Archive for category Academic

Australian sport federations and social media policies

Posted by Laura on Thursday, 18 November, 2010

I’ve been participating in an e-mail conversation with two of my supervisors about the institutional roles related to social media policy in response to the story about country Victorian football players getting suspended as a result of things they said on Facebook.  Different groups have different policies.  Sometimes, what these policies are feel unclear and the media rarely quotes or mentions specific policy regarding how athletes are governed by their leagues and federations in terms of social media usage.  One of my points was that we should see if we couldn’t get our hands on some of these policies and see how they specifically address incidents like the ones referenced in that article.   There seem to be some problem areas where policies stand now.  If we could get our hands on existing policies, maybe we can use those policies as a starting point to offer some sort of training to sport organizations to help them better refine those policies.

The first problem of course is that we don’t exactly have copies of these policies.  To address this problem a bit, I called up a few organizations and asked them about their policies, etc.  This is a summary by organization regarding policies.  (And many thanks to the people who answered.  Calls out of the blue from Australian PhD students with American accents asking about institutional policies probably sounds a little bit questionable… but everyone I talked to was beyond nice.)  With my notes, please realize that the conversations I had probably lasted no more than five minutes.

  • Athletics Australia: No specific policy regarding social media.  They do it through media training.  Not restrictive in their policies.  They just ask them to be aware of what they are doing.
  • Badminton Australia: No policies.  Olympic policies they have to follow.  They have Facebook and not Twitter.  Will have an athlete who maintains Facebook and the website follow up for me with more information.
  • Australian Baseball Federation: No policies on social media usage.  Probably should. No day to day athletes so a bit less need for it at the moment. ABL teams are not focused on social media yet but separate entity so the federation is not involved in setting their policies.
  • Australian Baseball League: There is an intention to do create policy and create some sort of training for players.  The policy will cover things such as acceptable behavior on sites like Twitter and Facebook. These policies should not differ much from how players should talk to the media as both are open forums.  Player contracts have clauses regarding bringing the game into disrepute so if a player did something online that would be a problem, they could face consequences based on that clause.
  • Basketball Australia: There is no separate national team policy regarding social media usage.  There are advisory guidelines regarding behavior that were written based on the guidelines set by the Australian Olympic Committee.  Beyond these, all athletes are subject to a player agreement that includes a code of conduct.  The code of conduct includes topics such as endorsements, talking about your team mates, talking about referees and other competitors.  Athletes cannot say things that contradict the positions of the organization. For the most part, in terms of competitions, athletes are only really allowed to talk about their own experiences.  None of this explicitly covers the Internet but what they do online does apply.  (The level of policing of athlete activities online is low because they do not have the personnel to dedicate to that.)  The code of conduct means that if an athlete for Basketball Australia had said something like Stephanie Rice did, she would be subject to the code of conduct and consequences outlined there would apply.  Basketball Australia provides support for state organizations on this topic should they want it.  They do not force them to implement these policies as state organizations are independent entitites.
  • Diving Australia: Kids have been advised about social media. Can use social media but not during dives and the competitions.  (They will get back to me with more information.)
  • Bowls Australia Inc: There is an athlete agreement for public online and offline. Does mention online.  May see about getting me a copy of that athlete code of conduct.
  • Equestrian Australia: No specific social media policy regarding members.  Comprehensive codes of conduct so things like criticizing competitors and judging would be covered in both.  Same for sportsman like behavior.  Bad social media usage hasn’t been an issue.  You can’t use mobile phones during competitions.  (Athletes do use them to get in touch with people to help them change horses, move from place to place, get a hold of people.  That’s allow.)  Most of the time they just don’t have time.  Horse people are really on Facebook.    Some recent stuff has been appearing on Twitter.  They’ve started venturing onto YouTube and Twittering.  Athletes are doing that but not when they are competing.  Hamish and Dave.
  • Golf Australia: No formal policy.  Professional tours are developing policies.  Players can tweet during rounds.  Not really an issue that Golf Australia has had to face during their opens.  A female American player was listening to her iPod.  issue because of a courtesy to fellow players.  They thought it was an issue.  No formal policy.  When over seas, it is a less of an issue and they are allowed to do that as they control themselves.  (Americans appear to be more likely to tweet during rounds than other nationalities.)

It looks like most of the organizations I was able to get a hold of do not have formal policies.  (And I just wasn’t pressing to get copies of athlete codes of conduct.)  This is interesting but not unexpected.  Back to my e-mail chain, the question came up of why not?  I don’t know but I’d speculate that they do not have them for the following reasons:

  • Athletes in their federations are pretty well behaved and use social media in a non-offensive manner.  They have not drawn unwanted media attention or attention from sister federations in other countries.  Given that, they do not feel a pressing need to develop social media specific policies.
  • Athlete behavior is viewed as already being covered by codes of conduct.  You cannot criticize competitors and judges/umpires/referees.  It doesn’t need to be stated that if you cannot do that on the grounds or in the media that you shouldn’t do this online.
  • Federations do not see how drawing attention to and encouraging social media engagement by their athletes with the wider community would help them meet institutional objectives.  This could/is probably coupled with federations having contracts with some of their athletes regarding media appearances and they do not want to spend those appearances on social media.  They’d rather try to leverage athlete media commitments to help them get main stream media attention.

All of these reasons are perfectly valid to a degree.  If they aren’t going to create specific policies, it might be worth trying to do some training with athletes to make sure they understand that codes of conduct apply to social media engagement, and encourage athletes to engage if they have the time and inclination in order to encourage greater participation in the sport/get additional media attention.  Beyond that, it could help put their organization in a position where they can be proactive in case a social media related story involving their athletes.

