Swearing, drinking, violence, toddlers. There’s an odd one out. Days out with the family are meant to be full of joy and happiness not expletives and fist fights. Football hooliganism encompasses many of these elements, and often involves children nearby who are eagerly watching their favourite football stars.
This situation has recently been brought into the public eye after an investigation has been launched following an incident at an Everton Lyon match where a spectator pushed a goalkeeper mid match whilst holding his toddler. This begs the question is this an appropriate environment for children?
Matches can get rowdy, especially when things don’t go the right way for the fans. Is the family stand safe for children, let alone the rest of the stadium? Drinks flying overhead and hurling abuse, it can quickly becoming a tricky situation to handle as a parent when things get nasty.
Malcolm Bradbrook, who is a coach of under eights team Cumnor minor eagles and dad to two football fanatics says the Everton Lyon incident was a one off; “I think generally it’s pretty good, I think the Everton incident the other day was pretty extreme. Most matches you go to you won’t get anything like that.”
Children are like sponges, absorbing all stimulus surrounding them and spouting it back out at any given opportunity. It’s rare to attend a football match without hearing foul language but it seems as long as you teach your children that what happens at the terrace, stays on the terrace. However parents on websites such as Mumsnet and Tripadvisor say it is rare to experience fighting at a match.
The general consensus online is that aged five to seven is the minimum to put your little one in a football shirt. But there are some mixed opinions. Johnny Love on Saints Web said; “I’m planning on not even waiting on the cord being cut before I whisk it off.” Whereas Miranda Sawyer writing for the New Statesmen experienced a fight between two seven year olds mid match which was influenced by experiences seen at stadiums and on TV; “The kids were younger than ours – around seven – but the atmosphere was definitely adult.”
Spokesman for Gloucester City A.F.C Lesley O’ Maria said “Non league is a lot different… Our fans are very community orientated. We have our young tigers scheme which is well received. At the end of the day I see no issues.” He also touched on the importance of children attending “We have lost so many young fans from playing away that we want to build back up a fanbase of under 18 year olds.”