Review of literature first complete draft rewrite
Not sure I have enough sourcing for this… but think this is headed in a much better direction than the previous version.
Review of Literature
The sport community is not inert. The community is constantly moving, responding to changes in the competition ladder, to player news, to championships, and to other events that take place inside the community. The composition of teams change, new athletes emerge, people become fans and then change their sporting allegiances. This can happen over the course of a day or can happen over the course of years.
The sport community exists on several level with several groups in terms the sport community‘s composition. The first group and level that receives the most attention involves the team and its athletes. A second group that sport exists is in the media. The media is a key component for sport existing outside of participation only: The media helps make sport a spectator sport. A third level that the sport community exists is with sport administration. These are the people who set the matches, who get the sponsors, who find the facilities and who work towards finding the money to help keep the team in existence or allow an athlete to compete. A fourth level of sport community exists based on sponsorship and commercial interests outside the team directly. A fifth level of the sport community involves the local community: The people who live in the surrounding area around which the team is named, where the team or athlete trains, facilities the team owns or competes in, where athletes are from. A sixth level exists in the sport community that is composed of the community of fans. Each of these groups has different concerns and their own agenda. They attract different people to analyze them. Each of these groups have different issues that are the primary concerns: Some groups are interested in making money. Others are interested in improving a team or athlete’s performance. Other groups are interested in bonding and creating a sense of group identity. Sometimes, these concerns are not exclusive to the concern or two the group. The needs and concerns of each individual group make it hard to address the sport community as one cohesive collective.
The sport community is always moving in time. What time is a major issue? The sport community does not have one timeline but many timelines that reflect the differences in the groups that make up the broader sport community. One timeline is a competition timeline: When does the athlete or team compete? Another timeline is a training timeline. Still yet, there is a media timeline for when it is best to publish a story in order to attract the widest possible audience. There is also a timeline for sport marketing that relates to selling tickets and sponsorship. A timeline exists for planning and organizing a sport competition. There is a timeline that involves the available funds for being a spectator. There is a timeline for being a media consumer. There is a timeline for responding to a media crisis regarding an athlete’s non-sport related behavior. Some of these timelines may be as short as five minutes. Other parts of these timelines may last several years. In general, these timelines are short term, middle term and long term. The timelines do not always run parallel to each other and may intersect in places that cause difficulties for other groups. One timeline may cause another timeline for another group to be started in response.
The issues of sport related communities and their subgroups, coupled with timelines that these groups are involved with, makes it a challenge in terms of finding the appropriate literature when addressing more than one at a time and using a historical, fixed in time approach to analyzing actions in the sport community. This situation exists for Australia, New Zealand and other English speaking sport communities.
The relationship between the larger sport community and events in time has largely not been explored by existing sport research, especially as it pertains to fans in regards to medium term events. The lack of research in this area in Australia appears to exist for a variety of reasons. One of the most obvious of these is that, until the rise of the Internet, sport fans views and activities were mediated almost exclusively through three different groups: Sport organizers, sport sponsors and other corporate interests, and the media. This mediation was necessary for fans because their voices as a unified body could only be heard on a select basis during select events that had a direct impact on them, such as the situation where the Melbourne Football Club was part of a proposed merger with the Hawthorn Football Club in 1996. In other situations, fans as a group were subsumed by other interests to the point where their collective identity belonged to that of another group. This is the case for many AFL and NRL cheersquads. When fans as a group are not having their views mediated another group, their views are often shown as a point of conflict: Fans versus sponsors or fans versus corporate interests of a team or fans versus an athlete. Beyond the issues of the collective fan experience and views being mediated by other groups or shown only to highlight conflict is that when fans are the focus, they tend to be examined on the short term or the long term. There is an absence of examination as it pertains medium term events or the medium term and long term response to a short term event. This absence is also partly the result of other groups in the sport community and those groups own goals and timelines specifically as they pertain to sport fans or the specific lack of interests in fans as they pertain to their objectives. The fan experience being mediated and the time issues result in little research in this area.
