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Session Overview
Panel 409: European Sport in Times of Brexit: Identity Formation, Intercultural Dialogue and Europeanisation of Governance Structures
Tuesday, 03/Sep/2019:
10:50am - 12:20pm

Session Chair: Borja García García, Loughborough University
Location: Audience Room

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European Sport in Times of Brexit: Identity Formation, Intercultural Dialogue and Europeanisation of Governance Structures

Chair(s): Borja García García (Loughborough University, United Kingdom)

Discussant(s): Heidi Maurer (Oxford University)

Debates on identity, political structures and policies in the European Union often focus on elite-driven areas rather disconnected with the population. This panel proposes to use sport, one of the most popular social activities in the continent, to explore the way in which it has shaped the expression of belonging, identity and societal organisation in a number of EU countries. The panel presents a variety of cases where a sporting context is used to research the impact that the supranational (i.e. European) level has had on issues such as identity formation, intercultural dialogue, immigration and sport governance. The panel presents three papers, two of which explore dynamics of identity formation and expression through football and sport. The third paper explores the accommodation of national governance structures to the requirements of EU sport policy, hence a case of political and institutional europeanisation that provides a contrast to the focus on the social realm of the first two papers. This panel will provide insight into sociological and political dynamics of identity and policy formation in the EU using sport as a context.


Presentations of the Symposium


Societal Identities in Europe: The Case of Football in Times of Brexit

Arne Niemann1, Regina Weber2, Florian Koch1, Alexander Brand2
1University of Mainz, 2Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences

Discursive approaches of Europe mostly focus on elite discourses. Many analyses seek to understand how Europe is conceptualised within special sections of societies, e.g. in the quality press or among politicised citizens. These approaches target a narrow political understanding of Europe (and/or the EU). Against the backdrop of the growing discontent with Europe, with Brexit as its apex, and the known elite-mass split on European identity issues, it seems important to shift the focus towards societal discourses on Europe.

The proposed work analyses how football fans discursively construct “Europe” related to their sport. The work is based on qualitative content analysis of online discourses on the issues of (1) rivalry and competition and (2) on player markets and transfer. These two areas are strongly influenced by the interplay of national and European influences. The work focuses discussions in the fan-administered online message boards of football clubs in four European countries: Germany, Austria, France and the United Kingdom (England).

This research strategy provides access to identity conceptions of Europe in a decisively non-elite, and hence: broader societal arena. The Europeanisation of the lifeworld of football is well-advanced: Player markets, frequent European club competitions and European wide broadcasting of games have created a pan-European space. At the same time, football remains a field of mass interest, thus giving access to groups that are known to show rather little identification with Europe otherwise. Preliminary results of our ongoing research effort show that many fans actually express transnational perspectives on football; distinctions between “us” and “them” are neither predominantly national nor exclusively regional in nature. Nevertheless the fans’ self-understandings are complex.

The work contributes to our understanding of discursive constructions of Europe from a non-elite perspective.


Latvian Public Sport Governance Assessment within the Framework of European Union’s Sport Dimension

Sabïne Rusmane
University of Latvia

A lot of efforts are being made to raise the standards of good and sound sport governance within the European Union and its Member States by addressing the principles of democracy, transparency, accountability in decision-making, while also ensuring the full representation of interested stakeholders. The sport governing structures in different European countries are diverse, Latvia’s case is no exception. In Latvia the sport governance has a decentralized structure where most of the sport sector stakeholders are non-governmental organizations with a minimal influence in the decision-making process on the governmental level sport is managed under the helm of the Ministry of Education and Science, as well as the supervisory role of the Government itself.

The purpose of this research is to assess the sport governance in Latvia through analysis of its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats and challenges within the framework of EU’s sports dimension. The author describes the existing sport governing policies and structure in place and its impact on the ongoing sport sector governance and its development in Latvia in contrast to the practices of United Kingdom, as well as Lithuania and Estonia in order to prepare and propose the best process and structural governing optimization options of the sport governance structural processes in Latvia.

The author intends to elaborate an assessment of the sport governance in Latvia within the framework of EU sport’s dimension and to compare it with the sport governance practices in the United Kingdom, as well as its neighbouring countries Lithuania and Estonia, to prepare and propose the best process optimization options of the sport governance structural processes in Latvia.

This paper uses both quantitative and qualitative research methods, such as collection of information, analysis of qualitative data, interviews with experts of different governing levels, analysis of statistical data related to the sports governance and the budget allocated to the sector, as well as a comparison of the findings on the experience of the practice countries (the United Kingdom and Baltic States).


Club-Militants, Institutionalists, Critics, Moderns and Globalists: A Quantitative Typology of Football Supporters in Europe

Borja Garcia1, Ramón Llopis-Goig2
1Loughborough University, 2University of Valencia

The European Parliament and the European Commission have both called repeatedly to give supporters a bigger say in football governance, so to make the game more democratic. This has been reinforced by the recommendations on sport governance adopted by the Council. There is, however, not a clear evidence as to how exactly fans would like to do so, if at all. This article presents a quantitative typology of football fans’ attitudes towards governance. Data collection is done through an online survey in six European countries: France, Germany, Poland, Spain, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. Results reveal the existence of five types of supporters: Club-Militants, Institutionalists, Critics, Moderns and Globalists. The critics, moderns and globalists fans share a preoccupation for football governance problems but differ in the intensity of their views. At the same time, critics and globalist are heavy consumers of football games and merchandise. The results suggest that existing fan typologies that understand supporters in dichotomic terms of authenticity or consumerism fail to explain the complex reality of a game that has developed new structures over the last decades. The results suggest that whereas some fans could welcome the policy advocated by the EU institutions, many feel supporters would be unable to make any difference.

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