This feels mostly finished in terms of content to add to it. I need to get feedback from my supervisors regarding what is missing or what could be improved. (I know it isn’t perfect. I just wanted it written so I could get on with editing it and realizing where the problems are.) Any and all feedback is appreciated.
Review of Literature
The review of literature will define what fans and sport fandom are, and examine how sport fans show allegiance to clubs they barrack for. The definitions of fandom and fans are key to understanding how and why people express interest in a team online. After that, the lit review will look at population studies of and characterizations of sport fandom in Australia.
The Definition of Sport Fandom
There are very few works that focus on the definition of fandom as it pertains to sport. Most literature presupposes that its readers understand what the concept means and then proceed to examine some aspect of sport fandom. While researching sports fandom and its definitions, four different groups were identified as offering their own perspective on how to identify and define fandom. The first group includes sports marketers and managers, who broadly speaking, define sports fandom around potential for spectatorship. The second group involves sports sociologists and historians; they tend to define sports fandom as a form of identity and as a product of a specific culture. The third group involves the media and sports fans, where the definition involves the expression of allegiance to a club that is often grounded in the moment or the short term. A fourth group was identified as doing research about sport fandom. This group includes popular culture studies academics, who tend to focus on fan interaction with the team and the game, and who focus on sport fandom as a smaller subcomponent of fandom.
Sports marketers and managers.
Stewart (1983) wrote for an audience of VFL fans, while providing a great deal of information regarding the organization of the league, its financial situation and other information that would be of more interest to people interested in sports marketing. Fans are frequently described based on their proximity to stadiums, training grounds and the location found in a team’s name. These descriptions were used to explain the potential for spectatorship: “The Club has little local support — there are few private dwellings in the vicinity — and most of its supporters are centred in the outer south-eastern suburbs.” (p. 41) In a few cases, fans are all described based on their economic status and how fans of other teams perceive them: “It is thought that while the affluent eastern suburbs residents are appreciative of the team’s success, they prefer to spend Saturday afternoon in active leisure activities like tennis or gardening.” (p. 40)
Shilbury, D., Quick, S., & Westerbeck, H. (2003) published a book about sports marketing. Much of the content is focused on fans from the perspective revenue for a club, league or sport converting them into spectators and consumers of merchandise related to the organization and its sponsors. The authors do not create their own definition of fan. Rather, the authors (p. 70) borrow from Smith and Stewart (1999) to define categories of fans: passionate fans, champ followers, reclusive partisans, theatergoers and aficionados.
Sullivan (2004) wrote for an audience of potential sport marketers. The author said “the term fan will be used in the broadest sense and will, therefore, imply a range of attachments.” (p. 131) Sullivan then characterized fans as spectators and consumers of various media who could be profiled using three key factors: Geographic, demographic and behavioral factors. The discussion around these factors involved how they impacted the potential for spectatorship and the consumption of media related to a team.
Nicholson (2004), a sport management academic, wrote to reflect on the problems the AFL faces in terms of becoming a national game. The geographic population imbalance between clubs in Queensland and New South Wales compared to Victoria was a major problem: The league was not balancing team location with population areas, nor was it financially sponsoring player development. The author rarely used the word fans to describe these problems: Spectators, the market and television audience are used instead.
Sports sociologists and historians.
Collins (2005) wrote for an audience interested in the history and evolution of several football codes in Australia. In describing a proposal to merge rugby league with Australian rules football, the different codes were described as appealing to two different views about Australia’s place in the world: transnational versus nationalistic. These differences point to a definition of sports fandom relating to identity.
Like Collins, Cashman (2002) was writing for an audience of those interested in history. Cashman (2002) differs in that his history focused on more on the connection between Australian sport and other issues in Australian life including identity, culture and parallel Australian history. Both authors connected sport to national identity. In the case of Cashman, the term fan is almost never used in the text. Words like crowds, interest, Australian with adjectives further identifying spectator culture and sport participants are used instead. Again, the author’s undefined use of fandom involves identity.
Adair, D. & Vamplew, W. (1997) are sports historians that tried to debunk some historical myths about sports culture in Australia. One of these myths involved the defining of Australians as sports obsessed. This definition, where fans are defined as people obsessed with sports, is reinforced by talking about match attendance compared to the total population, and by the consumption of sport on television. Spectatorship plays a role in the definition with less frequency than that of the identity of a nation obsessed with sports and as an important component of Australian popular culture.
