Football hooliganism can range from shouts, spitting and small-scale fistfights to huge riots where firms attack each other with deadly weapons (including, but not limited to, sports bats, glass bottles, rocks, knives, machetes and even pistols). In some riots, stones, bricks, flares, smoke bombs and even Molotov cocktails are thrown. In some cases, stadium brawls have caused fans to flee in panic and injuries have been caused when fences or walls have collapsed from the pressure of the exiting crowd. In some football riots, the chaos spreads to the city area surrounding the football field, and shop windows may be smashed, rubbish bins set on fire, and police cars may be overturned. In the most extreme cases, hooligans, police, and bystanders have been killed, and helmeted, body-armoured riot police have intervened with tear gas, police dogs, armoured vehicles and water cannons.
The first instance of football violence is unknown, but the phenomenon can be traced back to 14th-century England. In 1314, Edward II banned football (at that time, a violent, unruly activity involving rival villages kicking a pig's bladder across the local heath) because he believed the disorder surrounding matches might lead to social unrest, or even treason. According to a University of Liverpool academic paper, conflict at an 1846 match in Derby, England, required a reading of the "riot act" and two groups of dragoons to effectively respond to the disorderly crowd. This same paper also identified "pitch invasions" as a common occurrence during the 1880s in English football.
The first recorded instances of football hooliganism in the modern game allegedly occurred during the 1880s in England, a period when gangs of supporters would intimidate neighbourhoods, in addition to attacking referees, opposing supporters and players. In 1885, after Preston North End beat Aston Villa 5–0 in a friendly match, both teams were pelted with stones, attacked with sticks, punched, kicked and spat at. One Preston player was beaten so severely that he lost consciousness and press reports at the time described the fans as "howling roughs". The following year, Preston fans fought Queen's Park fans in a railway station—the first alleged instance of football hooliganism outside of a match. In 1905, a number of Preston fans were tried for hooliganism, including a "drunk and disorderly" 70-year-old woman, following their match against Blackburn Rovers.
Although instances of football crowd violence and disorder have been a feature of association football throughout its history (e.g. Millwall's ground was reportedly closed in 1920, 1934 and 1950 after crowd disturbances), the phenomenon only started to gain the media's attention in the late 1950s due to the re-emergence of violence in Latin American football. In the 1955–56 English football season, Liverpool and Everton fans were involved in a number of incidents and, by the 1960s, an average of 25 hooligan incidents were being reported each year in England. The label "football hooliganism" first began to appear in the English media in the mid-1960s, leading to increased media interest in, and reporting of, acts of disorder. It has been argued that…