The Politics of Fan Protest: 'Football Consciousness', Supporter Ownership and Fan Rivalry
George Poulton (Manchester University)
Paper short abstract:
This Paper draws on ethnographic fieldwork to look at the politics of contemporary protests among English football fans.
Paper long abstract:
This paper draws on 15 months ethnographic fieldwork amongst fans of FC United of Manchester (hereon FC United), a supporter owned football club formed by disaffected Manchester United fans in protest against the leveraged buy-out of Manchester United by the Glazer family in 2005. I suggest that the formation of FC United needs to be understood within a context of rising discontent and politicisation amongst some Manchester United fans over the increased commercialisation and neo-liberalisation of football in general and Manchester United in particular. Within the paper I look at an argument often articulated by prominent figures within FC United, that fans of all clubs need to campaign together and set aside inter-club rivalries in order to bring about political change in the way the sport is governed and supporter ownership at all clubs. I argue that the position advocated here can be understood as a form of 'football consciousness', analogous to class consciousness, where supporters recognise their shared position within an iniquitous structure which harms all fans. I analyse moments where this shared political 'consciousness' can be glimpsed amongst supporters of different clubs but also argue that the uneven outcomes produced by the free-market model of football club ownership militates against broad-based inter-club fan campaigning.
The anthropology of sport in a changing world