Win or lose, watching a World Cup together can be a uniquely positive experience

by Fergus Neville

When the 2018 World Cup kicks off in Russia it promises to captivate not only the globe’s football fans, but social psychologists too (although these two categories are not mutually exclusive: our laboratory with a large projector screen will be suspiciously booked during match times).

One of the issues most commonly associated with international football crowds is that of ‘hooliganism’. This could be particularly true for the forthcoming tournament given the conflict between Russian and English fans during Euro 2016 in France, exposés of Russian ‘hooligans’ preparing for the World Cup and the deteriorating political relationship between the UK and Russia which has included the expulsion of the British diplomat responsible for football fans. Moreover, Russian police reportedly witnessed the unruly behaviour of a section of English fans in March’s friendly match in Amsterdam.

This last observation is important because perception of the ‘other’ in intergroup contexts shapes the ways that groups treat each other and can create self-fulfilling prophecies. Continue reading

Are women ‘real’ sports fans? The importance of sport for female fans

Stacey Pope 150.jpgStacey Pope is an Associate Professor in the School of Applied Social Sciences, Durham University.

Her research focuses upon issues of gender inequality and sport and her research expertise is in the area of female sports fans. Her book The Feminization of Sports Fandom: A Sociological Study was recently published by Routledge.

If you’re a female fan of football or rugby, don’t expect a level playing field when it comes to being a supporter. Female football and rugby union fans in my research discuss how they have to routinely ‘prove’ their status as ‘real’ fans – usually to male supporters. Common stereotypes of female sports fans have included that they lack sporting knowledge, are only interested in the sexual attractiveness of (male) star players and are not as passionate or committed as male fans. Media coverage also typically represents women in subordinate ways; for example, a cursory internet search for ‘female fans’ brings up numerous sexualised images, doing little to challenge the perceptions of women as inferior sports fans. Continue reading