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Paying the Price for Passion: delving into human side of football disorder

This summer, FSA caseworker Amanda Jacks has been working with the Anfield Wrap team to produce an important audio documentary about the darker side of supporter culture, its human side, and how fans are drawn into it.

Paying the Price for Passion is well worth a listen and here Amanda and journalist Gareth Roberts give us a an introduction to the issues at play…

What is a stereotypical “football hooligan”?

Unless you’ve grown up with no access to TV, cinema, books, or the internet, you’ve likely moved through life forming an answer to that question. And it has likely been influenced by the multitude of media dedicated to the topic.

Type the term into Google and among the four million results are links to famous films, notorious books, dedicated YouTube channels and reams of newspaper reports.

It’s a life often glorified: a mysterious underworld with specific rules, its own style and an unwritten code. Those that choose to follow that path are readily labelled “yobs”, “thugs” and “scum” – dismissed as delinquents, ignored as outcasts.

Very rarely, if ever, is the human side of the individuals involved explored in detail.

With much discussion recently in the media about an upturn in drug-taking and violence around football games, what appeared to be a standard request for help for Football Supporters’ Association Case Worker Amanda Jacks, sparked thoughts that there could be something worth exploring.

Alongside journalist Gareth Roberts, a founder of FSA award-winning podcast, The Anfield Wrap, Amanda set about investigating just how and why supporters are drawn into lifestyles around football that include violence, drug and alcohol abuse and regular brushes with the law.

The result was this free 77-minute audio documentary, Paying The Price For Passion, detailing the lives of a string of supporters who realised that what was once just a love of a football team had become something different and darker.

The podcast features honest conversations with fans about their behaviour; how it started, how it ended, and for some, how they kept on returning to the same way of life despite the warnings, the bans, even jail sentences.

It also asks the question of how football and the authorities deal with these issues – does the current approach work? What else can be done?

A serving football police officer, the head of security at the EFL and a mental health professional have also contributed to the podcast.

“Alright mate? I’ve got a problem with The Old Bill. They’re in my face at every game and really harassing me. I wanna make a complaint, can you help?”

“It wasn’t an unusual line to hear from a football fan getting in touch with me,” said Amanda.

“On receipt of this message, I looked through my old emails and realised that this fan – who I gave the pseudonym Steve – had asked for advice on a previous occasion, making me think there was going to be more to it. I ended up spending over 90 minutes on the phone to Steve talking through his various issues that, with his consent, I detailed on this Twitter thread.

“Many people interacted with the post (and by private message) saying they identified with Steve with some no longer living the life offering to speak to him directly.

“Such was the reaction, I thought that there was a potentially bigger story to tell and knowing his interest in the human side of football and all things policing related, I contacted Gareth Roberts at the Anfield Wrap to see if he thought there was a podcast in the making.”

Gareth added: “The feedback to the podcast has been fantastic. It’s clearly an area of football that needs some work, some thought and a fresh approach. To hear a serving police officer say the current system wasn’t working was a real eye-opener.”

– Paying the Price for Passion – the free podcast is available via all usual podcast apps.

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