Hooligans and football are nowhere near as synonymous as they once were. But does that mean problems in and around football grounds have been eradicated for good? The REalyst investigates whether or not you are more likely to be affected by crime if you own a property near a football ground.
Read Time: 5 minutes
On a balmy May evening in 1989, Arsenal Football Club travelled to Liverpool for the final league game of the season. Arsenal needed to win 2-0 to secure the Division 1 Championship. The game was 0-0 at half-time. Taking a 1-0 lead early in the second half, Arsenal looked as if they were about to come so close yet ultimately fail.
What happened next changed the sport forever. For any football fan, the sentence “Thomas, charging through the midfield. Thomas, it’s up for grabs now!” will be familiar, as the then-Arsenal midfielder Michael Thomas broke through in the 91st minute to score the second goal his team so badly needed to win the league.
In a climax that was akin to a blockbuster movie: filled with a range of emotions from jubilation for Arsenal and despair for Liverpool. TV broadcasters took note and started ploughing money into the game, in the hope of replicating the same heightened drama for their audiences. Fast-forward 30 years and football is one of the most profitable businesses in the world, with the English Premier League the wealthiest league in any sport.
Documentaries have been made, and football has been cinematised, becoming a multi-billion pound sport in the process. Many argue it all started with that night at Anfield in 1989, as business folk came to realise there was more to football than the thuggish hooliganism that was so widely associated with the game in the 1980s.
Hooligans and football are nowhere near as synonymous as they once were. But does that mean problems in and around football grounds have been eradicated for good? If you happen to own a property near a football ground, are you more likely to be affected by crime in some capacity?
Without even looking at any statistics, it’s easy to assume that crime rates would be higher closer to football grounds. Any location where there is a large crowd gathered increases the chance of arrests and some form of criminal activity.
The problem isn’t solely rooted in football either: areas that host music festivals often see a spike in crime rates when a festival is playing. But those are annual events, whereas football grounds see action at least 19 weeks out of the year, every year.
There are 92 professional football grounds in England and Wales alone, with another 42 in Scotland and around 17 Northern Irish teams. With150-odd football grounds in the UK, the potential for increased frequency in higher crime rates for those areas becomes more of a reality.
While most football statistics centre around how many goals Lionel Messi or Cristiano score, or whether Liverpool and Manchester Utd have more trophies, we’re focusing on a different type of stats: crime rates around football grounds.
Holloway is in North London and is the location for Arsenal’s 60,000 seater stadium, which is known as The Emirates Stadium. For 19 weeks of every year, 60,000 match-going fans head to the stadium to watch Arsenal play.
The above graph looks at the total crime rates for The Emirates Stadium postcode for the 12 months from May 2018. The football season begins in August and ends in May. The most crimes committed happened in July 2018, which is outside of the season. The lowest crime reported took place in February 2019, a time that is arguably the height of the football season.
When compared to the overall area of Holloway, the crime rates are particularly low near The Emirates Stadium.
Overall reported crime rates are particularly high in Holloway, surpassing the 800-mark twice. However, it seems that football regularly taking place doesn’t massively impact general crime trends in the North London area of Holloway.
Old Trafford is the home of Manchester United and is the largest football stadium occupied by a club in the UK – with a capacity just shy of 75,000. Yet the crime statistics around the stadium are surprisingly low, especially when compared with other parts of Manchester.
M16, Old Trafford
When compared to Deansgate, in the centre of Manchester, crime stats are considerably lower in Old Trafford. Crime in Old Trafford peaked significantly during February 2019, with the lowest rates happening in July 2018 – the exact opposite to The Emirates Stadium in Holloway.
Newcastle football club is relatively unique in that it is one of the few one-club cities. While London features 13 teams, Greater Manchester has seven and even Sheffield has two, Newcastle United is the sole footballing attraction in its city.
Unsurprisingly, crime rates for the 12 months to May 2019 were slightly higher in Newcastle. Yet the peak came in June 2018, two months before the football season started.
After a small dip in September, reported crimes remained steady for the remainder of the season. Anti-social behaviour is cited as the most commonly reported crime, which certainly fits the bill for the type of offences you would expect at a football stadium.
With more funding available and less tolerance for poor behaviour, football seems to have cleansed itself up and is far removed from the hooligan days of the eighties. Perhaps the glamorisation has seen every facet of the game improved, from the action on the pitch to the behaviour in the terraces.
While there are bound to be a scurry of arrests during football matches, the sample size we looked at doesn’t show an overwhelming correlation between crime and football grounds. According to our data, it seems as if they don’t go hand-in-hand as one might otherwise expect.
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