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Books (and videos) I want

Posted by Laura on Tuesday, 2 November, 2010

As I’ve been visiting libraries and bookstores, I’ve been writing down and taking pictures of materials that I would like the University of Canberra Library to acquire.  If that isn’t possible, I’ve been noting these with the hopes that some random reader may have these books or books like these that they might want to permanently part (trade?) with so that I can read them.  (It never hurts to ask.  You never know.  If you have some Australian or Kiwi related sport books that you want to get rid of, let me know.  If you have general books about Australian rules football or netball or field hockey, also let me know.)  This is the list that I’ve come up with so far:

Title Author Sport
An illustrated history of the Essendon Football Club Forward by James Hard Australian rules football
Football Stories from Country Victoria [UNKNOWN] Australian rules football
Local Rites, A year in grass roots football in Victoria and beyond Paul Daffey Australian rules football
More than a game Rob Hess Australian rules football
Plugger and the Mighty Swans Jim Male Australian rules football
Side by Side, A season with Collingwood Peter Ryan Australian rules football
Tales from the Inner Sanctum [UNKNOWN] Australian rules football
The Australian Game of Football [UNKNOWN] Australian rules football
The Convert, A Fan’s Journey from League to AFL Peter Lewis Australian rules football
The Games are not the Same, The Political Economy of Football in Australia Bob Stewart Australian rules football
The Swan Lake Spectatular, How South Melbourne [UNKNOWN] 1933 VFL Premieres Mark [UNKNOWN] Australian rules football
The Tiger Growls Again Marc F[UNKNOWN] Australian rules football
Women, The forgotten heroes Kevin Sheedy and Carolyn Brown Australian rules football
The Victorian Ladies’s Bowling Association, A history from 1907 to present [UNKNOWN] Bowls
Punch! Why women participate in violent sports Jennifer Lawler General sport
Sporting Females, Critical issues in the history and sociology of women’s sports Jennifer Hargreaves General sport
Sporting Island, A history of sport and recreation in Tasmania David Young General sport
The Economic Impact of Sport and Recreation — Household Expenditure (Australia) Department of Arts, Sports, the Environment, Tourism and Travel General sport
A Netball History in Tasmania, The First Bounce, 1900-2005 Pauline Barker Netball
Anne Sargeant – Grace and Glory, The Netball Video THIS IS A VIDEO Netball
Yarrawon, Football-Netball, The Pigeon [UNKNOWN], 1883-200[UNKNOWN] [UNKNOWN] Netball
100 Years of Rugby League, Volume 2: 1967-2007 Ian Collis and Alan Whiticker Rugby league
A Centenary of Rugby League, 1908-2008, The definitive history of the game in Australia Ian Heads and David Middleton Rugby league
A League of Legends, 100 years of rugby league in Australia [UNKNOWN] Rugby league
The ABC of Rugby League Malcolm Andrews Rugby league
The History of Rugby League Clubs Ian Collis and Alan Whiticker Rugby league
A Game for Hooligans, A history of rugby union Huw Richards Rugby union
A History of Rugby Paul Morgan Rugby union
The Rugby Rebellion, The divide of league and union Sean Fagan Rugby union
All Whites ’82, The untold story behind New Zealand soccer’s greatest campaign John Matheson and Sam Malcomson Soccer
Marketing & Football, An international perspective Michael Despordes Soccer
No Free Kicks Eric Hedley Hayward Soccer
Popular Culture Studies: 8. The Football Imagination, The rise of football fanzine culture Soccer
The People’s Game? Football, finance and society Stephen Morrow Soccer

If there are any books you think I should be reading that deal with Australian sport fans or Australian sport history, let me know.

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Reading notes about rugby, Aussie rules and general Aussie sport books

Posted by Laura on Monday, 1 November, 2010

Between October 21 and November 1, 2010, I’ve been busy reading books about Australian and New Zealand sport. Some of this has been for entertainment. Some of this has been with the general broad goal of better understanding Australian and New Zealand sporting cultures. Some of it has also been to try to learn more about the demographic and geographic characteristics of these particular sporting cultures. I’ve spent time in public and universities, in chain bookstores, in independent bookstores and in used bookshops. Beyond what you see here, I’ve developed a rather lengthy list of books that I want the University of Canberra’s library to purchase in order to build up its sport cultures and sport history sections. (The University of Victoria Footscray Park campus library sport section blew me away. I want that at the University of Canberra.) In some cases, I’ve taken pictures of the covers and relevant pages while reading as I didn’t always have paper on hand. Notes from these pages may eventually be written up. That said, my notes to date with a focus on understanding fans.

League of Legends, 100 Years of Rugby League in Australia. Chapter: Rugby League: A Work in Progess by David Middleton. pg. 31.

In the early 1980s, the NRL expanded outside of its traditional base in New South Wales. Fears at the time were that if the National Rugby League failed to expand that the AFL would take over the country and kill their game.

League of Legends, 100 Years of Rugby League in Australia. Chapter: Grass Roots: On Being a Rugby League Fan by Debbie Spilane.
“Pay television and the internet are two of the other major changes in attracting fans.”

“But, for the majority, being a fan is all about a bond with a team and a fellow fans, the memories it holds and the hopes it embodies for the future. It’s about emotion and shared experience and loyalty.”

Sporting Island, A history of Sport and Recreation in Tasmania by David Young.
Rugby league returned to Tasmania in 1990. In 1998, the Melbourne Storm played the Adelaide Rams at the North Hobart Oval. They hoped to get 5,000 fans at the game but only 2,395 showed. This wasn’t a good sign for Rugby League on the island.