Hess (2000) wrote specifically about the history of female fans of Australian rules football. In his text, he offered a topology of the female fan types. These included women as passive onlookers, voyeurs, socialites, barrackers, civilizers. Hess (2000) claims it is possible to “categorize female spectators on the basis of their behavior and their seating arrangements” (p. 127) but “it should also be noted that it was certainly acceptable for different social groups of women to be present at football games”. (p. 127) The author uses the term fan, spectator, supporter and barracker almost interchangeably. The definition that gets offered often ties into the type of fan to other types of identities such as class, social standing and occupation. Spectatorship plays a role in these definitions but often in the context of where female fans sit relative to those other identities.
Stewart (2005, p. 117) wrote for an audience Australian sport historians interested in the Australian Football League. In this work, for this audience, he referred to fans based on their sense of identity, their relationships with management and the behaviors they expressed. Like sport marketers, he too borrowed from Smith and Stewart (1999) to offer a paradigm for classifying fans. Stewart argues that there was a paradigm shift from away using the term barrackers and supports that occurred during the 1980s and 1990s. (Stewart, 2005, p. 115) The term fan was used to distinguish define the type of supporter and loyalty to the club. This type of issue had an impact on how Australian sport historian and sociologists used the term in their own research.
The media and sport fans.
The Canberra Times (2009, September 12) defines fandom based around personal identity of individual fans. They reference scholars who talk about supporting a club being similar to having religious experiences. The article goes on to talk about how modern fans express their identity. The actions they describe are fixed in short term expressions of allegiance: Buying and wearing a jersey, attending a match, crying or cheering depending on a club’s performance.
Monteverde (2010, October 11) wrote about the Harry Kewell’s fans in the Courier Mail (Brisbane). In the article, he talks about how fans responded to Kewell’s performance at two specific events: An A-League match and the World Cup, not on fan allegiance across Kewell’s career. Actions that were described were also temporal: Getting items signed, cheering for Kewell as he did things on pitch and applauding Kewell when he took the field.
The Gold Coast Bulletin (2010, October 9) described fans using a short-term indicator of Melbourne Heart fans getting heart when the Heart beat the Melbourne Victory. The Central Coast Express Advocate (2010, October 8) also used fans in a context of an extremely limited time period when the newspaper talked about how fans had been promised that the pitch would be in good condition for an A-League match. Garvey (2010, October 10) in The Sunday Age had an article titled, ” ‘Rekindled’ does enough to keep his fans interested.” This title supports the idea that sport fandom is defined by newspapers around short term events.
Popular culture studies academics.
Popular culture studies scholars like Jenkins (2006) and Hills (2009) offer the last definition. They define fans as an active population who engage in activities related to an object produced by the larger popular culture. This production includes activities like writing fan fiction, creating costumes, producing fanvids and organizing conventions. The act of production goes helps in constructing a new identity. (Bennett, 2010) Popular culture academics also define fans as possessing a sense of ownership of their product that is removed and distinct from the official one, that they view actors, athletes, copyrighted and trademarked materials as communally owned by fans.
Sport fandom definition.
Almost all the definitions of sport fandom predate the rise and importance of the Internet. Those that come later often ignore the presence of sport fans online. In trying to determine what a sport fan is in the context of online fandom, bits and pieces need to be borrowed from the four definitional categories. In the context of this research, sport fandom is defined as the collective group of fans organized, formally or informally, around a particular sport, club or athlete where individual members identify as fans and express that allegiance in a way that can be observed by outsiders.
Population and Characteristics of Australian Sports Fandom
While there are many definitions and underlying assumptions as to what a fan is, there has been less work done looking at what makes these communities demographically distinct from populations. Much of the work done approaches the issue from the perspective of comparing the population of different sports or leagues. When specific clubs are looked at, the literature tends to focus less on research done about fans of those teams than it does on repeating traditional narratives about fan allegiances that may date back one hundred years.
Delpy & Bosetti (1998) conducted a demographic study of sports fans online that found sports fans were 6% more likely to be female (36% compared to 30%) and were 1.3 years older (34 compared to 32.7) than the whole population of the Internet.
Adair, D. & Vamplew, W. (1997) cite a study that found that during the 1970s, 28 percent of men and 21 percent of women in Australia regularly attending sporting events as spectators.
The VFL and AFL.
The VFL and AFL have been attributed with having historically high levels of female fans, both as spectators and barrackers, when compared to other football codes in Australia and around the world. In the early days of the sport, female spectatorship was between 30 and 50 percent. (Cashman, 2002, p. 48) This contrasts with Australian, specifically New South Wales, rugby which is characterized as being conservative, middle class, patriarchal and often containing strains of misogyny that discouraged the growth of female spectatorship. (Cashman, 2002, p. 52) Both codes were characterized as having large white spectator bases. (Cashman, 2002, p. 56) For much of the history of Australian rules football, it was characterized as being a fundamental part of life in Melbourne; this began to change in the 1960s and 1970s as the game became more commercialized. (Stewart, 2005, p. 114)
Characteristics of sport fan communities can differ by club. A survey of research done about VFL/AFL teams reveals some of these different characteristics.
