Dr. Richard Giulianotti


However, one final point on football fanzines, is that they are self-reflexive. The writers in fanzines do not exaggerate their own significance or importance. Instead, they know their limitations. They know they will not transform the culture of football, or upset the power relations inside football. As Picture 10, here we have the stereo-type of Scottish fans: dour, uniform, colourless, pessimistic, purchasing the official programme of the club (the propaganda sheet of the club), accepting of the poor conditions inside the ground, and poor quality of football that he must watch. And the question is, do you really think you could transform this passive football culture? Fanzines are well aware of their relative powerlessness.

So, if we are to interpret the sociological meaning of the new football culture, we might point to some key issues:

  1. There is real scope for a 'soft Marxist' interpretation. And, this would centre on the Gramscian point, that a political struggle is certainly taking place, to try to win hegemonic control over the cultural and economic sphere of football. Financially, this means that football seeks a new bourgeois audience. It is assisted in this project by the underlying contraction of the working class, and the rise in numbers and cultural power of the service class, the new middle class.
  2. The ideology of this 'new middle class' is to distance itself from the traditional middle class, partially through its association with football culture. This 'new middle class' will seek to claim cultural authenticity, by arguing that it has always possessed a strong football interest. I think that for the general group within this 'new middle class', this association with football is genuine and true. The involvement of this new class, in the football fanzine, is certainly undeniable. Important here is the fact that involvement in the production of football fanzines is autotelic: there is no real economic incentive, for working hard on football fanzines, and producing them regularly.
  3. A further reflection of this anti-bourgeois dimension of fanzine culture, is its humour. This tends to centre on aspects of the carnivalesque - where those in powerful positions in the game are mocked; where local idioms and sayings and stories are used, in preference to more universal modes of self-expression or forms of knowledge. In the case of the fanzines, the carnivalesque is also reflected in its risque humour, which often indulges in sexual humour - especially, with the case of the sheep. Politically, the carnivalesque is expressed through its breaking down of symbolic boundaries which separate the players/the performers from the supporters/the audience. Here, in Picture 11, we have a celebration of one Aberdeen player, the former captain Stuart McKimmie - McKimmie had a reputation for doing what very few football players do: reacting with gestures to the crowd, when they criticised him. It celebrates the actions of McKimmie in deconstructing that boundary, through an active relationship with the football spectators.
  4. As I have said, the 'post-fans' tend to be from the new middle class, and tend to have a real biographical affinity to football. However, a major difference lies with the 'cultural intermediaries', who are at the peak of this social class. I am speaking especially of journalists and writers and media personalities, who have started to earn a living on the basis of their involvement in the football culture, who have sought to identify with the football culture, and have used this as a mechanism for reaching new markets within their 'knowledge industry'. For example, if we look at the book 'My Favourite Year'. This was a book which claimed to offer the best in new football writing. Two of the main writers were Roddy Doyle, who wrote the book 'The Commitments'; and Nick Hornby, who wrote 'Fever Pitch'. Both articles highlight the limited commitment of these so-called 'superfan-writers' to their teams. Doyle's article in the book was about him watching Ireland during the 1990 World Cup Finals in Italy. But, he watched the tournament at home, in Ireland - when about 30,000 Irish fans went to that tournament. In the case of Hornby, here we have a man who claims that all of his personal biography can only be understood in relation to his beloved football club, Arsenal, the team of North London. So, for example, when he ended his first relationship with a woman, he recalls that he went to see Arsenal play in a boring draw at home. However, Hornby admits that he never went to any away matches involving Arsenal. He also admits that when he went to Cambridge University, he committed the heinous crime - he stopped supporting Arsenal, and started to support the local team in Cambridge instead.
I suggested that we could call the fanzine writers and readers as 'post-fans' - part of a new category of football spectator. In the case of the 'cultural intermediaries', who are employed through their cultural association with football; in the case of people like Hornby and Doyle, we must not begin to call them even supporters.


Lecturas: Educación Física y Deportes.
Año 2, Nº 6. Buenos Aires. Agosto 1997