A National Game, The History of Australian Rules Football by Rob Hess, Matthew Nicholson, Bob Stewart and Gregory De Moore.

pg. 51: As the game spread during the 1860s, “teams became identified strongly with local communities.”

pg. 66-67: Female fans were depicted as being fans of the team by the 1870s. They appeared in artwork from the era. The percentage of female fans for Australian rules has always been higher than other football codes. In terms of attendance, during the 1870s, they are said to have made up 1/3 to 1/2 of all spectators. Female football fans turned out at all levels of plays. The people who managed the fields and the newspapers were keen to provide and promote the nicer seating accommodations for female fans. Early female fans were not necessarily there to look at the attractive male form as early uniforms were not as form fitting. Only as the 1870s unfolded did the uniforms become tighter and similar to that of rugby.

pg. 96: Local newspapers were important in terms of helping share club news, create fan identity and develop a fan base. An example of this was the Independent, which promoted the Footscray Football Club.

pg. 96-97: Supporters “adopted a variety of emblems, totems and flags in their search for a visible form of community identity in an increasingly competitive suburban competition.” Club colors were worn on scarves, clothing, in rosettes, silk ribbons and other paraphernalia sold by local shopkeepers. Football clubs helped legitimize local communities, were vital to the community’s social structures and supported local businesses. “In essence, the more formal organization of the VFA created the conditions by which casual onlookers to the game evolved into loyal barrackers with an emotional investment in the results of matches. With the creation of this specific audience in the 1870s and 1880s came a consumerist mentality that helped to boost commercial dimensions of the code.

pg. 158: “It should be understood that the relationship between women and football is multifaceted rather than one-dimensional. The obvious presence of a large number of female spectators is clearly distinctive to the code, and the press description of female barrackers stoically sitting in the rain yelling abuse at the umpire, or decorating their prams in club colours, are enduring reflections of the passionate commitment that women displayed for Australian Rules football.”

pg. 164: Contains a map of the Barassi-line.

pg. 165: During the 1920s, Melbourne was the spiritual home for Australian rules football because the game had been invented in Melbourne. During the 1920s, Melbourne supported two leagues: The VFA and the VFL.

pg. 167-168: Adelaide and South Australia were also heavily involved with Australian rules during the 1920s. Population of 295,000 and they could get 20,000 to big matches, 8,000 on average,

pg. 169: Western Australia was also into Australian rules. The same was true for Tasmania.

pg. 170: Australian rules was less popular in New South Wales, Queensland and the ACT though these states all had competitions.

pg. 171: The Northern Territories during the 1920s and 1930s were into Australian rules, especially amongst the Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander populations.

pg. 215: Pascoe is cited along with his rational for why Rugby took off where it did versus Australian rules and where it did. (Structure and team oriented coming out of a convict pass for rugby. Less structured and more individualist for a more a society created in the freewheeling period of the late 19th century.

pg. 244: North Melbourne tried to move to Coburg in the 1960s but locals felt disloyal to their VFA team and did not like having to pay for the team to be there.

pg. 246: “Carlton was a magnet for immigrants in the 1950s because of its low-cost rentals, high-density housing and proximity to the city.” Lots of Italian immigrants settled there. Some played soccer but a few tried Australian rules and were good at it. Because of the multi-cultural composition of the team, the nature of the fanbase changed while maintaining its middle class aspirations. In Western Australia, other immigrant groups and Aboriginals began playing for and supporting local Perth area club sides.

pg. 248: The galas put on by the ANFC weren’t that successful as many Australians were more interested in their local club sides than they were in state teams.

The Winter Game, Rediscovering the Passion of Rugby by Todd R. Nicholls.
pg. 47: Super 12 brings in non-hardcore fans of rugby more into the game. As of 2005, no study has been done to examine the economic impact of the Dunedin Super 12 team on the local economy. A study was done on the economic impact of test rugby.

pg. 97: In New Zealand, you’ve got crowds of 20,000 people going to a Super 12 game. Fans pay a lot of money to attend. Amateur rugby is a problem because fewer players continue playing in their 20s. This is similar to the problem of soccer in New Zealand. If players do not go on, it can be a problem for the game.

pg. 129: “It’s as if a notion of the nation is that much more difficult for a rugby fan to grasp. The All Blacks are, well, New Zealand’s team but the ‘us’ is bigger than when the Crusaders are playing and perhaps harder to identify with.”

pg. 130: “I feel an overwhelming sense of sadness as I contemplate this, a real sense of loss that the average fan has to some degree been left behind in the move to professional rugby.”

pg. 141: Rugby union in Australia is a game more for Australia’s elite. This can be seen in how fans dress to attend matches. It can culturally also be seen in the demographics of fans in Australia: Private school educated, using the game to reaffirm business connections, richer and belonging to a more exclusive class.

pg. 158: Rugby is something fitted around school, work and family for most New Zealand rugby fans. For club rugby and the NPC, the author thinks that the smaller provinces are better in that they get behind their teams more in the local community, in the newspaper and on the street. He asserts that winning the NPC means more the community than it does in bigger communities.

pg. 277: Being an All Black meant behaving a certain way, doing certain things, treating fans a certain way. Professionalism has tested these traditions and expectations for what it means to be an All Black.

pg. 288: Rugby fans vote for the “RBS Player of the Championship” in the Six Nations competition.

pg. 297-298: The Barmy Army has a project manager. His job is to create events for fans to attend while the Lions do tours and compete in Tests. Lions fans are madly passionate, at the author and the project manager assert. In the tour of New Zealand, they out number the Kiwi fans and out sang them. The local economy makes a lot of money off these visiting fans, as will the organizers with their high ticket prices and expensive kit. Still, some of the officially organized events had low attendance and appeared to the author less celebrating a love of rugby and more about trying to make as much cash as possible.

pg. 320: The vast majority of the members of the Barmy Army are Lions fans traveling all around New Zealand anyway or are older fans on expensive tour packages. A lot of others are Kiwis who support the Lions.

pg. 322: Losing doesn’t matter much to the Lions fans attending the New Zealand tour. It is all about having a good time and supporting their team.

pg. 347: The increase in the number of Super 12/14 games and TriNations games did not necessarily increase the demand for rugby. The start of the Super 14 competition had smaller attendance in New Zealand than in previous years. The expanded schedule also meant increased competition with other sport schedules in all three countries.