In 2001 and 2003, a nationwide survey was conducted of football fans to identify who they supported. (Stewart, 2005, p. 111) The Adelaide Crows respectively had 638,000 and 699,000 supporters. (Stewart, 2005, p. 111) (Roy Morgan Research, 2009, July 19). The 2009 team ranked sixth for total fans, with 629,000 fans. (Roy Morgan Research, 2009, July 19).
The Fitzroy Lions, who eventually became the Brisbane Lions, were originally from an area where their fanbase drew heavily from a population middle-class white-collar workers. (Shaw, 2006, p. 115) During the 1940s, Fitzroy Lions were similar to their counterparts at Collingwood and North Melbourne in terms of fan composition. Shaw (2006, p. 79) characterizes them as being drawn from the working classes and prone to violence similar to that of future British football hooligans. According to a 2001 and 2003 national survey, the Brisbane Lions respectively had 798,000 and 1,331,000 supporters. (Stewart, 2005, p. 111) (Roy Morgan Research, 2009, July 19). The 2009 team ranked second for total fans, with 861,000 fans. (Roy Morgan Research, 2009, July 19).
Early in the history of the Carlton Blues, most of their fans were from the Carlton area and represented the major population found there: “middle-class white-collar workers and the occasional silvertail.” (Shaw, 2006, p. 115) The Carlton Blues had one of the largest fan bases during the 1940s. According to Shaw (2006, p. 101), they could draw crowds irrespective of their on-field performance. According to a 2001 and 2003 national survey, the Carlton Blues respectively had 603,00 and 596,000 supporters. (Stewart, 2005, p. 111) (Roy Morgan Research, 2009, July 19). The 2009 team ranked seventh for total fans, with 493,000 fans. (Roy Morgan Research, 2009, July 19).
In the period around the Magpies founding in 1892, fans were characterized as being bootmakers and working in the footwear industry. (Grow, 1998, p. 69, 77) During the clubs early part of the 20th century, the Collingwood Magpies fans were predominantly from Collingwood. They matched the characteristics of the neighborhood: Semi-skilled members of the working class that were mostly Irish Catholics. (Shaw, 2006, p. 115) The Collingwood Magpie fans are characterized as having “strong working-class origins”. (Stewart, 1983, p. 35) The club has historically enjoyed strong local support, both in terms of developing a fan base and with local businesses. During the early part of the 1900s, 70 percent of the club supporters were local and 80 percent were members of the working class. (Sandercock, 1981, p. 199) In the decade around 1900 to 1910, fans were described as being drawn from the working class. (Shaw, 2006, p. 79) During the 1940s, the club had one of the largest fan bases in terms of game attendance. According to Shaw (2006, p. 101), the team could draw crowds irrespective of their on-field performance. During the 1960s and 1970s, there was a geographic shift in the fanbase where the fanbase extended out to Melbourne’s north east suburbs. (Stewart, 2005, p. 113) There was a also demographic shift by the 1970s, with over 50 percent of the local population being not native born and Anglo-Irish-Australian; instead, the local fan base was composed largely of Southern Europeans. (Sandercock, 1981, p. 200) The characterization of working class values continued on despite these changes. According to a 2001 and 2003 national survey, the Collingwood Magpies respectively had 688,000 and 749,000 supporters. (Stewart, 2005, p. 111) (Roy Morgan Research, 2009, July 19). According to Roy Morgan Research. (2009, July 19), the modern team has the third largest AFL fan base, with over 731,000 fans.
During the 1870s and 1880s, Essendon was one of the three big clubs in terms of the number of paying fans. (Grow, 1998, p. 55) During the early part of the 20th century, Essendon Bombers fans were drawn from the local area and fans were mostly from the lower middle-class. (Shaw, 2006, p. 116) Essendon Bomber fans are from the “moderately affluent north-west suburbs” who have a reputation “for being conservative and responsible.” (Stewart, 1983, p. 36) According to a 2001 and 2003 national survey, the Essendon Bombers respectively had 862,000 and 796,000 supporters. (Stewart, 2005, p. 111) (Roy Morgan Research, 2009, July 19). The team has the fourth largest AFL fan community in 2009 with 638,000 barrackers. (Roy Morgan Research, 2009, July 19).
