Football's bitterest pill

William Hartston swallows hard data with disappointing results
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The Independent Online
Football, even before the events of Wednesday night, was responsible for nearly a sixth of the disappointment in this country and more than a fifth of all the bitter disappointment. Over 57 per cent of the national hooliganism is also football related. These are the inevitable conclusions of my computer analysis of the past three years of a cross-section of national newspapers. The figures make sobering reading:

Of the 18,828 articles including the word "disappointment" in this vast database, no fewer than 3,126 also contained the word "football". Of the 594 cases of "bitter disappointment", 120 were football related, and of the 1,150 people who have been "bitterly disappointed", football was the implied cause in 267 instances.

Still worse, for every fish that has been gutted (159 in total), there have been more than three gutted footballers (484 altogether). Gutted buildings, however, (518) are still ahead of the footballers.

Surprisingly enough, though, of the 2,699 parrots referred to, only 434 have been sick, and perhaps even more astoundingly, of the 3,342 penalty shoot-outs, only 345 have been dramatic.

Off the field, we have seen 3,255 yobs (of whom 713 have had football connections) and 8,088 thugs (1,222 of whom are football-related). The hooligans, however, have made the game their own with 1,904 out of a total of 3,329 practising their hooliganism in a footballing context. Thugs are certainly more vicious than yobs or hooligans - one in 14 thugs is a vicious thug compared with one in 25 yobs and one in 27 hooligans - but they are considerably less ugly (one in 40 compared with one in 29 and one in 26) and less mindless (one in 40, one in 24 and one in 27 respectively for the three groups).

The most significant figures, however, appear when we investigate the connections of mindlessness and football. Of the 1,976 "mindless" incidences, 356 occurred in close proximity to the word "football", and of those 356, there were 55 mindless yobs, 76 mindless thugs and 86 mindless hooligans. In other words, while football attracts only one in three of our mindless thugs, and two out of every five of our mindless yobs, it is the natural home for more than 70 per cent of our mindless hooligans. A bitterly disappointing result.

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