Conclusion: The Big Implications of Small Teams

  • Megan O’Neill


The purpose of this book has been to present my long-term ethnographic study of interaction between police officers, football ground stewards and football supporters during both calm and disorderly moments on football match days. It has also considered the way police officers interact with each other and how these internal relationships influence their behaviour with outsiders. Participant observation, detailed field notes and informal as well as semi-structured interviews with police officers and football stewards provided the data for this research, which was conducted largely during one football season in Scotland (1998–99). I visited three football grounds and secured the participation of three police forces in this study. Police constables in uniform, plain clothes spotters, senior officers, mobile units and stewarding staff were observed before, during and after the matches to allow me to piece together an overview of interaction between the football spectators and the agents of social control they encounter. It revealed that while football supporters are indeed a rule-governed group, the rules in question are not the formal ones known publicly, but a more informal and unofficial group of rules developed in conjunction with the police.


Police Officer Senior Officer Small Team Police Culture Football Match 
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  1. 50.
    See for example the BBC television series MacIntyre Undercover, aired in 1999, in which an undercover journalist became a member of a group of active hooligans from Chelsea Football Club (BBC News, 8 December 2000).Google Scholar

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© Megan O’Neill 2005

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  • Megan O’Neill

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