This week’s “Video Of The Week” is “Hooligan”, a 1985 documentary made by Thames Television about a problem which, at the time, seemed to more or less intractably woven into the very fabric of English football. The film focusses upon the ICF, the West Ham United hooligan firm, but also offers a brief history of the problem within the game as well as a look at how the problem affected the English national team (although the makers chose to use footage of the notorious match between England and Belgium in Turin at the 1980 European Championship finals, although there is no doubt that there would have been more recent footage that they could have used in 1985), the growth of the problem abroad and some analysis of the psyche of the football hooligan, including an interview with John Williams, latterly of the Department of Sociology at Leicester University.
At twenty-five years remove, “Hooligan” is of most interest as a period piece. As well as featuring John Williams, it also has an interview with Cass Pennant, who has gone on to a degree of celebrity as a result of his involvement in the hoolieporn flick “Green Street” and an eponymous film about his life. “Hooligan” seems to have been made shortly after The Heysel Stadium disaster, which threw the national game into a crisis from which it almost didn’t recover. The irony of seeing ICF members trying to make sense of it in an interview that must only have taken place shortly after it is a profound one. What is most striking about “Hooligan” is the sense of helplessness felt by everyone interviewed for it apart from the hooligans themselves. There is a sense that, in 1985, they were in control of the game and the impotence – the failure on the part of the authorities and the government of the time – and sheer incomprehension of those charged with solving the problem.