Unfriendly confines: the unsung history of America’s low-key hooliganism

Don’t let all of the mascots, cheerleaders, Kiss Cams and marriage proposals give you the wrong idea: US sports stadiums are often as dangerous as European ones

Loud, violent, armed. If you polled the world on what Americans are like, all three of those descriptors would surely merit frequent mentions. But when it comes to rabid support of sports teams, it’s Europeans who have long had the reputation for mayhem and violence.

Football hooliganism dates back all the way to the Middle Ages in England, when King Edward III banned football in 1349 because he felt the disorder and violence that accompanied matches led to social unrest and distracted his subjects from practicing archery. Another decree 14 years later doubled down on football as undesirable: “We ordain that you prohibit under penalty of imprisonment all and sundry from such stone, wood and iron throwing; handball, football, or hockey; coursing and cockfighting, or other such idle games.”

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