The situation involving the lack of literature about fan responses to short term and medium term events may be symptomatic of the multiple fields and approaches to analyzing the wider sport community. There are several disciplines involved in researching the wider sport community and specific groups in the sport community for certain time periods. Beyond the area of their research focus, these researchers are also writing for different audiences. There are sport marketers who often focus their research interests on fans and the community, but with a goal of helping sport organizations. There are sport historians that often focus on an athlete, a team or participation on a community level. On the whole, fans are not the primary focus of these narratives. Sport historians write for a variety of audiences, including sponsors, sport administrators, other historians and fans. There are newspapers, magazines and television programs who cover sport and sport fans. The primary objective of these publications is often to create a story to help them sell newspapers, magazines and commercials. Thus, coverage of many aspects of sport on the management level, community level, sponsorship level and fan level are dependent on sales, not the value of the topic in terms of informing the public. Sport sociology often focuses on narrative aspects of the fan experience using qualitative research. This narrative experience and qualitative research can make it difficult to identify and report on behavioral trends in the fan community over the short and long term as the research is generally not couched in this understanding. Sport sociology also suffers in that it tends to focus on identity, sometimes coupling it with actions. Popular culture studies occasionally mentions sport fans but this is often done by removing sport from the equation, or casting sport as a narrative form where on-field performance and other external factors do not play a role. This type of research also tends to focus on fan production. This makes it difficult to discuss sport fans in the short and medium term because the short term is defined as a game or single competition and the long term is defined as a season. The focus does not tend to deeper to explore group actions, but instead appears to focus on identity. Sport tourism is similar to sport marketing, and tends to have a very specific timeline. Like other areas, sport fans are looked at based on the needs of other groups. When the internet is brought into it, there are a variety of research perspectives that are extremely valuable to sport fans but, like other areas, focus on sport fan and the community as secondary to other purposes and sport related groups. This is the case for research related to reputation management, which focuses on how to respond when a crisis occurs. Another Internet perspective is a usability marketers, who try to determine how to improve traffic to their websites in the short term. This focuses on extreme short-term actions based on sport fan interactions while visiting a site controlled by another group in the sport community. All of these groups of academics and researchers have issues when it comes to understanding the sport community in a wider context, understanding sport fans on a timeline and showing an understanding of how sport fans respond to events.
These issues all demonstrate problems with existing research as it pertains to the focus of the research in this dissertation. It also highlights a wider problem of understanding where understanding of sport fans fall in academic disciplines and inside the wider sport studies community.
Spectatorship plays an important role in understanding the sport community and has since Greek times. Its role has been questioned and often found confusing. (Levinson & Christensen, 1999, p. 373) Anacharsis asked Solon in the Works of Lucian (2009) by Lucian, “Why do your young men behave like this, Solon? Some of them grappling and tripping each other, some throttling, struggling, intertwining in the clay like so many pigs wallowing.” Anarcharsis’s question related not to spectators but to sport participants. Solon and Anarcharsis then discuss the importance of physical exercise and the importance of spectatorship in terms of what it does for the people, with Anacharsis having said:
Why, Solon, that is just where the humiliation comes in; they are treated like this not in something like privacy, but with all these spectators to watch the affronts they endure — who, I am to believe, count them happy when they see them dripping with blood or being throttled; for such are the happy concomitants of victory. In my country, if a man strikes a citizen, knocks him down, or tears his clothes, our elders punish him severely, even though there were only one or two witnesses, not like your vast Olympic or Isthmian gatherings. However, though I cannot help pitying the competitors, I am still more astonished at the spectators; you tell me the chief people from all over Greece attend; how can they leave their serious concerns and waste time on such things? How they can like it passes my comprehension — to look on at people being struck and knocked about, dashed to the ground and pounded by one another.
The concept of spectatorship has been explored by the Greeks and many modern sport journalists and sport academics for a long time. Historical changes in spectatorship and spectator composition are rarely explored in texts that focus on fans.
Cashman (2002) is a sport historian who teaches at the University of New South Wales. In examining fans, he focused on more on the connection between Australian sport and other issues in Australian life including identity, culture and parallel Australian history. Cashman rarely uses the term fan. Words like crowds, interest, Australian with adjectives further identifying spectator culture and sport participants are used instead. Spectatorship is a component of identity and community. The timelining for the development of identity and changes in the community are not explored.