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Review of Literature: Draft (2)

Posted by Laura on Tuesday, 7 September, 2010

I know I haven’t posted an update on how my lit review is going but it is going. At the moment, it mostly consists of tossing citations together about teams in order to get a better picture of the fanbase for particular clubs and how that has evolved over time.

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.

The media and sport fans.

Sport fans and the media often talk about fandom on a personal level or to describe their actions around the short term.

Popular culture studies academics.

Popular culture studies scholars like Jenkins (2006) 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. Popular culture academics also define fans as posessing 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.

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)

Characteristics of sport fan communities can differ by club. A survey of research done about VFL/AFL teams reveals some of these different characteristics.

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. 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. 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. There was a 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 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) The team has the fourth largest AFL fan community with 638,000 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) The team has the eighth largest AFL fan community 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 would are not as interested in attending matches as fans of other teams. (Stewart, 1983, p. 40) 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) 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 1920s, the fanbase had a noticeable amount of butchers. (Shaw, 2006, p. 83) The 2009 club ranked second to last in the AFL for most fans, with 219,000. (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) 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) 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) The 2009 team ranked twelth for total fans, with 311,000 fans. (Roy Morgan Research, 2009, July 19).

Demonstrating Club Allegiance

In the AFL, fans has historically expressed their allegiance to their clubs in a variety of ways.

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)

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)

The Connection Between Sport Fandom and Online Activity


Adair, D. & Vamplew, W. (1997). Sport in Australian History. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

Cashman, R. (2002). Sport in the National Imagination, Australian sport in the Federation decades. Sydney: Walla Walla Press.

Collins, T. (2005). “‘One Common Code of Football for Australia!’: The Australian Rules and Rugby League Merger Proposal of 1933.” In R. Hess, M. Nicholson, & B. Stewart (Eds.), Football Fever: Crossing Boundaries (pp. 27-38). Hawthorn: Maribyrnong Press.

Depley, L. and Boetti, H.A. (1998). “Sport Management and Marketing via the World Wide Web”, Sport Marketing Quarterly, 7 (1), pp. 21-27.

Grow, R. (1998). The Victorian Football Association in Control, 1877-1896. In R. Hess & B. Stewart (Eds.), More Than a Game (pp. 45-85). Melbourne: Melbourne University Press.

Jenkins, H. (2006) Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York: New York University Press.

Nicholson, M. (2004). “Take the Game to the North: The Strategic and Demographic Imperative Facing Australian Rules Football.” In M. Nicholson, R. Hess, & B. Stewart (Eds.), Football Fever: Grassroots (pp. 111-121). Hawthorn: Maribyrnong Press.

Roy Morgan Research. (2009, July 19). More Than 7.6 Million AFL Supporters A Great Market for Prospective Sponsors 2008 Grand Finalists Hawthorn (Up 72,000) & Geelong (Up 99,000) Have Biggest Jumps in Support. [Press Release]. Retrieved from

Sandercock, L., & Turner, I. (1981). Up Where, Cazaly? The Great Australian Game. Sydney: Granada.

Shaw, I. W. (2006). The Bloodbath, The 1945 VFL Grand Final. Melbourne: Scribe.

Shilbury, D., Quick, S., & Westerbeck, H. (2003). Strategic sport marketing (2nd ed.). Crows Nest, New South Wales: Allen & Unwin.

Smith, A. and Stewart, B. (1999) Sports Management: A Guide to Professional Practice, Allen & Unwin, Sydney.

Stewart, B. (1983). The Australian Football Business, a Spectator’s Guide to the VFL. Maryborough, Victoria: Kangaroo Press.

Sullivan, M. (2004). “Sports Marketing.” In J. Beech & S. Chadwick (Eds.), The Business of Sport Management (pp. 128-153). Essex: Pearson Education Limited.

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Formal PhD Proposal draft

Posted by Laura on Sunday, 25 July, 2010

This is a draft of my formal PhD proposal.  Any feedback anyone has would be appreciated.  Any grammatical errors that you spot that need to be fixed?  Please point them out.

AUSTRALIAN FOOTBALL LEAGUE ONLINE: a demographic, geographic and social examination of the  AFL fan community online
The online ecosystem is changing the definition of sport fandom, how teams engage with their fans, and the potential demographic and geographic reach of sport fandom.  These three components or sport fandom are inextricably linked and are worth studying to understand what sport fandom will look like in the future.

There are currently four operational definitions of sport fandom.  Each definition originates from and is used by a different group.

Popular culture studies scholars like Jenkins (2006) offer the first 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.  Popular culture academics also define fans as posessing 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.

Sports marketers and managers, who broadly speaking, define sports fandom around potential for spectatorship. Stewart (1983), Shilbury, D., Quick, S., & Westerbeck, H. (2003) and Sullivan (2004) talk about various aspects of this, including the goal of teams to sell tickets to matches.  They sometimes diverge from this definition to talk about spectator related behaviors that can be monetized including merchandise sales and television viewership.

Sociologists and historians offer the third definition. This group tends to define sports fandom as a form of identity and as a product of a specific culture.  Cashman (2002) looks at sport fandom in Australia as an extension of a wider Australian identity. Collins (2005) looked at sport as a component of people’s identity as it pertains to the rest of the world: Australian and inward looking or international and outward looking.

The final definition of sport fandom is provided by sport fans themselves and the media.  They define sport fandom around allegiances and in the moment activities that demonstrate these allegiances.

None of these definitions particularly work in the increasingly online-based world of Australian sport.  Fans can more easily be monetized by teams that does not rely on getting people into the stadium.  Identity continues to play a role in fandom but this is changing as the Internet allows teams to draw a more interstate and international audience.  In the moment activities can often extend out years as fans maintain large fansites and become more actively involved in organizations dedicated to but independent of their team.  How fans express allegiance also has changed.  No longer is it based on club membership and being kitted out in a club’s jumper or scarf.  Instead, fans can and do express allegiance by following their clubs on social networks, checking in on geolocation based social networks, creating message boards and fan pages, attending events organized on social networks in order to meet their fellow fans, and creating content related to their clubs to distribute across various networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, LiveJournal, Twitter, and YouTube.

