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Title: The cultural psychology of football in England and Scotland : history, economics, national identity and nostalgia
Author: Ewen, Neil David
ISNI:       0000 0004 2686 4659
Awarding Body: University of East Anglia
Current Institution: University of East Anglia
Date of Award: 2009
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This thesis examines the 're-nationalization' and retrenchment of traditional forms of identity in the context of football in England and Scotland by: first, charting the economic and cultural history of football in both countries, illustrating the centrality in each nation's history of defining itself in binary opposition to the other; and, second, by focusing on the discourses of football culture as they are elaborated across a range of contemporary media, including both 'tabloid' and 'broadsheet' newspapers, television and radio commentaries, advertising, popular books on football history, and other cultural products (including, in Chapter Six, a discussion of the style of England national team's current football strip): a process which, I argue, sees the elaboration of traditional national identities intensify especially in the era since 1990, when football's traditional bureaucracy was replaced by a system underpinned by free market economics (which, after Richard Sennett, I term 'new capitalism'). While the term 'football culture' comprises many different constituent parts - professional players, coaches, managers, physiotherapists, and different groups of fans, among others -the main focus of this thesis is the discourse within forms of media outlined above; that is to say, professional commentators on football: journalists, writers, and other 'opinion formers'. As Crolley, Hand, and Jeutter (2000) illustrate through a discursive analysis of tabloid football journalism across four European nations (England, Spain, France, and Germany), this type of writing consistently evoke references to warfare, politics, history, economics, and popular culture that serve to reinforce stereotypes and myths of national difference. And, as Jon Garland (2004) has suggested, using a qualitative discourse analysis approach to the study of British tabloid newspapers, while a 'new, more inclusive Englishness was evolving amongst England supporters' during the 2002 World Cup finals tournament (moving away from the largely homogenous, white, male-dominated England support of the recent past), tabloid coverage of England's matches tended to be 'flavoured with the kinds of military metaphors and xenophobic cliche evident in previous reporting of football tournaments ... [which constituted] a narrower and more nostalgic Englishness was commonly observed'. Bearing this in mind, it is another contention of this thesis that, although generally expressed in less overt terms, the language of football discourse (including the more upmarket 'broadsheet' or'quality' press) continues to reinforce difference along national lines, necessarily covering up and muting internal cultural variations. As I seek to illustrate, the extensive breakdown in the 1990s of football's bureaucracy-the set of rules governing the finances of clubs, and the restrictions of movements of players (among other things), which I take to have begun in the late nineteenth century and which underwent a slow dissolution throughout the second half of the twentieth century - led to a ubiquitous sense in the discourse of football outlined above of loss and nostalgia for the apparent stability (financial, structural, cultural - especially in terms of notions of identity) of the recent bureaucratic past. As regards this sense of loss, in the second half of my thesis I evoke Paul Gilroy's concept of 'melancholia' as a means through which we might begin to tackle this defining feature of football discourse In the era of new capitalism. In After Empire: Melancholia or Convivial Culture? (2004), Gilroy suggests that in post-War British culture there is 'an obsessive repetition of key themes - invasion, war, contamination, loss of identity-and the resulting mixture suggests that an anxious, melancholic mood has become part of the cultural infrastructure of the place, an immovable ontological counterpart to the nation-defining ramparts of the white cliffs of Dover' (Gilroy 2004: 15). He argues that while, 'technology, deindustrialization, consumerism, loneliness, and the fracturing of family forms have changed the character and content of those ethnic and national cultures as much or even more than immigration ever did', immigration has become a pathological focus in the British imagination as a means to explain the feelings of a lack of national unity in post- War Britain (2004: 27)"' As part of this'mood'. Gilroy suggests that the 'anti-Nazi war' has become a touchstone for the perceived decline of Britishness and the certainty that identity provided as an ideal in the imperial period. While I have much sympathy for this reading of contemporary British culture, and while I think the concept of melancholia is useful when addressing the discourse of football in this thesis, it does not provide sufficient scope to take into account the feelings, sensations, and notions (experienced by fans at matches, television viewers of sport, and, indeed, writers on football) of joy, excitement, and euphoria, that football still engenders in the contemporary era. " (In my conclusion I attempt to describe my own ambivalent feelings in this regard). Thus, the concept of melancholia with regard to football discourse is but one part of a more generalized sense of nostalgia which idealizes the past, criticizes the present, and fears for the future. As such, 'melancholia' is useful for a macro view of the current discourses of football culture that constantly reiterate the lack of the present compared to the idealized view of the past; while 'nostalgia' is more able to take into account specific moments where a longing for the past can structure present experiences of joy and euphoria, however limited those experiences may be. An example of this may arise, for instance, during a season when the team one supports is enduring a string of desperately bad results. Within that context of defeat and sadness, a surprising, unexpected, or comprehensive victory over a rival inevitably creates a euphoria and joy that engenders, however briefly, feelings of joyous community with your team's other fans (in an imagined community) that bring to mind memories of previous victories, and participates in a nostalgic lineage with past victories and glory. These feelings, therefore, have the potential to momentarily cover over the flux of the modern world, the disappointments of the season up until then, and the fissures of identity and melancholia created by the effects of global capitalism on the cultures of football. Of course, a danger in the contemporary, postmodern world is that to talk about nostalgic feelings is, in itself, to perform a nostalgic act: that is to say that unless one completely rejects the possibility of nostalgia being anything other than 'irrational', 'bad', or regressive, one risks appearing totally at the behest of the heart rather than the head. (To which I would, again, point to my conclusion as evidence of my belief not in the 'good' or 'bad' of nostalgia, but that it is an ambivalent phenomenon which needs to be addressed as such). In this sense, then, nostalgia is perhaps a more prescient or useful concept than melancholia in a thesis that seeks to hold the joys and despairs that football engenders in a state of constant tension.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available