Football fandom : football fan identity and identification at Luton Town Football Club
This study examines football fan identity and identification within the Nationwide football league in England. A preliminary examination of the literature concludes that research on fan identity with sports teams in general, focuses primarily upon the behavioural consequences of fan identification. More specific research on the football fan concentrates predominantly upon either the F.A. Premier League or the deviant fan. The research thus attempts to fill a void in knowledge by examining football fan identification of fans of less successful football teams, using a social identity theory framework. Employing a mixed-methods research design, and an embedded case study approach, the study investigates those factors that influence fan identification at Luton Town Football Club. Methods used were those of observation/participant observation, a large scale fan survey, and indepth semi-structured interviews with fans. As part of the fan survey, the sport spectator identification scale (Wann and Branscombe, 1993), revealed a fan population that was highly identified with Luton Town. Levels of fan identification were similar across age, gender, and length of support of the club. Subsequent survey and interview data allowed six themes related to this fan identification to emerge: these being the extent of fan identification; the antecedents of fan identification; the maintenance of fan identification; the effects of fan identification upon behaviour; the influence of the cultural identity within which fan identities are enacted; and the relationship between the fan and the football club. Analysis of these themes yields a model of football fan identification which can be adapted to fans of other football clubs, or fans within other contexts. It was concluded that whenever such identification provides positive social and psychological consequences for fans, levels of identification with the club remain high. For these fans, it is the process of identification with the club that is the most important component of fandom. By contrast, where the individual derives fewer benefits from fandom, identification remains low. For such less identified fans, other factors, such as the quality of facilities or team performance, become more meaningful. The findings from the study indicate that social identity theory is an appropriate framework with which to explore the concept of football fan identification.