Adair and Vamplew (1997) are sports historians who 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 were defined as people obsessed with sports, was reinforced by talking about match attendance compared to the total population, and by the consumption of sport on television. The authors did not explore what factors led to changes in spectatorship and television consumption, nor the characteristics of fans.
Hess (2000) is an academic at Victoria University. He wrote 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) Female sport fandom, using Hess’s model, is contingent on motivation to attend and based on being spectator. It does not offer an exploration based on a timeline.
Television viewing of sport could be described as a form of spectatorship, with the total number of viewers impacting a sport organization’s financial standing. Earnheardt (2010) wrote about fans, as defined by television sports viewers, and their sport viewing habits in response to news stories about athlete criminal and anti-social behaviors. Earnheardt (2010) discovered that certain populations responded to these stories differently than others. Acknowledging that not all sport television viewers are part of fandom and that women are less inclined to self identify as sport fans, the author found that women who were not dedicated fans who did not generally watch much televised sports and were less motivated to watch televised sport paid more attention to news stories about athletes criminal activity and drug use. This led to negative perceptions of the athletes involved and a prediction that such fans were less likely to watch televised sport events that featured anti-social athletes. The problem with Earnheardt’s research is it depended on survey research, user responses to identify their level of fandom and report their response to hypothetical situations. It was not based on case studies to gauge sport television viewing in the wild, using Nielsen ratings. The research does not appear to have been supported by later actual case studies.
Shilbury, D., Quick, S., & Westerbeck, H. (2003) are sport management and marketing academics based out of Deakin University. They published a book about sports marketing. Much of the content is focused on fans from the perspective of generating revenue for a club, league or sport and converting online fans into spectators and consumers of merchandise related to the organization and its sponsors. Fans are largely examined in the context of mediating how the actions of fans can help a sport organization accomplish its own goals. Any timeline mentioned for action for fans is also mediated based on an organization’s needs.
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. Again, a sport marketer defined sport fandom as being mediated by how a sport organization can profit from them. There is also an implication of fans behaving individually, on their own timelines based on their own behavior, rather than fans acting as a group in response to an event with their own timeline that cannot be controlled by a club.
Nicholson (2004), a sport management academic at La Trobe University, wrote to reflect on the problems the AFL faces in 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. Fans interests are again mediated by sport organization interests and as a component of community.
In Urge to Merge, Ridley (2002) examined the merger proposal between the Hawthorn Football Club and the Melbourne Football Club. The book mentions almost all parts of the whole sport community as it pertains to these particular clubs. Fans are mentioned as part of this. The author talks about them as supporters or as club members. A clear picture of how fans responded to a merge proposal is done: Many were angry and wanted management to resign as a consequence to the proposal. The book is one of the few sources that involves a non-pitch related, multi time period response to actions taken by clubs, management, and players. The fan experience is not mentioned frequently. On another level, because the Ridley was involved in the administration of a club, the whole book is mediated from that perspective as his interactions color his views of fans as independent actors. Beyond that, fans were mediated through members, people who have a financial investment with one of the clubs involved.
Rowe (2005) talks about the role of sport journalists, and if their work is more akin to being a fanclub than a form of journalism. Rowe argues that in contemporary society, newspapers and other media organizations face a battle between providing entertainment, informing readers and offering an important critique of what takes place in society. This battle is highlighted in media coverage of sport. Sport journalists are on one hand expected to provide impartial and accurate accounts of matches. On the other hand, journalists are celebrated for cheering for their clubs, and acting as “partisan sport supporters.” (Rowe, 2005, p. 126) Rowe (2005) says, “Sports-people, therefore, can be regarded as mobile canvases onto which fans project their aspirations, fantasies and identities.” (p. 127) Sports journalist can be seen as expressing their fandom by reporting on their team. This aspect of journalists as fans who express their interest through reporting can mean that serious sport related investigations that may harm a team may not be done, as sport journalists do not feel they have the time, nor inclination to do this type of research. (Rowe, 2005, p. 130) In Australia, this situation is particularly bad where many journalists see themselves as belonging to a fanclub related to the sport, league or club. (Rowe, 2005, p. 131) The closer sport journalists are to a team, by being in a smaller market or in a single team market, the more pressure journalists feel to write from the perspective of fans. (Rowe, 2005, p. 132-134) This pressure can be more intense when the publication is a major sponsor of a local club side. (Rowe, 2005, p. 132-134) Rowe confirms that the media mediates fan views and implies that the media have a timeline that may be separate than that of other parties in the sport community, based on their need to deal with multiple parties including the team, sponsors, and the community.
