In the run up to the Euro 2012 competition we have seen a number of news reports concerning racism and violence in both the Ukraine and Poland, the two host countries. This reminded me of a curious incident I found in the Oxford Coroners Rolls for the year 1303 which is perhaps the earliest incident of football hooliganism reported in England and features both English and Irish students, both nations represented at the Euro2012 competition.
On the 25th of March 1303 a student of the university in Oxford named Thomas de Sarum found his brother Adam dying in the street. Adam had a wound that reached down the left side of face and neck and another on his shoulder on the same side. An inquest was held before the Coroner and the assembled jurors to ascertain what exactly had happened. It transpired that the Adam had been playing football with some other English students after vespers in the High Street near to the East Gate. While they were playing they were assailed by Thomas de Keting, Walter de Whit and Willock the garcioof David de Bren all students who had come from Ireland to study in Oxford. William restrained Adam, while Walter de Whit beat him with his fists until Adam fell to the ground unconscious. When he tried to get up Thomas de Keting drew a long knife and struck the two fatal blows to Adams face and shoulder. Despite the severity of the wounds it took Adam almost twenty four hours to die.
Not long after this event football was banned in England by royal decree because of its disruptive potential. However this deadly altercation between English and Irish students at Oxford was perhaps less to do with football and more concerned with the deep rooted antagonism between the alliances of regional origination, the Nations, at Oxford. By 1303 the Nations were already banned by the Chancellor for being the cause so much dissension between the scholars assembled in Oxford supposedly for the purpose of studying. This incident was not the first, nor was it by any means the last, in a long line of violent and bloody conflicts between students of Oxford’s two Nations, the Australes and the Boreales.