According to a 2001 and 2003 national survey, the Fremantle Dockers respectively had 237,000 and 367,000 supporters. (Stewart, 2005, p. 111) The team has the eleventh largest AFL fan community in 2009 with 337,000 barrackers. (Roy Morgan Research, 2009, July 19).
During the 1870s and 1880s, Geelong was one of the three big clubs in terms of the number of paying fans. (Grow, 1998, p. 55) According to a 2001 and 2003 national survey, the Geelong Cats respectively had 357,000 and 345,000 supporters. (Stewart, 2005, p. 111) (Roy Morgan Research, 2009, July 19). The team has the eighth largest AFL fan community in 2009 with 488,000 barrackers. (Roy Morgan Research, 2009, July 19).
The Hawthorn Hawks fans are characterized as being from the affluent eastern suburbs, but who were not as interested in attending matches as fans of other teams. (Stewart, 1983, p. 40) According to a 2001 and 2003 national survey, the Hawthorn Hawks respectively had 362,000 and 390,000 supporters. (Stewart, 2005, p. 111) (Roy Morgan Research, 2009, July 19). The 2009 club ranked tenth in the AFL for most fans, with 381,000. (Roy Morgan Research, 2009, July 19).
The Melbourne Demons are characterized as not being able to draw local support, with most of the team barracking for the team being “centred in the outer south-eastern suburbs.” (Stewart, 1983, p. 41) According to a 2001 and 2003 national survey, the Melbourne Demons respectively had 226,000 and 205,000 supporters. (Stewart, 2005, p. 111) (Roy Morgan Research, 2009, July 19). The team had the fewest people barracking for them of any team in the AFL during the 2009 season; only 187,000 people identified themselves as fans in research conducted by Roy Morgan (2009, July 19).
The North Melbourne Kangaroos fans during the early part of the 20th century are described as being from the working class and being a precursor of the British football hooligans. (Shaw, 2006, p. 79) During the 1900s and 1910s, many barrackers and players were butchers. (Fiddian, 1977, p. 132) During the 1920s, this occupation continued to compromise an important part of the team’s supporter base. (Shaw, 2006, p. 83) According to a 2001 and 2003 national survey, the North Melbourne Kangaroos respectively had 268,000 and 249,000 supporters. (Stewart, 2005, p. 111) The 2009 club ranked second to last in the AFL for most fans, with 219,000. (Roy Morgan Research, 2009, July 19).
Port Adelaide Power membership peaked in 1998 with 38,305 members. (Ruccie, 2010, October 7)According to a 2001 and 2003 national survey, the Port Adelaide Power respectively had 274,000 and 315,000 supporters. (Stewart, 2005, p. 111) (Roy Morgan Research, 2009, July 19). The 2009 club ranked thirteenth in the AFL for most fans, with 245,000. (Roy Morgan Research, 2009, July 19).
At the Richmond Tigers founding in 1885, fans were characterized as being larrikins who threatened the club’s existence by keeping away paying customers. (Grow, 1998, p. 72) During the early 20th century, Richmond Tigers fans were mostly semi-skilled Irish Catholic members of the working class. (Shaw, 2006, p. 115) The Richmond Tigers supporters are characterized as “defiant and arrogant.” (Stewart, 1983, p. 42) Prior to the 1950s, being born in Richmond meant being a Richmond Tigers fan. This pattern of fans being located close to the historical home of the team changed with in the post war era. (Sandercock, 1981, p. 183) According to a 2001 and 2003 national survey, the Richmond Tigers respectively had 398,000 and 401,000 supporters. (Stewart, 2005, p. 111) The 2009 team ranked ninth for total fans, with 392,000 fans. (Roy Morgan Research, 2009, July 19).
During the 1870s and 1880s, South Melbourne was one of the three big clubs in terms of the number of paying fans. (Grow, 1998, p. 55) The South Melbourne Football Club, that eventually became the Sydney Swans, began with most of their supporters being aspirational members of the lower-middle-class. (Shaw, 2006, p. 116) During the 1930s, the club was considered a Catholic one. (Shaw, 2006, p. 116) According to a 2001 and 2003 national survey, the Sydney Swans respectively had 1,305,000 and 1,341,000 supporters. (Stewart, 2005, p. 111) During 2009, the club ranked first in the AFL with 1,217,000 fans. (Roy Morgan Research, 2009, July 19)
During the 1880s, St. Kilda fans were characterized as being stockbrokers. (Grow, 1998, p. 69) During the 1960s and 1970s, there was a geographic shift in the location of St. Kilda’s supporters where the fanbase extended into the southern bayside suburbs. (Stewart, 2005, p. 113) According to a 2001 and 2003 national survey, the St. Kilda Saints respectively had 321,000 and 282,000 supporters. (Stewart, 2005, p. 111) The 2009 team ranked twelth for total fans, with 311,000 fans. (Roy Morgan Research, 2009, July 19).
