The Night of Nancy: Social Psychology and Football

When relating theory to the example currently employed, one should note that Feyenoord fans have experienced a substantial amount of frustration and disappointment. On the pitch, Feyenoord has not lived up to its athletic potential. Outside of the pitch, the club has been experiencing financial and organizational difficulties. The frustration that these supporters have had to deal with must have been enormous, emotions that have not gone unnoticed by club directors. In full awareness of the potential for problems, the club management attempted to regulate their supporters by going as far as making formal requests to stay calm and even warning French authorities prior to the game (Feyenoord Netwerk, 2006).

What is to be learned from the ‘Night of Nancy’? First of all, an accurate cooperation has to be established amongst home and away teams, authorities, and the UEFA. Again, I do not have any intend to diminish the importance of individual responsibilities of the supporters. However, both the French authorities, Nancy, Feyenoord, and the UEFA were aware of potential riots. In my opinion, ALL parties involved (and, in fact, Feyenoord in this case to a lesser degree) have failed to live up to their responsibilities. In this case, Feyenoord has received a large fine, Nancy’s stadium was vandalized, and football’s reputation has again been damaged. A priori coordination would have incurred significantly less costs.

While the (in the Netherlands) much-discussed football law will prevent the small group of hardcore hooligans from entering the stadium, it will not prevent the experience of strong group emotions and the corresponding enactment of action tendencies. In other words: the football law will not prevent violent riots. Risk assessments(via a constant cooperation with supporter groups) will have to be made upon these possible group emotions and police will have to act appropriately in making such risk assessments. Appropriate actions for police of course also depend on identity theories, and have been thoroughly researched by a team of researchers at the University of Liverpool (for an excellent analysis of different level of risks, see Dr. Stott’s personal homepage). While no party seems to be willing to take responsibility, risk assessment based on group level emotions and appropriate actions should be incorporated into the national authority’s and UEFA’s day-to-day policies.


Feyenoord Netwerk (2006). Dringende Oproep Feyenoord aan Meereizende Fans [Urgent Call Feyenoord for Travelling Fan]. Retrieved, December 9, 2006 from Feyenoord Netwerk.

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