SPRT2311- will mainly focus on crowd violence. In order

SPRT2311- Media, Sport and Society


Media Representation of Sports-related Violence

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emergence of various forms of media enables audiences to gain access to
understanding the world. However, different forms of media representations may
have different effects on shaping audiences’ perspectives and conceptions.
Through sport media texts can people learn about the incidents in or out of
stadiums, but the media coverage of sports-related violence may implicitly
shape audiences’ understanding of the athletes, the fandom, as well as the
sports. There are various forms of sports-related violence in terms of player
violence, crowd violence, street crimes, etc. (Young, 2012). In this essay, I
will mainly focus on crowd violence. In order to reach a deep understanding of
media representation of crowd violence between fans, several newspaper texts on
same incident would be utilized and analyzed. A recent typical example of crowd
violence happened on November 2nd, 2017 in Hamilton. The fight between two
groups of sport fans happened on street. According to the news, they are fans
of rugby groups from Tonga and Samoa. On 4th Nov, there will be game of Rugby
League World Cup between the two groups. It is said that more than 200 people
were involved, also, during the brawls, weapons such as poles and sticks were
used. Later, it is reported that 12 people were arrested. 

definition of crowd violence was given by Young (2012), according to him, crowd
violence can be understood as either verbal or physical aggression committed by
sports fans. At the same time, it can happen both inside and outside the sports
arena. Dunning (2002b) also noted that the issue of crowd violence can go
beyond football, also can be analyzed in global globe. Therefore, the study of
media representation of crowd violence can also base on the issues beyond
football in the UK. 

is lack of studies about violence between rugby fans, therefore, some studies
about football hooliganism can somehow be used in relation to the rugby fandom.
For example, Hall’s (1978) study about media representation of football
hooliganism. According to him, media representation of football hooliganism can
be concluded in 6 features in terms of excite the phenomenon, misleading
language of violence, dismissive labelling, stigmatized fans, lack of causes
and constructing moral panic. These can also apply in the analysis of crowd
violence committed rugby fans. 

I will
construct my essay by firstly analyzing the six forms of media representation
on hooliganism. Then, the news texts about the incident from five online
newspaper websites will be analyzed in relation to the six features of the
media representation. It is also noticeable that media representation can bring
specific effects on audiences, therefore, possible results will be noted as
well. Furthermore, the differences in media representations may result from the
aims of producers, which will then be discussed. 


(1978) did a study about media representation on football hooliganism, in which
he stated that media texts are not simply a reflection of the incident,
instead, differences in use of words, photos, videos and contents will result
in different media representations. Therefore, when analyzing a media text, it
would be useful to focus precisely on words as well as the content. 

first feature he mentioned is that media texts would excite the phenomenon.
The texts might relate the fact to larger content, make it more serious and
therefore raise much public concern.  For example, they sometimes link the tension between fans to
a destroyed and discredited match. Also, they would urge authorities to act,
which will make the audiences more likely to believe in the seriousness of the
incident, and may take a stereotyped view of sport fans. Weis (1986) added that
the enforcement of police may break self-control of fans, which means that in
the future, they are more likely to take part in the similar brawls. The second
feature of media representation is misleading language of violence.
Some misleading sentences and scenes can produce warlike metaphors, which would
exaggerate the fact and intensify the scene. For example, photos that are taken
during the clash are used, and sometimes can have misleading effects on
audiences. Audiences might see the tension between fans as long-lasting fights
and therefore hold a negative view on sport fans. Poulton (2005) stated that
there is also a causal relationship between the feature excited phenomena.  Weis (1986) takes the view that media coverage of media
scenes can raise interests of audiences. The increasing exposure to violent
scenes may raise the possibility of occurrence of future violent incident,
because some audiences tend to learn and imitate the behaviors shown by the
media. Therefore, some audiences will believe in an intensified clash while a
small group of people become more possible to commit violent actions; also, the
public would feel that all sports fans are moody and clashes are horrible. At
the same time, the circulation of the news texts may lead to increasing spread
of fear, which would make the situation more serious. 

third feature is missive labelling. This is to relate behaviors of fans to ‘animal instinct’. By using
words such as ‘savages’ and ‘mindless’, an impression of collective insanity is
given. Instead of explaining what really happened, the newspaper can simplify
the fact by concluding the fight as ‘animal instinct’, which may make audiences
believe in the wild nature of sport fans and hence have a stereotyped or even negative
view on them. Furthermore, media representation of crowd violence may stigmatize fans. Poulton (2005) stated missive labelling is one of the ways to
stigmatize fans. Another way could be failing to distinguish those specific
trouble-makers. Instead, the news may include all fans in the frame of hooligan
without pointing out differences between various fan bases and individuals
(Poulton, 2005). Sometimes there are lack of causes mentioned in texts, or few
investigations are done. Causes are not explained, and the processes are simply
concluded by one or two words such as ‘brawl’ and ‘fight’. Also, although the
fans that took part in cannot represent the whole fan group, they are simply
concluded as ‘sport fans’. This can generalize and trivialize the incidence,
which may help aggravate public feelings of sport fans.

