‘True fan = watch match’? In search of the ‘Authentic’ soccer fan

Tom Gibbons, Daniel Nuttall

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    Academics have created typologies to divide association football (soccer) fans into categories based upon the assumed ‘authenticity’ of their fandom practices. One of the main requirements of ‘authentic’ fandom has been assumed to be match attendance. The goal of this paper was to critically assess this assumption through considering how fans themselves talk about the significance of match attendance as evidence of ‘authentic’ fandom. In light of the fact that the voices of English non-league fans on the ‘authenticity’ debate have so far been overshadowed by the overbearing focus of much previous research on the upper echelons of English soccer, an e-survey was conducted with 151 members of an online community of fans of English Northern League (NL) clubs (a semi-professional / amateur league based in North East England). Findings revealed that opinion was divided on the constituents of ‘authentic’ fandom and match attendance was not deemed to be the core evidence of support for a club by 42% of the sample. Elias (1978) suggested that dichotomous thinking hinders sociological understanding and it is concluded that fan typologies are not sufficient for assessing the ‘authenticity’ of fan activities.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)-
    JournalSoccer & Society
    Publication statusPublished - 25 Nov 2014

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