How to Combat Violence in Sports?

9th August 2019
Violence in sports is more common than you may think. The big question is, are sports institutions doing enough to avoid confrontation? Is there a formula to combat violence in sports?

In recent decades, sports have been used as an incentive to lower the rates of conflict in society. However, violence in professional sports reveals very serious extremist behaviors.  Every day we witness extreme fanaticism, hooliganism, damage to property and even deaths. This is often the consequence of violence in sport.

As in any sector of life, violence is multidirectional. This means that it’s a phenomenon that can come from anywhere. If we search the Internet, we can see hundreds of violent events in which athletes, coaches, and fans have participated.

Almost all sports criminalize violence

Unlike other problems such as racism, violent behaviors in sports are punishable in almost all disciplines. In fact, what makes a physical activity a sport are the competition rules that all parties respect. Almost all sports establish the illegality of violence among competitors.

Practices such as boxing and mixed martial arts have rules; in these sports, there are very defined limits between competing and hurting the opponent. All contact sports have indications about violent actions that shouldn’t be committed.

Soccer, baseball, and basketball are clear examples of this. Still, many athletes, coaches, and fans come to blows during matches.

violence in sports rugby

In sports such as soccer and ice hockey, fouls and misconduct penalizations exist to control and keep the game fair. In practice, and despite these disciplinary actions, we always see violent acts, because practitioners are human beings with emotions. As with any human, athletes lose control, become frustrated and attack their opponents.

Violence in sports and the responsibility of spectators

Soccer and baseball are known to gather huge numbers of fans. In matches, many times spectators will engage in violent events. This is usually due to fanaticism and rivalries among sporting teams.

Perhaps soccer is the greatest example of how dangerous violence in sports can be. Hooligans scatter across all continents and are a major problem. Hooligans often engage in extreme violence that includes riots, brawls, and bar fights.

Paradoxically, soccer has the most rigorous rules against violent acts that exist. Just take a look at the regulations and protocols of FIFA, the international institution that regulates football practice.

Players can have long penalties, depending on the severity of the aggression committed. There are also penalties for teams and stadiums where violent incidents occur among fanatics.

Competence of government authorities surrounding violence in sports

Violence in sports has issues concerning public security and usually constitutes violations of the legislation. For this reason, government entities usually place a number of police officers at sporting events. These officers enforce the law and prevent conflicts.

The Argentine soccer league is a notorious case of this governmental policy. In this South American country, sports violence is a national problem. That’s why the government created an anti-violence regulation.

Unfortunately, this regulation has had disparate results so far. In Argentina, as it happens around the world, the rivalries between fanatics are mixed with other social, political and economic differences.

The last significant case of violence in sports was the final of the Copa Libertadores 2018 between Boca Juniors and River Plate. On that occasion, there were strong attacks by fans towards the players.

hooligans

Violence in sport and the challenges of the future

As society evolves, the ways in which violence occurs evolves too. That’s why sports institutions adapt to the new realities by reforming their regulations. Just as it happens in football, with FIFA updating their regulations constantly, all sports are subject to updating their codes of conduct.

Modern times also mean there are new possibilities to take into account. For example, in recent years there have been terrorist threats surrounding global sporting events. This has forced governments and sports authorities to redouble their efforts in terms of security.

Currently, the most important thing is to encourage a culture of anti-violence. Sanctions and educational campaigns continue to be the main tools of sport in its fight against aggression.

  • Ángel Gómez. UNED. 2007. Violencia en el deporte. Extraído de: https://www2.uned.es/472074/papers/Gomez_(2007).pdf
  • Helio Carpintero. R.A. de Ciencias Morales y Políticas. Psicología y violencia del deporte en España. Extraído de: http://www.racmyp.es/R/racmyp/docs/anales/A95/A95-12.pdf