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Youth Gangs and the value of sport in the 2008 European Capital of Culture


... (media-induced) reputation for: anti-social behaviour drugs hooliganism ... I have stopped going out the night before we play since I signed for the football ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Youth Gangs and the value of sport in the 2008 European Capital of Culture

Youth Gangs and the value of sport in the 2008
European Capital of Culture
  • James Kenyon
  • (Liverpool Hope University Loughborough
  • UNeECC-Compostela Conference, University of Pécs,
    14th 15th Oct. 2010

Gangs are not a newly conceived phenomenon Gangs
have attracted a considerable (media and
political) attention in the UK in recent years.
Can be explained by increases in anti-social
behaviour and knife and gun crime among elements
of UK youth culture (Marshall et al.,
2005) Overlooked by academics until recently
Therefore The aim of this research was to
examine the extent to which community sports
programmes serve as an effective tool in
preventing youth engagement in gang culture
Definitional Issues
Gangs are difficult to define General consensus
is A durable group of young people, with a
group identity, which are structured or organised
(to a certain degree) and, at some level, are
involved in criminal, delinquent or anti-social
behaviours (Aldridge and Medina-Ariza, 2007
Hallsworth and Young, 2004)
  • Since the beginning of Liverpools economic
    implosion in the 1960s/70s, the city has
    developed a (media-induced) reputation for
  • anti-social behaviour
  • drugs
  • hooliganism
  • crime
  • and more recently youth-gang culture
  • (see for example, Boland, 2008 Doward, 2007)

Liverpool was first mainland city in the UK to
have openly armed police officers patrolling the
streets (Boland, 2008 pg. 361) Between 1994 -
1997, Merseyside was responsible for
approximately 80 of the UKs imported heroin
(Anderson cited in Campbell, 1998 pg.
4) Between 2006 - 2007, in the 1st year of SOCA,
Liverpool was revealed as being the UK's centre
for organised crime outside London (Merrick,
2007 11 year old Rhys Jones killed in
cross-fire of gang-related shooting Youth
gang feud in Croxteth / Norris
Green Significant coverage in
national and international media -
Young Gunmen (2008) - Ross Kemp on Gangs
Reasons for Engagement (US)
  • Excitement
  • Identity
  • Protection
  • Conformity
  • Fiscal reasons
  • A family tradition
  • (National Crime Prevention Council, 2006)

Risk Factors for Engagement (UK)
  • Lack of Education
  • Training and Employability
  • Criminal Lifestyles
  • Thinking and Behaviour Problems
  • (Dawson, 2008)

Geographical Areas of Academic Interest
1. Edinburgh (e.g. Smith et al., 2001) 2.
Manchester (e.g. Bennett and Holloway, 2004
Bullock and Tilley, 2002 Mares, 2001) 3.
Liverpool (e.g. Bennett and Holloway, 2004
Dawson, 2008) 4. Birmingham (e.g. Bennett and
Holloway, 2004 Dawson, 2008) 5. London (e.g.
Bennett and Holloway, 2004 Dawson, 2008
Pitts, 2007)
Key Research
Contrary to popular belief (i.e. the media),
gangs have a loose structure and lacked formal
leadership (Mares, 2001) Which supports more
current research that maintains the structure of
youth gangs is fluid, loose and messy
(Aldridge and Medina-Ariza, 2007 17)
Most gang members are - to some degree -
involved in violence, crime and/or drugs (either
consuming or selling) (Aldridge and
Medina-Ariza, 2007 Bullock and Tilley, 2002
Mares, 2001, Pitts, 2007 Smith, 2001). In
most major cities in the UK with a significant
gang problem, members are more likely to be young
black males of African or Caribbean descent
(Dawson, 2008 Mares, 2001) except in
Liverpool where almost all are white
(Dawson, 2008)
Why Sport??? Why Liverpool???
Community sport is considered to be a practical
means of addressing societys problems
Anti-social behaviour is listed as the top
priority in Liverpools Crime, Disorder,
Anti-Social Behaviour Drug Misuse Strategy 2005
2008 (Citysafe, 2005) Anti-social behaviour
is more likely to be prevalent in underprivileged
neighbourhoods (Utting, 1997) Liverpool is the
most deprived local authority in the UK (SRCD,
2008). Liverpool is famous throughout the world
for its sporting icons and institutions (Boland,
2008 Kenyon Rookwood, 2010 Rookwood,
2010) Almost two-thirds of population
participate regularly (Sport England, 2006)
Qualitative approach Online and offline
ethnographic techniques Participant observation
(PO), interviews (IV), focus groups (FG), content
analysis Rich material, reliable evidence PO
Perceptions of Problem
  • Divergence in opinion concerning the extent of
    the problem.
  • expert-interviewees ? big problem
  • younger respondents ? not that big a problem
  • Has the youth population in these deprived
    communities become desensitised to elements of
    criminality and anti-social behaviour to such a
    degree that they no longer consider certain
    behaviours to be anti-social or criminal, but
    more so, to be part of daily routine?