According to a 2001 and 2003 national survey, the West Coast Eagles respectively had 692,000 and 746,000 supporters. (Stewart, 2005, p. 111) (Roy Morgan Research, 2009, July 19) The 2009 club ranked fifth in the AFL for most fans, with 632,000. (Roy Morgan Research, 2009, July 19)
During the 1930s, when the Western Bulldogs were known as the Footscray Bulldogs, the team’s fanbase was extremely local to Footscray; much of this was owed to the fact that players came from the immediate area. (Kingston, 2005, p. 43) According to a 2001 and 2003 national survey, the Western Bulldogs respectively had 198,000 and 254,000 supporters. (Stewart, 2005, p. 111) The 2009 club ranked fourteenth in the AFL for most fans, with 226,000. (Roy Morgan Research, 2009, July 19)
The early history of soccer fandom in Australia was dominated by British expatriates, both as players, administrators and barrackers. (Thompson, 2003) British barracking continued on into the 1950s when their supporters began to dwindle in comparison to other ethnic tribes. (Moore & Jones, 1994).During most of the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, soccer fandom in Australia was dominated by ethnic tribalism with the major barracking groups being composed of Serbians, Croatians, Italian, Portuguese, Greeks and Macedonians. (Hallinan, Hughson & Burke, 2007) (Crawford, 2003) (Moore & Jones, 1994) Some of the barracking during that period involved regional and city pride in clubs. Much of this took place in Newcastle. (Hallinan, Hughson & Burke, 2007) The patterns of ethnic tribalism began to dissipate with the emergence of the A-League in 2004. (Hallinan, Hughson & Burke, 2007) Regional allegiances began to develop around clubs like the Melbourne Victory. (Hallinan, Hughson & Burke, 2007) Ethnic tribalism continued to exist for soccer clubs in Australia after the creation of the A-League but it was relegated to the regional club levels in cities like Melbourne, where it this fan support was much less obvious to outsiders. (Hallinan, Hughson & Burke, 2007)
Demonstrating Club Allegiance
In the AFL, fans have historically expressed their allegiance to their clubs in a variety of ways. Two of the key areas for expression have involved cheersquads (Andrews, 2005) and the production of fanzines. (Wilson, 2005) Beyond that, club supporters have their own unique ways of demonstrating club loyalty.
Cheersquads have played an important roll in Australian rules football and date back to the 1880s. Cheersquads would create giant paper banners with inspirational messages for players to run through. (Andrews, 2005) Cheersquads also waved giant floggers. (Andrews, 2005) These were eventually phased out and replaced with patties, which are giant pompons on a small stick. (Andrews, 2005, p. 88) The 1970s saw a decrease in the ability of cheersquads to make and display signs as they interfered with signage by advertisers at the park. (Andrews, 2005, p. 84) By the 1980s and 1990s, fan control of cheersquads had been severely diminished as clubs and the leagues exerted increasing influence over them. (Andrews, 2005, p. 83) Despite the heavy restrictions that were eventually placed on cheersquads, membership to them is still viewed as extremely important part of barracker identity for many fans.
Many other expressions of allegiances are easier to understand: Up until about thirty years ago, if the Collingwood Magpies performed poorly, The Sporting Globe no one would buy it. (Shaw, 2006, p. 117) The morale of the city of Geelong is said to be dependent on the club’s performance. (Shaw, 2006, p. 116) According to Stewart (2005, p. 128), Hawthorn Hawks fans were so opposed to a proposed merger with the North Melbourne Demons that some traveled from Tasmania for the merger meeting.
According to the Canberra Times (2009, September 12), demonstrating allegiance to a rugby club by wearing a team jersey is a relatively new expression. Prior to this change, wearing a jersey and not being on the pitch was rather taboo. This demonstration of allegiance came into being as a club’s fanbase decentralized and was less structured around a specific geographic area.
The Connection between Sport Fandom and Online Activity
In defining sport and looking at how fans express allegiance in an Australian sport context, much of the research predates or ignores the online fan community. While the connection between online activity and sport is not clearly defined in the literature about Australian sport, it can be simply defined: According to Favorito (2007), the internet is a platform that allows “casual fans to connect with their individual favorite athlete more regularly.” The observation by Favorito, writing for people who are working with individual athlete, can also be used in application to clubs, leagues, sport in general and with other fans. Online activity and sport fandom are connected by this desire to connect to, and demonstrate allegiance to athletes, clubs, leagues and the sport by an attempt to connect with those groups and other fans of those groups.
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