different family members support different teams

Tribes are easily identifiable because they wear the colours of their teams as replica shirts and or scarves and typically and carrying flags Because problematic  tribal rivalry is always mob based , typically rival fans  at the same game are carefully segregated in separate areas of stadiums & if a rival finds themselves in the opponents section they will be liable to abuse and possibly physical violence.

Typically fans get a sense of belonging from being a part of a tribal team with whom they strongly identify and where at times tribal loyalty is stronger than other bonds say between family or friends. To an extent fanatical tribal behaviour also tends to be protective of the tribe , however irrational that may be  and this can be seen when their team suffers a defeat, the tendency is to blame the other team for dirty play, diving  etc  or claim that the officials are biased or that for example rival team managers get special treatment or that a club’s wealth makes them think they are superior.

Each tribe  has its own chants , usually abusive and insulting of self-congratulating songs and typically atmosphere  is created by fans competing to sing their chants  the loudest. Some rivalries are actually even more intense and violent  and potentially life threatening for example  to sectarian violence between Glasgow Rangers (Protestants)  and Celtic (catholics and a club formed originally representing Irish Catholic imigrants  ). Deaths and serious assaults have been directly linked to sectarian tensions within the city of Glasgow  between Catholics and protestants.

In my own city there are two major teams both in the English premier division , Manchester United and Manchester City , the former known as the reds and the latter the blues. There is fierce loyalty in the city between the two team tribes but contempt, for example, is often shown by both our local major tribes for the two teams that represent the  city of Liverpool , Liverpool (red) and Everton (Blue) and names like scum and far worse are used frequently on social media as a nickname for teams from the  rival North West city. There is some  racist chanting but in the main this mutual disrespect between rival fans is verbal and members see it as good natured banter and there can be found some humour in such intense rivalry.

This tribalism is not based on thought or intellect but is visceral that is also often based on deeply held emotional feelings. Tribal mob behaviour at its worst  can include throwing excrement, chanting about the dead, mindless graffiti and criminal damage, and for example by visiting tribes smashing up seats and toilets at stadiums. Still, these days we have seen a virtual end to actual organised aggression and physical violence and  it is a minority amongst tribe members these days  that are not actually interested in the sport  and prefer just  to taunt rival fans and encourage hatred.

Emboldened by being in a large group some still will indulge in macho posturing provoking rival fan groups and for example causing havoc in pubs frequented by rival tribe members. The introduction of mandatory all seater stadiums in the 1990’a and large numbers of stewards has largely wiped out hooligan aggression within stadiums. Typically there is a considerable police presence at games in top leagues to keep rival fans apart before and after games.

Oscar Pistorius -why the athlete’s appeal to the Constitution Court is necessary and has enough merit to be successful. (Part 1)

Posted in disability, opinion, Parasport on February 26th, 2016 by John Coxon

There are, amongst many others,  two major fatal flaws in the  extraordinarily prejudicial  treatment by the RSA legal system of the athlete Oscar Pistorius which are very much  the business of the Constitution  Court.


The first of these is the unprecedented use of live broadcast television cameras in the Central High Court in Pretoria which , in effect, undermined the constitutional requirement that all courts  trying any individual must deliver justice in a manner where  fairness and dignity are guaranteed .

Secondly, following being lawfully acquitted for murder and sentenced for the lesser crime of manslaughter, in reversing the trial  Judge Masipa’s verdict, the Supreme Court of Appeal panel acted unconstitutionally ultra vires  , that is, beyond its powers. This it did, in wilfully  not dealing within  its jurisdiction on a question of law ( dolus eventualis) but using that as a pretext to  re-examine and rewrite the actual facts to justify disrespectfully trashing Masipa’s lawful ans abiding verdict.

In this article, Part 1, I want to deal with that first flaw ( the second element the subject of a further entry Part 2 ) that of the unjust folly of allowing the televising of the trial at the expense of the athlete’s rights and personal dignity in making a global spectacle of his misfortune.

Indeed, (where on both these grounds stated above,) the SCA’s verdict is, to me , evidently unconstitutional and unsound, if the appeal, as it ought, leads to the SCA verdict being dismissed and thereafter the athlete serves his sentence for accidental killing of Reeva ( i.e. manslaughter) the athlete’s life and reputation will still be in ruins and effectively punished ad infinitum.


The  televising of the trial in particular has so prejudiced a global audience, already influenced by a multi-media frenzy and the resulting public suspicion and disdain &  essentially not based on the actual facts tested in court. This  so often was fuelled by the media’s inaccurate and salacious headline grabbing falsehoods later dismissed by the actual evidence after the damage had been done. It is now very unlikely that the global court of public opinion will ever look at this case in hindsight with any sympathy for the athlete for what  was actually a tragic accident and that, as ever, is never to make light of Reeva Steenkamp’s tragic death or his responsibility in causing her death which he never ducked from.

