Football Subcultures


Exploring the rich subcultures within football culture.

Football, the world’s most popular sport, is not just a game but a cultural phenomenon that transcends boundaries and unites millions. Within the vast landscape of football culture, various subcultures have emerged, each with its distinct identity and ethos. Among some of the most notable are the casuals, ultras, hooligans, and groundhoppers. These groups, while sharing a common love for the sport, express their passion in markedly different ways.

Lazio v Roma, Stadio Olimpico, Rome, Italy.
Roma fans at the Derby della Capitale. Lazio v Roma, Stadio Olimpico, Rome, Italy. 19.03.23. © Hugo Saye

Football Casuals

The casual subculture began in the UK during the late 1970s and early 1980s, characterised by its members’ distinctive fashion sense. Casuals eschew traditional football attire in favour of high-end, designer clothing, often adopting brands like Burberry, Stone Island, Lacoste, and Fred Perry. This style serves as both a status symbol and a way to avoid police attention, as their appearance is less overtly associated with football fans. Casuals often travel in groups, displaying their loyalty to their team through fashion and social behaviour rather than overt displays of support like waving a flag or a scarf. Their gatherings can sometimes overlap with those of hooligans and violence, although their primary focus remains on style and the social aspects of football fandom like camaraderie.

Football Ultras

The ultras subculture, originating in Italy in the late 1960s, is characterised by its intense, organised support for football teams. Ultras are known for creating an electrifying atmosphere in stadiums, often through coordinated chants, elaborate tifos (large, choreographed displays), and the use of pyrotechnics. Their commitment goes beyond match days, as they engage in various activities to support their clubs, including organising community events and producing fanzines. Ultras pride themselves on their unwavering loyalty and collective identity, which can sometimes lead to confrontations with rival groups and even their own clubs or authorities. Their influence on the ambiance of football matches is undeniable, making them a significant part of the sport’s culture.

Football Hooligans

Hooligans represent the darker side of football culture, where the passion for the sport manifests in violence and disorder. This subculture gained notoriety in the 1960s and 1970s, particularly in the UK, though it exists worldwide. Hooliganism is marked by organized groups, known as firms, that plan fights with rival firms. These altercations often occur away from stadiums to avoid law enforcement and have led to serious social and legal issues. While not as pervasive as in previous decades due to increased policing and legal measures, hooliganism still exists and occasionally erupts, overshadowing the positive aspects of football culture.

Football Groundhoppers

In stark contrast to hooligans, groundhoppers are football enthusiasts who travel to as many different football grounds as possible. This subculture is driven by a love for the sport and a desire to travel and experience its diverse local cultures. Groundhoppers often meticulously document their visits, sharing reviews, photographs and stories about the stadiums, matches, and the surrounding communities. They celebrate the idiosyncrasies of each venue, from the smallest non-league grounds to the largest international arenas. Groundhopping fosters a sense of adventure and appreciation for football’s grassroots and global reach, highlighting the sport’s ability to bring people together through shared experiences.

The subcultures within football culture; casuals, ultras, hooligans, and groundhoppers, demonstrate the sport’s multifaceted nature. Each group brings a unique flavour to the footballing experience, from the sartorial elegance of the casuals to the fervent support of the ultras, the controversial violence of hooligans, and the explorative spirit of groundhoppers. Together, they enrich the tapestry of football culture, reflecting the diverse ways in which people connect with the beautiful game.

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