Football Research in Europe - why and what for?

Myself and my fellow researchers at Loughborough University are doing a study to investigate football governance through the eyes of the supporter. This is part of an international research project involving nine universities in eight different European called The FREE Project (Football Research in an Enlarged Europe).

The rationale for this study comes from the widespread sense in the press and within the football community that football fans might be left behind by modern football. The new structures of the game have meant new owners, increase in ticket prices, and relocation of teams, among other things.

Many different organisations now have a strong interest in how football is governed; interests which may conflict with the traditional values of European football. It is quite generally felt that the voice and the feelings of the supporters are rarely taken into account.

The FREE project wants to change this: we are looking for passionate football fans to get involved with the project. The role of the volunteers who get involved in this project is to be the eyes and ears of the research team. As researchers, we want to find out about the supporters’ opinions and feelings about football governance.

But we want to empower our participants (the fans) to tell their stories with their own words. We have designed a research methodology whereby we will not be ‘observing’ or ‘asking the questions’ from the outside. Actually, we will ask the participants (that is you as a supporter!) to elaborate with audio-visual diaries to tell us, in their own words, how they feel about football governance.

We really want to find out what the football fans think about current developments in the governance of the game. How supporters connect to modern football. What part football plays in supporters’ daily routine. For this, we will be asking supporters who get involved to take a series of photographs and record a small number of diaries based around football ‘events’ in your lives over an eight week period in the spring (March/April 2013).

This will not involve a big time commitment as it should fit around normal football activities. So if you feel passionate about football and you think your opinion is not normally heard by the authorities, this is your opportunity! The FREE project will be disseminating the findings amongst policy-makers.

Sounds like something you would like to do?

Dr Borja Garcia is a Lecturer in Sport Management and Policy at Loughborough University.