FOOTBALL MEDIA IN THE UK: A CULTURAL STUDIES PERSPECTIVE
Dr. Richard Giulianotti
THE MODERN PERIOD
THE POSMODERN PERIOD
THE FOOTBALL FANZINE
THE FANZINE SPECIFIC QUALITIES
THE NEW FOOTBALL CULTURE
In the first half of my discussion, I spoke rather crudely about the 'modern' and 'postmodern' eras within UK football culture.
In this discussion, I will restrict myself to looking at the new fashionability of football culture in the UK. And, to explain this new fashionability, we must do more than simply turn to look at changes within the game itself. The game might be made more exciting because of the new FIFA laws. But, one of the main reasons for this new football culture, is to be found in more fundamental changes within the social and economic structure of the UK.
The social class which seems to be most influential, and most at home within this new football culture, is a new social class. It is a class which tends to be aged in its 20s and 30s, to be employed in white collar work, to be educated to college or university standard, and to be skilled in using new technology. It is also a class which tends to be first generation white collar. That is to say, the parents of people in this class probably worked in blue collar or manual work. However, perhaps due for no other reason than the decline in this kind of work, the children of this class enter white collar work.
Hence, one finds that this new white collar or new middle class group, has been socialised into attending football matches, into supporting a local team at an early age. Traditionally, one would find that the established middle classes were hostile to the sport of football; yet, in the UK, with the emergence of this new class, such a deep hostility does not exist.
Now, it is said that this new middle class group also show their influence, in transforming other areas of popular culture. For example, we can look at popular tourism, as another area of popular culture, in which the new middle classes have influenced and transformed a popular pastime.
Up until the 1980s, tourism was typically associated with the package holiday, with trips to the seaside. In the UK, you would go to Blackpool - or, if you could afford it, you would go on a package holiday to Spain. Package holidays would usually involve people doing everything in a large crowd; it would also involve them being rather passive, when consuming the 'holiday experience'. Package holidays were also regarded with some contempt by the traditional middle-classes - who felt that such excursions were devoid of any cultural or self-improving virtues, except for obtaining a suntan and purchasing trinkets from abroad.
According to some sociologists, such as John Urry, some holidays are tailored for the new middle-classes. The new middle classes do not have the same deep contempt for popular culture, and package holidays, that the old middle classes have. However, we have to remember that these new middle class groups are more educated and skilled in handling popular culture products. So, these new middle classes make up a social category which some people have called the 'post-tourists'. The holidays that they go on, reflect their skills and interests. These holidays will seek to:
These new kinds of holidays cater to the fact that the new middle classes are very reflexive in their use of popular culture, whether this might be holidays or football matches or whatever. They reflect the fact that the new middle classes prefer to be participants, to be creative and to be critical in their use of popular culture. Instead of consuming popular culture, in a passive sense, they tend to do so in a more active way. They seek to develop and explore the utility of different interpretive meanings of popular cultural forms.
- allow more interaction with locals,
- be very conscious of the possible damage that tourism can do to the indigenous culture, economy and eco-system,
- encourage aspects of education and self-advancement,
- avoid contact with large numbers of people, especially fellow tourists,
- combine aspects of traditional, high culture with low culture.
One of the reasons for the existence of these qualities, is to be found in the exact areas of employment of the new middle classes. They will work in sales, or work in the media or advertising, or in education (especially the liberal arts). They are usually employed to put a meaning on the things which are sold to us. In this sense, they are often called 'cultural intermediaries', in that they inform us how to understand and to consume the products that are being sold to us. Within this group, you find the market for the new football media. It is also where you find the social origins of the new football culture in the UK.
In my thesis, I've suggested that this new social group might be called 'post-fans' - in line with Urry's idea of the post-tourist. This is because the post-fans represent a kind of departure from the terms usually used to describe football spectators - which are 'supporters' and 'fans'. Indeed, the term 'supporter' connotes a subaltern position within the football hierarchy. 'Supporters' are expected to provide support for a team; but they are not expected to exercise any critical or reflective capacities.