Engagement Membership
  • Daytime Activities
  • Playing football
  • Smoking marijuana (but not dealing)
  • Night-time Activities
  • Drinking (usually only on a weekend)
  • Meeting up with girls
  • However
  • The above is not too dissimilar from youth
    behaviour throughout the UK

Engagement Membership
No initiation ceremony Membership came from
hanging around with friends who were already
involved. There was usually no leader Where
there was, it was usually the young person
considered to be the hardest (best fighter)
Engagement Community Sport
Findings are consistent with previous research
conducted on anti-social behaviour (Morris et
al., 2003) Achieving reductions in engagement
comes from decreasing the amount of unsupervised
leisure time its mainly down to boredom.
The kids Ive coached usually say that theres
nothing for them to do. And if theyve got an
interest in football and join our team, they
train so many nights a week, they havent got as
much time to be hanging around being bored (FG
Engagement Community Sport
The physical demands of sport are SOMEWHAT
attributable in preventing engagement in gang
culture and ASB when they get back from
training, theyre tired and they just want to
relax (FG Resp.) it just takes it out of you
when you play footy and then goin out and
causin trouble and all that be arsed? (FG
Engagement Community Sport
  • Community sport can deter
  • binge drinking
  • drug-taking sessions
  • in the evenings preceding weekend participation.
  • Go ed lad I didnt go out last night or
    anythin. Ive stopped all that the night before
    a game since I started playing for youse. Nice
    and fresh kid.
  • Scouse-to-English Translation
  • Hello my friend I decided not to go out drinking
    last night. I have stopped going out the night
    before we play since I signed for the football
    team. I like to feel nice and fresh for the game
    my friend.

Long Term Benefits
  • Findings are consistent with Nichols (1997) and
    Utting (1997) research into deviance and sport.
  • Lasting benefits are achieved through
  • Improvements in cognitive and social skills
  • Reductions in impulsive and risk-taking
  • Increases in self esteem and confidence
  • Improvements in education and employment

It would be naïve to suppose that participation
in community sport can eradicate all traces of
engagement in ASB Gang Culture But it can
certainly reduce engagement! Community sport
should (and must) be integrated into a wider
holistic programme of community development.
  • Aldridge, J. and Medina-Ariza, J. (2007). Youth
    Gangs in an English City Social Exclusion, Drugs
    and Violence Full Research Report ESRC End of
    Award Report, RES-000-23-0615. Swindon ESRC
  • Bennett, T Holloway, K. (2004). Gang
    membership, drugs and crime in the UK. British
    Journal of Criminology, 44 pp. 305 - 323.
  • Boland, P. (2008). The construction of images of
    people and place Labelling Liverpool and
    stereotyping Scousers. Cities, 25 pp. 355 -
  • Bullock, K. Tilley, N (2002). Shootings, gangs
    and violent incidents in Manchester Developing a
    crime reduction strategy. Crime reduction
    research series, Paper 13. London Home Office.
  • Campbell, A. (1998). Mersey Kings of Evil Trade.
    Liverpool Echo, published 1st April, 1998
  • Citysafe (2005). Crime, Disorder, Anti-Social
    Behaviour Drug Misuse Strategy 2005 2008.
    Retrieved 24th October, 2009 from
  • Dawson, P. (2008). Monitoring Data from the
    Tackling Gangs Action Programme. Home Office
  • Doward, J (2007). Raised amid guns and gangs.
    The Guardian. Retrieved 12th of January, 2009
    from http//
  • Hallsworth, S. and Young, T. (2008). Gang talk
    and gang talkers A critique. Crime, Media and
    Culture, vol. 4, 175-195
  • Kenyon, J. and Rookwood, J. (2010). The world
    in one postcode? Examining the place of sport
    and perceptions of Liverpools European Capital
    of Culture experience. Poster presented at the
    International Journal of Arts Sciences
    Mediterranean Conference for Academic
    Disciplines, February 15th 18th, University of
    Gozo Malta.

  • Marshall, B, Webb, B. and Tilley, N. (2005).
    Rationalisation of current research on guns,
    gangs and other weapons Phase 1. University
    College London Jill Dando Institute of Crime
    Science London.
  • Merrick, R. (2007). Liverpool revealed as centre
    for organised crime in North. icLiverpool.
    Retrieved 12th of January, 2009 from
  • National Crime Prevention Council (2006).
    Identifying and Addressing a Gang Problem.
    Arlington National Crime Prevention Council.
  • Nichols, G. (1997). A consideration of why
    active participation in sport and leisure might
    reduce criminal behaviour. Sport, Education and
    Society, 2(2) pp. 181-190.
  • Pitts, J. (2007). Violent youth gangs in the UK.
    Safer Society The Journal of Crime Reduction and
    Community Safety, 32 pp. 14 17.
  • Rookwood, J. (2010). Were not English we are
    Scouse! Examining the identities of Liverpool
    Football Club supporters. In, Sport and Social
    Identity Studies from the Field. (Eds. J.
    Hughson, F. Skillen and C. Palmer). Lewiston
    Edwin Mellen Press. In Press
  • Smith, D., J., McVie, S., Woodward, R., Shute,
    J., Flint, J. and McAra, L. (2001) The Edinburgh
    Study of Youth Transitions and Crime. Edinburgh
    Study of Youth Transitions and Crime Research
    Digest No. 1.
  • Social Disadvantage Research Centre (2008) The
    English Indices of Deprivation 2007. Communities
    and Local Government London.
  • Sport England (2006) Understanding the Success
    Factors in Sport Action Zones. Final Report.
    London Sport England.
  • Utting, D. (1997) Reducing Criminality Among
    Young People A Sample of Relevant Programmes in
    the United Kingdom. London Home Office Research
    and Statistics Directorate.