final feature of media representation is the construction of moral panic. The texts may excite the fact and convince the audiences that the situation
is much more serious. As Cohen (1972) pointed out, a simple deviant act can be
exaggerated and hence lead to moral panic. According to him, the deviant act
can firstly be defined as crime and then be published in news. Media may
exaggerate the fact; therefore the news-making process can help amplify the
simple deviant act. The public perceive and receive the information. Every time
they discuss the incident, they give rise to magnitude and popularity of the
incident. This can lead to an increased willingness of campaign for new law,
which is a formation of moral panic (Cohen, 1972). The consequence of this is
that the deviant act can eventually be much more seriously defined and may lead
to fear and panic. In the context of crowd violence, the moral panic can give
rise to the fear of fans’ behaviors and hence lead to the fear of sport fans. 


first media text is from the website “stuff”, which is the website for
Fairfax’s New Zealand newspaper. At the beginning of the text, “Saturday’s
hotly-anticipated rugby league world cup clash between Tonga and Samoa in
Hamilton has been overshadowed by street violence between members of both
pacific communities in south Auckland” was written. The word “overshadowed” is
used, which makes the tension more serious. The text excites the phenomena by
relating the incident to larger content, which is the Rugby League World Cup.
Furthermore, by quoting speech from organizers and community leaders, the text
tries to indicate that there was nothing more can be done by official
organization. However, this might implicitly deliver the message that fans are
out of control and they should take the main responsibility. This can
stigmatize fans and therefore deteriorate public feelings of sport fans. 

terms of the text from The West Australian, causes of the incident were not
mentioned in the text. Although the title of the text is “Rugby League World
Cup: At least 12 arrested before Tonga-Samoa clash”, majority of the text is
about the match. Only a few lines are about the brawl. Moreover, the text
generalizes fans, instead distinguish those who are radical from the whole fan
group. This might lead to a stigmatized impression of sport fans. 

done by polices were mentioned in the text from New Zealand Herald, this could
possibly exaggerate the incident. “police have indicated they will have a
noticeable presence in Hamilton for the match”, by reading this, the audience
may start to take it serious. The presence of police can reinforce the
atmosphere of fear. The public would increasingly fear of the brawl and would
try to urge on more regulations from authorities. Therefore, it would
eventually lead to moral panic. 

terms of the text from the Daily Telegraph, videos of the incident were used.
In the video, drastic and furious fights can be seen. The audiences can also
hear fans’ shouting as well as the sound of defacing private cars and public
property. This might be so detailed that the audiences can feel immersive and
hence can easily become nervous and terrified. This can give rise to the
circulation of fear and eventually lead to moral panic. Also, by revealing the
furious and radical side of sport fans, it will worsen public views of them. 

text from the Guardian is not detailed enough. Cause of this incident is not
investigated and the text simply ascribe the brawl to historical tension
between fans. Furthermore, the text implicitly express criticism to fans
engaged in the brawl by writing “disorderly behavior will not be tolerated”. By
urging the fans show respect to officials and staff, the text can convince the
audiences that fans should be the most responsible for the brawl. Therefore,
the audiences are more likely to believe in a stereotype that there are
long-term contradiction between Tongan and Samoan fans, also, they would
believe in the easiness of another brawl between fans to break out. 


To sum
up, from the five media texts it is shown that most media tend to ignore the
investigation process and causes of the incidents are generalized as “historical tensions”. This can be proved by
survey done by Wall (2017) about citizens’
view, in which witnesses stated that it was simply “people waving their flag
and show their pride”. This can help support the view that the fact is not
simple and the media tend to be too simple and negative (Wall, 2017).
Furthermore, videos of violent scenes are used in some texts and approaches
done by police are mentioned; also, the incident is deemed to have a
larger-scale effect. These can excite and exaggerate the phenomena. Moreover,
the texts stigmatize fans by implicitly criticizing them and generalizing the
fans who engage in the brawl. 
However, this may not be
unintentional; instead, the media producers may have their own aims. Du Gay
(1997) stated that there is certain culture of production behind the decision
making about how to edit a text. For instance, there might be aims of profit
making and shaping audiences’ values. This indicates that media texts would
possibly exaggerate the fact or stigmatize the fans to achieve their goals. For
example, they can excite the phenomenon on purpose by including some videos and
using misleading languages. By doing this, they can somehow attract the
audiences. According to Crabbe (2003), coverage of hooliganism feed the
audience. Therefore, media texts may utilize various tricks in order to gain
more attention from the audiences. Crawford (2004) stated that social power of
fans is considerable, which can help support the view that media texts will try
to match taste of audiences. At the same time, he also noted that public
notions will affect media representations, which will influence perspectives of
audiences, and will hence affect the public thought. However, Abercrombie
(1996) stated that audiences have their own understanding and background
knowledge, which may influence the effectiveness of media texts. Therefore,
effects of media representations of crowd violence on audiences may differ
according to differences in their backgrounds. 



All in
all, media representation of sport related violence, crowd violence in particular,
is still problematic in terms of its misleading effects on the audiences. By
analyzing the five media texts, it is obvious that Hall’s six features of media
representations of football hooliganism can be applied on rugby events in these
days as well. It is also noticeable that the ways of representation may result
from producers’ own purposes, for example, to attract more audiences and
increase the exposure. However, this may finally lead to the result that the
public tend to have negative impression on rugby fans.



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