The definitional change means that more fans than ever could be counted as barrackers for a club could.  This could potentially mean that a club has a different demographic population than the one historically associated with it.  This is because the demographic characteristics of the Australian community are sometimes at odds with populations described by sport historians and sociologists. The potential demographic change necessitates a benchmarking of a club’s population to help future sport historians understand the community as it exists in the period of 2010 and 2011.

Research Topic

I propose to document the demographic, geographic and social characteristics of the AFL fan community online.  This should help several groups including sport historians, sociologists and marketers better understand who fans are, and how current characteristics differ from the past.  It should also help these groups by providing benchmarks for other work done using these populations in terms of making certain groups they study are representative of the larger population.  Hopefully, this topic will help sport organizations make more informed decisions regarding which networks to market on, and help them better cater to specific segments of their fans.

Accordingly, the working title for this research is: ‘AUSTRALIAN FOOTBALL LEAGUE ONLINE: a demographic, geographic and social examination of the AFL fan community online.’

Research Questions
The proposed research will focus on the following questions:

  •  What is the best methodology for conducting an online population study?
  •  What are sport fans in an online context?
  •  What are the demographic, geographic and social characteristics of the AFL community online?
  •  Why does the online population change over time?
  •  What influence do stakeholders have in shaping the demographic and geographic characteristics of the fan community dedicated to their team?
  •  How does the AFL population compare to other Australian based sport leagues?

Relationship to Previous Research

This topic is grounded in sport sociology, sport history and sport culture.  These three areas are complimented by a framework of popular culture studies, sociology, history and other areas in social sciences.

Much of previous research involving AFL fans has focused on offline populations, and was conducted using survey research, observational work or historical work.  This is the case for Stewart (1983) where the methodology was based on around club history and observations of match attendance.  A population study done by the marketing agency Roy Morgan Research  (2009) relied on a telephone survey.  There does not appear to have been a large scale study involving documenting the actual characteristics of fans that measures the actual composition of the fan community beyond club membership or match attendance.

Most social media research uses one or more of ten methodologies identified by me.  These research types are:
1. Individual case studies for how a business uses social media and the web;
2. Search and traffic analytics analysis;
3. Sentiment analysis and reputation management;
4. Content analysis;
5. Usability studies;
6. Interaction and collaboration analysis;
7. Relationship analysis to try to determine how people interact and to identify key influencers;
8. Population studies;
9. Online target analysis of behavior and psychographics; and
10. Predictive analysis.
Some of these research methods have been used for analyzing online groups, behavior and content.  The most popular methods include case studies, content analysis, usability studies, influencer identification, reputation management, and interaction and collaboration analysis.  Based on my preliminary research, the last three are ones that the least likely to be done.

When population studies are done, they tend to short, do not detail methodology, focus on one particular site on the Internet and do not compare different populations.  This appears to be because there are few automated tools that allow for measuring population characteristics of several sites at once.  Of the tools that exist, most are focused on providing information related to other methodologies including interaction and collaboration analysis, sentiment analysis, and search and traffic analytics analysis. These tools generally do not provide demographic and geographic population related data.  Those that do offer demographic information tend to focus only on one site such as Twitter or Facebook.

The existing methods and the reliance on automating data collection around a single site acts as an intellectual and practical barrier in doing large-scale population studies across multiple sites.  My research will help provide a methodological framework for doing a population study online that compares populations across different networks and subgroups as this is largely lacking.  I believe this will also be useful in terms of laying a framework for people who want to further explore the methodology for online target analysis, psychographics and predictive analysis as it pertains to demographic and geographic characteristics.

The methodology for this research involves two parts: A population study and a series of interview with sport administrators.

The first part involves conducting a population study of the AFL fan community online.  Some of the social networks examined will include 43things, bebo, BlackPlanet, blogger, care2, ecademy, Facebook, friendster, Gaia Online, hi5, LinkedIn, LiveJournal and its clones, MySpace, orkut, Twitter, Wikia, Wikipedia, Yahoo!Groups and YouTube.  Publicly accessible data regarding gender, age, income, occupation, astrological sign, joined, last logged in, location, dating status, languages understood, etc.  This information will be complemented with social behaviors in the context of events that take place during the AFL season.  This will include the occasional monitoring of the total people belonging to a group or listing specific clubs as an interest.  It will also include gathering some data regarding total actions taken during certain time periods, volume of web traffic as measured by tools such as Compete, Alexa and Quantcast, and total blog posts as measured by tools like IceRocket.

The second part involves interviewing sport administrators.  This includes people working for the AFL and for people from other clubs and leagues including the Canberra Raiders, Canberra United and Melbourne Victory.  The interviews will have a general framework of asking four questions:
1. How do you define fandom?
2. How do you reach out to the fan community?
3. How much influence does league management provide in terms of defining fandom and how to engage in outreach?  Do they give guidance on social media policies?
4. How much do other sports, teams and leagues play a roll in development and implementation of concepts related to fan engagement and social media?
These questions will be supplemented with other questions based on answers given.  The interviews will take place in person to facilitate the ability to ask related questions.

The results of the population study will be contextualized in the thesis conclusion to help provide context for why specific communities have the demographic, geographic and social characteristics that they do.

Intended Outcomes

At the conclusion of this research, an established, repeatable methodology for conducting population studies online should be established.  Shortcomings for this type of research will also be established, providing context for the data within and for others who are trying to do similar research. Maps of where AFL fans are located will exist.  These maps will show population distribution by website and by team.  There will be benchmarks for community size that can be used by future research to examine growth patterns and population shifts.

This information will be disseminated over the Internet with copies being shared with the AFL and its clubs.

