Academics Richard Giulianotti and Gary Armstrong put an anthropological interpretation on Saturday night's disturbances in Trafalgar Square and argue that the fixture should be revived

THE episodes of disorder in Trafalgar Square on Saturday should not dissuade the English and Scottish football associations from reintroducing the world's oldest international fixture.

The vast majority of the Tartan Army were both uninvolved and uninterested in any clashes with fans of the Auld Enemy. They had taken south to England their popular overseas reputation for friendly, carnival behaviour and maintained it quite easily.

The old accoutrement of general, declared anti-Englishness has inevitably remained. But what has surprised many has been the positive rapport that has developed between particular groups of Scots and English, symbolised immediately after Saturday's match inside Wembley when adjacent groups of opposing fans applauded each other and leaned over police segregation to shake hands.

The atmosphere among the English fans was also less jingoistic than might have been expected, perhaps assisted by the absence of Union Jacks in favour of St George's crosses. No confusion here of Englishness and Britishness, as is found with the ``national'' anthem, which was greeted with Scottish wrath.

After spending four post-match hours at Trafalgar Square, we believe that any disorder principally involved willing participants, specifically the Scottish casuals and English hooligan mobs.

Aberdeen, Hibernian, Dundee, Falkirk, and Kilmarnock casuals had travelled south. The old enmity between Aberdeen and Hibernian was set aside for this major fixture, though the latter's numbers had been depleted by earlier police action.

A Scottish mob of around 150 casuals, with Aberdeen lads the most numerous of all, had been involved in a fight with Middlesbrough hooligans at Leicester Square prior to the game, and considered they had ``done very well''.

There had been earlier concern that the fundamental rivalry between Scotland and England would precipitate violence from English hooligans towards ordinary Scottish fans, but this did not occur.

In a sense, while the Scottish casuals continue to attend a fixture like this, their presence may be said to be functional to the Tartan Army's wellbeing, in pulling the rival hooligans' attention away from the mainstream travelling support.

Sociologists have argued that English hooligan groups ``segment'' in an orderly fashion to join forces against major opponents. But they showed little evidence of such organisation on Saturday.

Dougie Brimson, co-author of the recent book, Everywhere We Go: Behind the Match-Day Madness, said: ``It didn't go off big-style and that was a good thing. No-one was organised. There were mobs from all over. No-one was talking to each other. The England `superfirm' did not exist.''

To sustain his point, at 9pm, 500 metres from Leicester Square, a disturbance began outside the Hippodrome nightclub as an old rivalry was renewed between Chelsea and Tottenham. A less fractious disagreement also occurred between Aberdeen and Dundee casuals. These episodes cry out for an anthropological interpretation of the rituals.

The events at Trafalgar Square were arguably the best entertainment available in the West End on Saturday night. Thousands of tourists milled around, taking photographs or pursuing police in the hope of finding some disorder. An open-top bus stopped to allow its passengers to photograph the events.

At one level, this voyeurism confirms the low level of dangerous violence present. But at another it highlights the ceremonial dimensions of what took place. For here we have a capital city visited by millions to share in the pageantry choreographed and performed by military men.

On Friday morning, a band of Scots had commemorated the execution of William Wallace. On Saturday morning, the English military had trooped the colour.

That afternoon another ritual was promised but failed to materialise, as a third force of patriots, the most organised and uniform mob of the day, interceded with batons, dogs, and horses.

It provided a form of ritualised street theatre, played to various audiences: rival or (via the grapevine) absent hooligans, the plethora of surveillance cameras, and cosmopolitan tourists.

Following the interval and the departure of the audience to Leicester Square at 9.40pm, the final act continued in Trafalgar Square upon a stage emptied of Scots fans. A final prop to the Scots' performance, a sole Lion Rampant, had been left draped on a statue. As England fans moved in to reclaim centre stage, it was ceremonially ripped down and stamped on to be replaced by the three-lion crest and the flag of St George.

Classical civilisations would have been disturbed by the absence of blood at this spectacle. But they would have appreciated rather better than we the ritual symbolism of the clash between two lion crests in the modern-day Hippodrome of London.

No emperors looked to any audience for approval before decision-making. Instead, the various performers will mull over their performance and will disagree as to who stole the scene.

q.Dr Richard Giulianotti, a sociologist, and Dr Gary Armstrong, an anthropologist, are co-editors of a book on the anthropology of football to be published next year.