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In 2018, Nelson and deputy editor Freddy Gray launched a digital-only version of The Spectator USA. The monthly print magazine The Spectator US Edition[81] and website was launched with the Inaugural Edition in October 2019 and the publication surpassed 10,000 subscribers in 2020.[82]


For the October 2020 issue, the title was changed to The Spectator Est. 1828[83] with the website remaining the same. For the June 2021 issue, the name changed again to The Spectator World,[84] and the website also changed to

This guide addresses the problem of spectator violence in stadiums and other arena-type settings. It begins with a discussion of the factors that contribute to such incidents. It then presents a list of questions to help you analyze problems of spectator violence in your jurisdiction. Finally, it reviews responses to the problem, and what is known about them from evaluative research and police practice.

Spectator violence in stadiums is part of a larger set of problems related to misbehavior in sport and concert arenas. It is also related to issues of crowd control at other types of locations. However, this guide addresses only the particular harms that result from spectator-related conflicts occurring within and directly outside stadiums. Related problems not directly addressed in this guide include

Each of the above problems has a specific opportunity structure and therefore requires separate analysis and response. You may find that these related problems have opportunity structures that overlap with the opportunity structure for spectator violence. By eliminating the opportunity for spectator violence, you can also reduce opportunities for other types of harm (e.g., terrorist acts or underage drinking). Nevertheless, each problem warrants individual attention. Some of these related problems are covered in other guides in this series, all of which are listed at the end of this guide. For the most up-to-date listing of current and future guides, see

Policing stadium crowds is a difficult task. Spectator aggression is often only one of many public safety concerns.1 Police are forced to balance the interests of many different parties (e.g., performers who want audience participation, owners and vendors who wish to generate profits). Obviously, police cannot address all causes of spectator violence. It would be difficult to convince team owners that they should discourage highly dedicated fans. In addition, police must protect individuals' rights while maintaining an orderly environment. While spectators have rights, police should not tolerate property destruction and threats or acts of violence.2

Spectator violence in stadiums has been a longstanding tradition. Documentation of such events is found in texts from ancient Greece and the Roman Empire.3 These incidents can occur wherever fans gather, including sports competitions (e.g., baseball, basketball, boxing, football, hockey, soccer) and entertainment events (e.g., music concerts, dog shows, theatrical productions). Violence at these events is rare in North America compared with European countries, particularly when compared with violence at soccer matches in Britain, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium.4 Problems with "football hooligans" in Britain are so widespread that violence occurring at events elsewhere has been labeled the "spread of the English Disease."5 Violence levels tend to vary by type of entertainment or sporting event and across cultures.6 While no single factor can explain why there is less spectator violence in North America,7 such events' negative impact can be great and warrant specific attention. Recent events, such as the violent outbreak at the 2004 Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons basketball game,8 highlight the need for careful planning and prevention efforts. Failure to prevent these incidents can produce a variety of negative consequences, including injury to spectators, entertainers, and security personnel; decreased public confidence; damage to the reputation of the facility and those providing the entertainment; and property destruction.9

Little documentation is available to help us develop a profile of those most likely to engage in the above behaviors. We do know that when physical violence is documented, the perpetrators are most often male.11 Studies of university students suggest that males are more likely than females to consider acts of aggression at sporting events, although this difference becomes less pronounced when less physical forms of aggression are considered.12 Reports of spectator ejections from sporting events suggest that rowdy and abusive fans tend to be middle-class professionals,13 although ticket prices likely influence this finding. Like the level of violence, we should expect the type of violent spectator to change based on the form of entertainment provided. While middle-class adult males are more likely to become aggressive at sporting events, young adolescent girls may exhibit similar behaviors at a boy-band concert.

You can generally classify spectator violence as either spontaneous or organized.14 Organized violence is very rare in the United States and is seen more often in European sport matches that attract large numbers of hardcore fans from other countries. These fans form "gangs" who attend events intending to cause a disturbance. U.S. events tend to experience more spontaneous violence resulting from an overzealous or intoxicated crowd (e.g., wild dancing in a so-called "mosh pit"). It is important to distinguish between organized and spontaneous violence, since each requires different solutions. Specific factors that contribute to spontaneous spectator violence are explored below.

It is important to recognize the characteristics of each venue, event, and available staff that may increase fan aggression. No single characteristic of these elements can guarantee that violence will or will not occur. However, a combination of poorly designed physical environments, high-energy events, and poorly trained or inexperienced staff will increase the likelihood of spectator violence.

Local analysis may reveal unique characteristics of your venue, event, or staff that facilitate violence. Your analysis should be based on the spectator violence triangle (Figure 1) that incorporates these major elements. This triangle is a modification of the widely used problem analysis triangle (see for a description). The relative importance of each side of the triangle will vary from event to event. Fixing problematic characteristics on any one side of the triangle may reduce the likelihood of spectator violence. Fixing more than one side should give greater assurance that your preventive efforts will work.

Figure 1 also lists specific characteristics of venues, events, and staff found to be related to higher levels of spectator violence in stadiums. While some of these factors may be difficult or impossible to change, it is important to understand how each contributes to the likelihood of aggression. Each of these is described next.

There are more than 360 sports stadiums and arenas in the United States,15 and while some share similar features, each is unique. Research and analysis of publicized incidents suggest that specific characteristics of stadiums and arenas are associated with higher levels of spectator violence. Five of these features are discussed below.

Performance proximity. Violence between spectators and entertainers is more likely to occur when there is less physical distance between them. Those in the front row of concerts are better able to reach out and grab performers,16 fans with courtside seats can stretch their legs to trip players,17 and fans can throw objects or jump onto a baseball field or into a hockey penalty box to assault players, coaches, or referees.18 Verbal insults and other aggressive behavior by spectators close to the action can also prompt retaliatory behavior from entertainers who feel threatened or disrespected.19

Noise level. Researchers have found that extreme noise levels increase the likelihood of interpersonal aggression.20 This implies that spectator violence is more likely to be a concern at very loud concerts or for those who are closer to amplification systems. It has also been suggested that noise meters, used to indicate the crowd's volume and encourage spectators to yell and cheer more loudly at sporting events, may encourage obnoxious behaviors that set the stage for spectator aggression.21

Seating arrangements. One of the most consistent findings regarding higher levels of aggression in stadiums relates to the type of seating available to spectators. Individual seats are related to lower violence levels, while general admission seating that requires spectators to stand, often referred to as festival seating, generates higher violence levels.22 While all crowds eventually become mobile, when entering and exiting the stadium, it appears that assigned seating helps maintain order during the event. When seats are not assigned, enthusiastic fans will try to push their way toward the stage, and crush those ahead of them.23 Empty spaces without seats can encourage moshing or provide places to start bonfires. However, individual seats do not guarantee a violence-free event. People who move into unoccupied seats or toward railings can instigate aggression if they refuse to move when the ticket holder arrives or if they block the view of those seated directly behind access barriers.24 In addition, temporary seats not bolted to the floor can become weapons.

Place reputation. Some places experience more violence than others. Some banks are robbed more. Some bars experience more fights between patrons. Therefore, it is not surprising to find that some stadiums experience more violence than others. If left unaddressed, routine violence at a particular venue may contribute to a negative reputation or promote the view that violence is tolerated, or even expected, at the location. Stadiums where conflict is seen as routine or customary may attract people looking to cause trouble or encourage violent behavior among average spectators.25 Venues hosting high-profile events that receive intensive media coverage can also attract people who will act aggressively to see themselves on television or their name in print.26 041b061a72


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