The timetable for this research will be based around the AFL season, with a majority of the data collection being done right at the beginning of the season, during the season and shortly after the season ends.  During the off season for the AFL, numbers should be stable as there is less club news and the teams will be less active in promoting their games.   Appendix A provides a more detailed breakdown of the proposed timeline.  This timeline assumes that most of the work will take place over two years, though if a possibility exists of compressing it down to one, that will be explored. Data has and will continue to be gathered from between April 2010 and October 2010, the end of the AFL season.  During the data collection periods, work will also be done on completing the literature review, methodology, introduction and getting other administrative tasks like ethics clearances to be completed.  Interviews with sport organizations will take place during the data collection period and while completing the data analysis and conclusion.

The majority of the research would be computer based and involve data mining of online resources.  Some assistance may be required in developing tools to automate data mining of publicly available information and running the applications developed to do that work.  There is an intention to supplement knowledge gained through data mining with interviews. Travel may be required to interview management and staff involved with developing a team’s online presence.  The intention would be to take a trip to Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane to conduct these interviews.  The attempt would be made to compress as many interviews as possible into the fewest trips possible. Ideally, the department would assist in funding travel to talk to teams.  Funding for travel costs would also be sought from the AFL.

Approvals and Permits for Ethical Research
Approval would need to be attained from the UC Committee for Ethics in Human Research in order to conduct interviews with sport managers.

Reasons for Choosing the University of Canberra
I chose the University of Canberra after having visited the Australian Institute of Sport in July 2009 and learning how the Australian system for sport worked.  The University of Canberra’s Sport Studies has close contact with the Australian Institute of Sport, sporting federations and with the professional sports leagues in the country.  These resources are important as they allow access to sports administrators who can provide context to social, demographic and geographic patterns that research will reveal by explaining a team’s role in the online fan community.

Cashman, R. (2002). Sport in the National Imagination, Australian sport in the Federation decades. Sydney: Walla Walla Press.
Collins, T. (2005). “‘One Common Code of Football for Australia!’: The Australian Rules and Rugby League Merger Proposal of 1933.” In R. Hess, M. Nicholson, & B. Stewart (Eds.), Football Fever: Crossing Boundaries (pp. 27-38). Hawthorn: Maribyrnong Press.
Jenkins, H. (2007a) Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture. New York: New York University Press.
Jenkins, H. (2007b) “Afterword: The Future of Fandom”. In Fandom: Identities and Communities in a Mediated World. J. Gray, C. Sandvoss and C.L. Harrington, eds. pp. 357-364. New York: New York University Press.
Jenkins, H. (2006) Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York: New York University Press.
Roy Morgan Research. (2009, July 19). More Than 7.6 Million AFL Supporters A Great Market for Prospective Sponsors 2008 Grand Finalists Hawthorn (Up 72,000) & Geelong (Up 99,000) Have Biggest Jumps in Support. Roy Morgan Research. Press Release. Retrieved May 31, 2010, from
Shilbury, D., Quick, S., & Westerbeck, H. (2003). Strategic Sport Marketing (2nd ed.). Crows Nest, New South Wales: Allen & Unwin.
Stewart, B. (1983). The Australian Football Business, a Spectator’s Guide to the VFL. Maryborough, Victoria: Kangaroo Press.
Sullivan, M. (2004). “Sports Marketing.” In J. Beech & S. Chadwick (Eds.), The Business of Sport Management (pp. 128-153). Essex: Pearson Education Limited.

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What I’ve been reading this past week…

Posted by Laura on Monday, 12 July, 2010

Meta discussion

Sport meta discussion

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An interview with Georgie Herbert from the Melbourne Victory

Posted by Laura on Tuesday, 6 July, 2010

On Monday, July 5, I had the pleasure of talking to Georgie Herbert at the W-League Melbourne Victory. I’ve tried to convey as accurately as possible what they have told me based on my memory and I asked their permission to reference them in my blog and paper while I met with them.

If you’re not familiar with the Melbourne Victory of the W-League, they are a W-League team based out of Victoria, playing most of their fixtures in Melbourne. They are affiliated with the A-League Melbourne Victory and are run by Football Victoria. The Melbourne Victory have one player who plays for the Matildas.

My purpose in talking to the Melbourne Victory was to help provide background knowledge for my literature review and to generally enhance my understanding of Australian team sport as it may apply other parts of my research. Going in, I had four questions I wanted answers to. These questions were:

1. How do you define fandom?
2. How do you reach out to the fan community?
3. How much influence does league management provide in terms of defining fandom and how to engage in outreach? Do they give guidance on social media policies?
4. How much do other sports, teams and leagues play a role in development and implementation of concepts related to fan engagement and social media?

The Melbourne Victory defines fans as spectators. Most of their fans are friends and family of current players, and players from women’s clubs. These groups account for a large percentage of attendees. Beyond these groups, they have limited definitions of the fan community for their club and appear to use an operating definition of “Fans of the A-League Melbourne Victory club.” The limited definitions appear to exist for several reasons. The first is that Football Victoria places a greater emphasis on promoting their top level Victorian based league over the W-League club. The second reason is because they rely heavily on the A-League Melbourne Victory for the promotion of their club; they piggy back on their promotional activities so it makes separating out the fanbases difficult. The third reason is that it is extremely difficult to carve out a niche for women’s sport in Victoria given the number of spectating options available to fans in the city. Fans just have too many choices of what do and the club doesn’t appear confident that they can successfully market the club in this environment.

The team doesn’t do much outreach of their own. They rely heavily on the A-League Melbourne Victory to do much of that outreach. This includes getting W-League Melbourne Victory news into the A-League club’s Twitter stream and Facebook fan page updates. This is a solution that they have found to be rather effective as they get a number of comments on Facebook in reply to these posts and their does not appear to be any backlash for including women’s updates alongside the men’s news. Beyond co-branded social media and other media spots, the club has an e-mail newsletter they send out and does school offers. They feel that some of their outreach is hampered because they do not have a fixed location for their fixtures; last season they played their five home games in five different venues.