Alternatively, the 'fans', in my conception of the term, have a more organic relationship to the football club. There is an element of choice at the initial stage, when they become fans of a particular club. And, they are fans because they derive a broader enjoyment of the football experience, by being 'fans' of a football team. The football occasion is pleasureable, in itself, for fans.
However, for the post-fans, there is greater reflexivity in their relationship to the game. They are concerned with generating a sense of personal and collective empowerment, within the game - through having a more definite, participant role within football. And, these post-fans tend to belong to the white collar, service classes - the new middle classes.
So, what I'm trying to say, overall, is that football culture in the UK has undergone a significant transfromation in the past 10 years or so. These changes relate to the fact that the game has become much more commercialised; and it has become led, in a cultural sense, by this new middle class audience. This social class attends football matches in greater and greater numbers, and also tends to exercise greater and greater cultural power in relation to national mediation of football culture.
It may even be said that there is something of a self-fulfilling prophecy here, because the new middle class tend to be very self-referential. The people who write in the new football magazines will discuss aspects of football culture with their friends, and with other members of their class, and use these common perspectives as a reflection of the social changes which are taking place. In that case, there is a tendency among them to exaggerate how much they have changed football culture. For example, it is often said by new football writers, that football attracts a very big female audience in the UK. However, if you look at the evidence, of surveys done at football matches, the representation of females at grounds is still approximately 15% - which is what it was 15 years ago. The big change is really in the number of female writers, who contribute to these new football media.
Nevertheless, overall, football culture in the UK has changed in the past decade. And, these changes may be signposted by particular 'moments' in UK, especially English, football culture. Key 'moments' have been Heysel in 1985, Hillsborough in 1989 and Italia '90. The changes which have taken place since then, have simply been confirmed by the European Championships of 1996, which were held in June in England. Before this tournament, there was a concern that it would lead to the revival of football hooliganism among English fans. However, a combination of factors ensured this did not take place. Specifically, they were:
Now, in some ways, it may seem that I am being unduly deterministic, in relation to the new football culture. I have tried to explain it, according to a number of key 'events' which struck football in the UK; and according to changes in the social structure, which led to the creation of a new middle class. It seems that I am almost saying that this new middle class waited for the new popular media on football to emerge, before it started to express itself. Yet, surely it would be a paradox for the new middle class, this creative and participant class, to wait and then to receive this new football media.
- very heavy policing
- high ticket pricing
- a campaign by the football authorities and the media, to attract a 'new' football audience
Well, I'm afraid that this was not the case. In one key area, it is possible to say that the new football culture came about through the activities of the new middle class at a basic, everyday level. The activities of this new middle class, at the everyday level, provided the link, between football as a game of low cultural and economic appeal, to a game that attracts the finances and cultural interest of the middle classes in the UK.
The main activity of this new middle class, to provide this historical link, was most definitely the creation of the football fanzine. And, it is the football fanzine which provides the historical bridge between the older, modern football moment, and the current situation, within the new fashionability of football culture.
The football fanzine is now an established part of British football culture. The fanzine is a piece of football literature, that is produced by supporters and bought by supporters. Usually, fanzines are produced by supporters of one team, and are usually bought only by supporters of one team. However, some of the bigger clubs in the United Kingdom have more than one football fanzine. My Scottish club, Aberdeen FC, has two football fanzines at the moment - one is called The Paper Tiger (Picture 1), the other is called The Red Final (Picture 2).
Now, it almost goes without saying that the main contributors to football fanzines, come from the new middle classes. They tend to be both the editors of fanzines and the main writers to these fanzines.
The football fanzines began first in March 1986, with a fanzine called When Saturday Comes (Picture 3). This fanzine was published in England, and was aimed at a national audience - that is to say, it has no official allegiance to any one English football team. The first edition of When Saturday Comes consisted of 200 copies. Today, When Saturday Comes sells approximately 40,000 copies each month. It is now so big and so professional that it calls itself a 'football magazine' - you couldn't really call it a football fanzine any more.