Football fans in Britain admit taking cocaine makes them more aggressive against rivals, according to a new study.
A survey of 1,486 fans, mainly from Premier League clubs, found cocaine use among them was higher than the national average.
Fans who used cocaine reported significantly more aggression towards rival supporters than fans who did not, from swearing and spitting to throwing drinks, punching and kicking, reported the study published in the International Journal of Drug Policy.
Just under a third of fans questioned for the pre-pandemic study last year had witnessed other people taking cocaine at football grounds over the previous 12 months. Nearly one in five of cocaine using fans had taken it at grounds themselves.
The study, carried out by the Universities of Kent and Oxford, indicated that the more “bonded” or loyal a football fan was to their club, the more likely cocaine use would make them aggressive.
England fans clashed with police in Marseille harbour during Euro 2016. Photo: Carl Court/Getty Images
“The results suggest that highly bonded fans were particularly likely to get tied up in aggressive behaviours – especially if they used cocaine,” said study author Martha Newson, an anthropologist from the University of Oxford.
She said that football fans’ use of cocaine was a reflection of a wider rise in cocaine use and availability across society, especially among young people.
Cocaine, alongside alcohol, has often been linked to football fans’ match day swagger and hooliganism. During a flurry of fan violence in 2013, in which a Newcastle fan punched a horse and Millwall supporters fought each other at an FA Cup tie, police routinely found cocaine on those arrested.
In 2019 Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts, the National Police Chiefs’ Council football policing lead, said there was “strong evidence” linking a rise in football violence over the two previous seasons to cocaine use by fans.
“I think this study just speaks to how normalised cocaine is now,” said James Treadwell, a criminologist at Staffordshire University, who has studied the links between football fans, drink and drugs.
“It isn't just the high class high society drug, it’s as much a part of lager and football as it is bankers’ bonuses and Champagne. In football firms it is part of the normal culture, a few lines and a punch up.”
Treadwell said alcohol and cocaine use seems to increase the likelihood of people engaging in deviant or violent behaviour. But what is less certain is whether this is because violent people are drawn more to these drugs, or whether it is the drugs’ effects, or a combination of both.