The media comms coordinator does much of the club’s outreach. This is another issue because the media comms coordinator does not work exclusively on the Melbourne Victory W-League team; she is responsible for all of Football Victoria. Outreach is also problematic at times because they have to rely on the A-League Melbourne Victory. While there is an agreement in place that the two clubs will be co-branded, many of the people working for the Melbourne Victory are not used to working on the W-League team and that can take prodding. They were clear that the Melbourne Victory on the whole though are very good at updating when asked. Outreach with the A-League also requires people at Football Victoria remembering to pass on information to the club, which can be an issue as it is not always a priority.

Another issue that effects outreach involves contractual issues with the Victory’s star player and Matilda captain. The Victory only get so many contractual appearances with her a year outside general club requirements. The player is also heavily involved with her own personal branding. This can make it hard to use the player as a way to push their own brand as she has her own agenda that may not match with the club’s agenda.

Football Victoria has several young staffers who work for them whom are big soccer fans and who are social media savvy. They do not officially monitor social media sites for Football Victoria but if they see something that other clubs in leagues like the WPS or A-League are doing that they think would work for the Melbourne Victory, the club will consider implementing it. If they do find something that is extremely problematic on social media sites, fansites or forums, the club will inform the W-League who can then address the problem.

The W-League gives some guidance in this regard but much of the Victory’s social media, fan definitions and policies come from Football Federation Australia (FFA) who first try them out on the A-League. After that, these policies are often implemented on a much more scaled down version

Beyond the answer to the general questions, there were several other interesting things that came up in the interview.

First, the team does not have a formal social media policy for its players. This is similar to the Canberra United and the Canberra Raiders. They haven’t felt a need to have one because so far it has not been an issue. Most of their players are also on Facebook, not Twitter, and Facebook tends to get less media coverage. (Though this is not always the case. There was a player for one of the women’s national team who got into trouble for what she said on Facebook as it got picked up by a Melbourne newspaper.) Added to that, the team gets so little media coverage that the media is unlikely to care what players say on social media sites. That said, the club is planning on offering media training before the season starts. Part of this media training will involve teaching players about safety on social media sites.

The club sees its success as fundamentally tied to the A-League club. If the A-League Melbourne Victory succeeds, they should succeed too. This explains why Football Victoria has pushed to co-brand the W-League club with the A-League club and get them involved. They feel that they can increase their audience, build better awareness and raise the stature of women players and soccer in Victoria this way. Rather than turn to the W-League for guidance, they tend to be much more focused on their A-League counter part.

This decision to tie themselves with the A-League club means that the team finds it hard to get data about their specific fans as there aren’t different channels for the two: The Melbourne Victory of the W-League does not have its own Twitter account or its own Facebook fanpage. This could be problematic down the line as it may harm their ability to effectively target fans as they grow.

The Melbourne Victory are aware of the issues of branding the W-League correctly, finding that balance where you avoid lesbian stereotypes that might harm their brand and the growth of soccer in Victoria. At the same time, they don’t want to swing so far from one end of the marketing spectrum that they end up on the other by using glamour shots and heavily made up super feminine women. They want to find the middle to maximize interest in fans and future female Victorian soccer players.

The Melbourne Victory are in a tough market because of the presence of so many other sports and leagues. In Canberra, the United can garner a lot more media attention because there is less competition. The United and ACT Football can get attention for food eating contests; in contrast, the Victory are lucky if they can get the scores in the newspaper. This is part of their challenge.

Attendance at Victory games is very low. When they talked of high attendance matches, they were talking about 450 people at a game. The average attendance is much lower with a number mentioned of around 250 to 300. Their most successful games have been when they have played outside of the Melbourne area.

In preparation for talking with the Melbourne Victory, I completed an overview of the size of the online community for the team. It can be found at :

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An interview with Ben Pollack from the Canberra Raiders

Posted by Laura on Thursday, 24 June, 2010

On Wednesday, June 23, 2010, I had the pleasure of talking to Ben Pollack and another staff member at the Canberra Raider.  I really appreciated the opportunity to talk to them as it was provided additional insight into how sport clubs view fandom and social media. I’ve tried to convey as accurately as possible what they have told me based on my memory and I asked their permission to reference them in my blog and paper while I met with them.

If you’re not familiar with the Canberra Raiders, they are a Rugby League team that competes at the top level in the National Rugby League in Australia.  They are based in Australia’s capital, Canberra, and play their home games at Bruce Stadium.  The NRL has a profit sharing scheme, where revenues are shared between all teams.

My purpose in talking to them was to help provide background knowledge for my literature review and to generally enhance my understanding of Australian team sport as it may apply other parts of my research.  Going in, I had four questions I wanted answers to.  These questions were:

1. How do you define fandom?
2. How do you reach out to the fan community?
3. How much influence does league management provide in terms of defining fandom and how to engage in outreach?  Do they give guidance on social media policies?
4. How much do other sports, teams and leagues play a role in development and implementation of concepts related to fan engagement and social media?

The Canberra Raiders define fandom very broadly as people who barrack for them and who attend games.  Their goal is to have this definition encompass all ages, both genders and across the demographic spectrum.  They focus on the Canberra area. They want to take interest in the club and translate that into getting people into the stadium, with bums on seats.  They did not mention trying to get fans to watch on television or buy their merchandise.  It may be something that they define as fandom but I did not follow up to ask about that.

When I inquired about the regional aspect in the NRL helping teams by enabling them to develop a local fanbase, they said that this worked a lot in their favor as the Canberra area was very supportive of the team.  This may not be as true for some of the Sydney based teams where there is much more market overlap and a few teams play at the same venue.  There, clubs need to market more towards traditional understandings of who composes their fanbase.  Sydney based teams are much like many of the Melbourne based AFL clubs in this regard.

