Win or lose, watching a World Cup together can be a uniquely positive experience

by Fergus Neville

When the 2018 World Cup kicks off in Russia it promises to captivate not only the globe’s football fans, but social psychologists too (although these two categories are not mutually exclusive: our laboratory with a large projector screen will be suspiciously booked during match times).

One of the issues most commonly associated with international football crowds is that of ‘hooliganism’. This could be particularly true for the forthcoming tournament given the conflict between Russian and English fans during Euro 2016 in France, exposés of Russian ‘hooligans’ preparing for the World Cup and the deteriorating political relationship between the UK and Russia which has included the expulsion of the British diplomat responsible for football fans. Moreover, Russian police reportedly witnessed the unruly behaviour of a section of English fans in March’s friendly match in Amsterdam.

This last observation is important because perception of the ‘other’ in intergroup contexts shapes the ways that groups treat each other and can create self-fulfilling prophecies. Continue reading