FEATURE: Are sports pubs fan-friendly or sites to assert dominance?

Norwich is a city encompassing many attractions including its outdoor market, beautiful cathedrals and the historical castle, but one of the main draws for tourists is to watch their local football team play Norwich F.C. at Carrow Road Stadium.  

The Canaries play at home at least once a fortnight, and this brings a fleet of fans of their opposing team to Norwich for the day. While going to the game is the main event, the rest of the day will be taken up by celebrating (or commiserating) at the nearest boozer.

The question is: do football fans go to these establishments for the sense of unity, or are they used as scenes to torment their opponent?

With the existence of films like Lexi Alexander’s ‘Green Street’ and Nick Love’s ‘The Football Factory’ which depict football fans as violent hooligans, I wanted to see if this is what football culture is like in the real and modern world.

The Sir Norman Chester Centre for Football Research at Leicester University published a report on football hooliganism in 2001, saying “many hooligan offences these days are related to the use of alcohol” which pubs that cater specifically to football fans can only attribute to.

Andy Coe recently took over the Compleat Angler on Prince of Wales Road as general manager, transitioning it from a pub for away fans into a pub for home fans. I went to the Compleat Angler to ask him some questions:

Q: What is the worst experience you’ve had with fans in this pub?

A: “On Friday night a 17 year old boy got nicked by the police for yelling “shut up you pricks” at Brighton and Hove fans, but that was someone from Norwich.”

Q: Do you prefer catering to home or away fans?

A: “Since we made the change to home fans the pub’s been a lot more relaxed, we’re not as anxious now whereas before we had to consider who the troublemakers would be.”

Q: Do you think most people come just to enjoy the day or do you think there are people who only want to cause trouble?

A: “Most of the nice fans just want to have a nice day, they’re good people, but the small minority can spoil it for the rest.”

compleat football

While at the Compleat Angler I also spoke to Olivia Minnock, barmaid at the pub for two years, and she had this to say on her experiences of working with away fans:

“I would say I’ve had an overall positive experience of away days at my workplace.

My worst experience was a Man U game, which I’ve decided I will never work in the future, as the fans were really violent and aggressive. Some decided to urinate on their fellow fans and hit one of my colleagues. I was sexually assaulted as I cleared a table with a man pushing me over and pressing me into the table with my crotch.

To be honest as a woman who works in a pub, if you took action every time someone was sexually inappropriate or aggressive, you’d never get any work done. That shouldn’t be the case but sadly it is. That being said, if there are any problems the door is well-staffed, and current management take complaints very seriously – but that is not always a given for some pubs.

Some teams will tweet the pub threatening to “smash it up” – but those usually end up being the quieter crowd with one or two old men trying to “start something” and everyone else telling them to get over themselves.

Once, someone decided to let off a smoke bomb in the pub. This set off all the smoke alarms – obviously – and everyone had to leave.”

As both Andy and Olivia have suggested, it seems to be fans from away teams that cause the most trouble, but this is a still a minority.

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