Favorito (2007) says the Internet is a platform that allows “casual fans to connect with their individual favorite athlete more regularly.” This direct connection can be detrimental to the media as it allows other groups, such as sponsors and the team, to cut them out of the loop. It also potentially means that the media timeline may be more dependent on that of other parties.
Cordaro (2011, June 21), an account manager for web analytics company Compete, provides an example of analyzing sport fan behavior as a group in response to events. The research contextualizes daily official website traffic volume and interest in team related merchandise against winning a major sporting competition using several tools. It shows that winning a major championship gives a boost to traffic and interest in getting team related merchandise. Beyond that it, it shows a spike in interest in the opposing, losing team that is not sustained after the team fails to win. The only major problem with this research in terms of understanding fan behavior is that the research interests could be said to be mediated by sponsor or potential sponsor interest as the post was done with the intention of helping to promote Compete’s service by showing the value of Compete’s data.
The scholarship and popular culture studies around professional sport as a function of community rarely focus on the demographic characteristics of the fans traversing in that space. Time is not looked at as a function as one approach to do community involves embedding oneself in the community. The experience is the thing, not understanding the wider context in which the events happen. Kaduk (2006) used just such an approach when he moved into Wrigleyville to better understand the neighborhood and its relationship to the Chicago Cubs, a Chicago based professional baseball team.
Davern and McCarthy (2010) wrote a children’s books about being a Chicago Cubs fan. It explores the idea of being a fan from the perspective inheriting allegiance from family. While written for children, it mirrors Kaduk’s work in that it places team fandom in a community perspective and includes spectatorship as a component of fandom and community. This texts like other texts does not acknowledge that who fans are change, nor at the timeline of how sport fandom around a team changes.
Stewart is an Australian rules historian and academic, and his work is often useful in the context of providing sport management students historical context for future management decisions. 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 using community-based concepts like proximity to stadiums, training grounds and the location found in a team’s name. These community-oriented 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) Stewart (1983) did provide historical information about changes in the community over time, did not explain the methodology in reaching the conclusions about fans that he did, and he did not provided detailed information about the characteristics of fans. He treated fans as community members.
Fletcher (2010) cites anthropologist Bea Vidacs as saying that sport needs to be contextualized into the society that sport is played to understand why fans sport the clubs they do. Fletcher places importance on understanding why people support the clubs they do, outside of inherent assumptions about identity. He contextualizes the ethnographic data to better understand the changes in sporting allegiances against other social and cultural changes that took place in South African society. Fletcher’s approach can provide context for these changes using long-term timelines, with the fan experience being mediated alongside the community. It does not allow for short and middle length events.
Why does the research on sport often ignore the sport fan community and the spectator community, especially as these groups behave in time? One rational is offered by Brewer (2002), a cycling researcher, who makes a connection between the conflicts in sport community over the growth of commercialization. (pp. 272-278) Brewer (2002) never mentions fans. Instead Brewer (2002) focuses on the impact over time that commercialization of sport had on competitors in terms of cheating and performance enhancing drug use.
Collins (2005), a professor of social history at Leeds Metropolitan University, 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. Sport fans are treated as their own group but the concept of time, event responses and changes in the fan community over time are not discussed.
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. He did not refer to fans based on how fans behaved in response to events.
Reysen and Branscombe (2010) sought to explore the differences and similarities between sport fans and other fan groups like media fans and music fans from a psychology perspective. The results found they were similar, with both groups defining their fan status based on identity, personal traits and membership to a group. (p. 190) The research did not look at sport fan or non-sport fan as dependent or arising from events; it almost exclusively focused on relationships and identity to in-groups and out-groups.