The defence with valid reason objected strongly to the trial being televised. They were over ruled presumably on the spurious grounds of public interest but clearly allowing cameras was serving as opportunity to capitalise on the defendant’s global fame to improve public confidence in the judiciary and the justice system. This was, as are all trials, a public trial where, in the interests of transparency, the constitution merely allows any member of public to sit in the court in the public gallery.

However, the unnecessary televising of court proceedings takes that openness constitutionally speaking too far . It undermines justice and infringes upon a defendant’s rights  in a number of ways. It is, therefore,  no accident that, in UK ,with its evidently longer established and more confident and robust system, cameras of any kind are banned from all court proceeding precisely because it grossly compromises the pursuit of actual justice and  is not  commensurate with the notion of a fair trial.

Firstly much was made in the press and other forums and contexts of the athlete being an “unreliable witness” with a number of apparent contradictions in his testimony. Advocate Nel contemptuously and fatuously suggested in open court that the athlete was lying and playing out a carefully scripted victim’s part his defence had tutored him to play thus apparently re-inventing him as a gifted actor in court feigning grief, remorse and even sobbing and projectile vomiting for the cameras so convincingly (when surely, were he thus scripted, he would very well have been suspiciously word perfect)

Indeed whilst there is video evidence publicly available now on you Tube, Nel has consistently lied in claiming that at no point did he ever very publicly call the defendant a “liar” when he actually did a number of times and that is in itself a breach of the defendant’s rights and unprofessional provocative misconduct in any fair or dignified court room. The retort that both the Judge and the defence had the mechanisms to stop these personal attacks and failed to does not free the advocate from responsibility for electing to abuse the defendant in front of the world and descend to such depths in an attempt to bully him into surrender or confession.

The Weskoppies expert forensic psychiatric assessment, ironically actually commissioned by the prosecution, attested to the abject grief and genuine remorse the athlete was suffering from , gravely traumatised  by  events of Februrary 14th and therefore  being in a highly vulnerable state mentally as a result of causing Reeva’s death throughout the trial. This state of mind  clearly adversely affected his ability to respond to the at times so often highly aggressive cross-examination by Nel and the presence of cameras at all times, an unnecessary additional burden on the defendant and infringing his constitutional rights and accounting for actually very few or any such inconsistencies in his testimony. To also have to endure what amounts to a deliberate public humiliation witnessed by a global TV audience, where the constitution requires the defendant’s dignity to be protected at all times , must have adversely affected the athlete’s ability to make precise recall of events and make coherent consistent responses. Moreover, the televising of the trial may well have led to some witnesses being very reluctant to give evidence or appear and put undue pressure on those who did appear and could have easily unduly influenced their ability to recall and respond consistently and honestly.

You need look no further than the behaviour of fugitive gangster Radovan Krejčíř in court as an example of playing to the gallery in front of TV cameras.

For Nel to far exceed the boundaries of common professional courtesy and dignity (required of him constitutionally to maintain at all times in court )  is clear evidence of his “playing to the gallery” and undermining the integrity of the proceedings. He was milking, it seems to me ,  in what for him career-wise was the highest profile case  he is ever likely to be involved with  and that  requiring , for him, a win at any cost strategy that famously over-stepped the mark in terms of professional conduct for legal professionals.

Furthermore, the intense media frenzy fuelled by the live broadcasting very obviously impacts on witnesses giving testimony, makes the courtroom even more intimidating and therefore  inevitably effects their behaviour. It  also makes them a target of the media and offers the possibility of profiting by, for example, giving interviews to the media. As a result cameras in court may  encourage witnesses to distort their true recollection or  opinions. TV companies clearly made huge sums from televising the trial. It did this making the courtroom  into  a kind of perverse theatre or movie set and thus profiting from the misfortune of the accused. TV was aiding and abetting him being systematically stripped of his dignity and, under that additional pressure of the world watching,  affecting  his right to ,and  ability to,  properly defend himself.

Had the prosecution not appealed Judge Masipa’s verdict, in spite of Nel’s theatrics and cameras, an impartial public would likely see the trial as having a just conclusion and would have no problem with Masipa’s decision’s which took into account the prosecution’s shortcomings, it’s unsuccessful attempt at character assassination and its dismissal of disability being a factor in the tragedy.

Crucially if TV is the way forward for transparent and fair justice system  , we have to ask  why the antics of the Supreme Court of Appeal, albeit  acting beyond its jurisdiction in feigning examination of the case from the perspective solely of a point in law, was not therefore  televised and  merely its perverse conclusions were?

It is telling that even the SCA statement announcing their verdict recognised what they called the ‘spotlight and movie style trial’ and hollowly praised  Judge Masipa for doing such a great job under that enormous pressure  on live TV and yet unjustly conversely dismissed the defendant’s inability to perform on the same stage.


john coxon

Please join me on Twitter for further updates here @johncoxonmedia  and for notification when I address the second  issue in Part 2 of this discourse.





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