Popular culture studies academics also look at sport fandom. Jenkins is a Provost Professor of Communication, Journalism, and Cinematic Arts, a joint professorship at the USC Annenberg School for Communication. Hills is a reader in Media and Cultural Studies at the University of Cardiff. While both have occasionally written about sport fandom, it is not the focus of their research. Rather, their research involves media fandom. In this context, these scholars 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 helps in constructing a new identity. (Bennett, 2010) Hills (2009) uses this definition of sport in an article about radio fandom when writing for other academics about how radio fandom is marginalized inside media fandom studies. He describes radio fandom based around an online community for Terry Wogan’s Radio 2 breakfast show, Wake up to Wogan. The description focuses on the creation of a specific culture on a specific fansite for the show and discusses how the community organizes internally. The relationships in the article are premised as being “spectators” of the show, but deviates in that “spectatorship” is secondary to group interactions amongst fans and the separate culture they have created that connects to but is distinct from the show. In the context of sport, both Jenkins and Hills examine fan interactions with fans. Neither discuss how membership in the sport community is impacted by external events, and how external events help in organizing a community internally.
The Canberra Times (2009, September 12) defined 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. The article does not talk about fandom as an expression of time, what events bring people into fandom or cause them to leave.
Monteverde (2010, October 11) wrote about the Harry Kewell’s fans in the Courier Mail (Brisbane). The 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. Fan responses happen over a very narrow timeline: A pass, a block, a tackle. Time is a factor in how fans are discussed in this work but not in a way that can provide meaning to what being a fan is.
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.” These references all treated fans as an independent group inside the larger community, and they all discussed fans around short term events. None give a clear idea how fans move as a group into and out of fandom. Rather, to a degree, they re-affirm loyalties being reaffirmed.
Cheersquads have played an important role 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, 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) The cheer squad as an independent, non-corporate mediated fan community appears to have long since ended and any examination of this fan group cannot be done isolation.
Expressions of fan allegiance often have a time related component attached to them. Up until roughly thirty years ago, if the Collingwood Magpies performed poorly, local residents would not buy The Sporting Globe. (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) During the 1920s, the North Melbourne Kangaroos were called “The Shinboners” because, according to Shaw (2006, p. 83), many fans from the area the team drew from were butchers and “would attach royal blue ribbons to animals’ shinbones and use them as window displays before North Melbourne home games.” (Shaw, 2006, p. 83) 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. These expressions of fan allegiances are often community based, with an underlying assumption time based events may impact mood but do not challenge or result in shifts in allegiance.
Wearing a jersey could be seen as a time related response to an event on the part of fans. According to the Canberra Times (2009, September 12), in Australia, demonstrating allegiance to a rugby club by wearing a team jersey is a relatively new expression. Prior to this change, wearing a jersey was rather taboo. This demonstration of allegiance came into being as a club’s fan base decentralized and was less structured around a specific geographic area. Despite the possible time related context for jersey wearing, Canberra Times article did not mention it. Others have made a clear connection between events and fan related responses to them. McHugh (2011, June 6) gave an example of Cleveland Cavaliers fans burning Lebron James jerseys in 2010 after James announced his departure for Miami. Manfred (2011, June 13) also referenced the James jersey burning. The jersey burning is an extreme version of jersey wearing in relation to a sport related event. It is a fan event that is not mediated by other groups. Outside of mass media sources, this particular aspect of sport fandom related to jersey wearing and destroying as a time related event appears to be ignored.
Sport fanzines can be a source of unmediated fan content and insight into fan activities. Wilson (2005) has explored Australian AFL fanzine production. The author does not contextualize this production around events taking place in the wider sport community.
Online analysis of sport fans may provide the best insight into how fans respond to events though little actual research appears to have been done to provide such insight. Berg and Harcourt (2008) talk about how analysis of sport fandom online offers what cannot be done in other situations: providing context for sport fan behavior. Berg and Harcourt (2008) also claim that studying sport fandom online also helps to give a “more well-rounded understanding of sports fandom and its expression by illuminating new areas for understanding and for studying both online and offline fandom.” Behaviors, not identity issues, connect to actions, and thus can be better understood in context of events that behaviors happen in response to.
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