I had some data from Facebook that said that there were roughly twice as many UCanberra students and alumni who were fans of the club compared to ANU.  I asked them why their fanbase was stronger at the University of Canberra, if it had to do with different cultures or possibly class related affiliations that each university has.  The club responded that they thought they probably had more fans at UC because the university has a well-known sport program and tends to attract more sport fans than ANU.

I had some bebo related geographic data.  It showed that there were a number of fans from the Brisbane area.  I asked the Raiders if they could explain that.  They told me that this geographic fanbase dates to the club’s founding, when several of the players came from Brisbane.  The club has managed to maintain this fanbase in Queensland over time.

The club primarily reaches out to their fanbase using traditional advertising: Newspapers, television and mail outs.  They have a member list and every week they send out a newsletter to their members.  The newsletter contains injury information, game summaries and information on any special deals that the club has.  They do some outreach on social media, but that is primarily confined to Facebook.

The NRL is a huge influence in how the club handles their website and their social media.  The league requires that clubs post certain types of web and video content every week.  This includes a match report and the post-game press conference.  The NRL has incentivized clubs to try to draw traffic to their websites; at the end of the season, revenues earned by the clubs on their sites are distributed to the clubs.  According to the Raiders, the league brought in Bernie Mullin to help it develop a plan regarding their online activities.  The NRL also guides clubs by encouraging them to push to increase their membership.  Some of this push is based around the idea of local clubs and increasing attendance at local grounds and keeping that local identity.

The Canberra Raiders thus use social media as a way to drive traffic to their site.  Based on our conversation, I did not get the feeling that using social media to develop a fanbase was a goal unto itself.  Rather, I was left with the impression that social media was a tool to drive traffic to their site to help increase their revenue.

The NRL does watch other leagues to see what they are doing in terms of social media.  The Raiders do less of this and spend less time developing their own social media strategy.  This is largely because the Raiders feel the NRL has better resources and more money to handle this.  The Raiders also do not have much time to do this on their own.

One of the major areas where the team has acted regarding social media is in giving in their players training in the use of social media training.  The Australian Federal Police conducted this training.  Details about the training can be found on the club’s website at .  This was something the club felt was important because a number of their players are on Facebook.  Some have 2,000 to 3,000 friends, many of whom they do not know personally.  There have been a number of high profile incidents involving players getting negative media attention as a result of their comments on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter; they want to avoid that.  In general, the club advises players to be careful, not to talk about the team and to keep things personal.  The club does not ban the use of it and the NRL is aware of these problems and is encouraging training.

After getting my questions answered, I asked the Raiders about specific aspects of their social media strategy and asked the club if they had any questions based on the data packet I had provided.  The club does have an official Facebook page and Twitter account.  Ben is most familiar with Facebook, which is one of the reasons they use it more than Twitter.  The club’s original Facebook strategy involved creating a user account, friending people and trying to convert these friends into fans of the official fanpage.  The conversion rate was very low and they did not find it very effective in accomplishing their goals.

They are not entirely certain how Twitter fits into their social media strategy and there is a question of how they chose people to follow.  (Compared to other teams in the NRL, they follow almost no one.)  They were interested in increasing their number of followers but were not certain how to do it.  They also did not think that anyone had replied to them or reTweeted them, though this could be a result of not being familiar enough with the site.

We also discussed Foursquare and Gowalla, how they were used and if it was worth it for the team to explore using them.  They were unsure in this regard, as their time is limited.  If it is the next big thing, it might be worth them investigating.

I asked the club about their web traffic, citing some traffic data from Compete.  They said that a number of teams in the NRL share names with other sport teams.  In the case of the Canberra Raiders, it is the Oakland Raiders.  During the season for the other team, they often see an increase in traffic from US based visitors who mistakenly find their site.

I asked if the club had considered using YouTube.  They had.  One of their ideas involved uploading preview clips to Youtube, with attached notices that the full clip could be viewed on their site. They were not certain of the potential ROI and in the end did not use it.  I then asked them if visitors could embed official Raiders videos on their own blogs.  They were not certain but said that fans could definitely link to their videos.

While social media is a big potential audience for the club, most of their dedicated fans online congregate on a message board not controlled by the club.  They do monitor it and find it occasionally to be a concern because of that lack of control.  The club is aware of the fact that the media also monitor this message board and occasionally use it to generate less than favorable story ideas about the site.

In preparation for talking with the Canberra Raiders, I completed an overview of the size of the online community for the team.  If you are interested in this document, please contact me at laura[@]fanhistory[dot]com or my university e-mail address, [email protected]

One of their ideas involved uploading preview clips to Youtube, with attached notices that the full clip could be viewed on their site.  I then asked them if visitors could embed official Raiders videos on their own blogs.

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An interview with the CEO of the Canberra United

Posted by Laura on Saturday, 5 June, 2010

On Friday, I had the pleasure of talking to Heather Reid and Russ Gibbs at Canberra United.  I’ve tried to convey as accurately as possible what they have told me based on my memory and I asked their permission to reference them in my blog and paper while I met with them.

If you’re not familiar with the Canberra United, they are a W-League team based out of Canberra.  Unlike other teams in the W-League, they do not share a name or facilities with an A-League club.  Most of the funding and general support for the W-League comes from state based football associations.  This support insures a certain degree of financial stability that they might not be able to afford otherwise.  Some players in the league are paid but many are not.  The W-League was created in order to foster high levels of competition that could feed Australia’s women’s national football team, the Matildas.   The league intentionally schedules their games around the Matilda’s schedules to avoid conflicts for players. This has been successful in that many of the Matildas that played in the AFC championship played for W-League, three of whom play for the Canberra United.  The Canberra United have the highest average attendance of any team in the league, with over 1,000 people attending home matches.

My purpose in talking to them was to help provide background knowledge for my literature review and to generally enhance my understanding of Australian team sport as it may apply other parts of my research.  Going in, I had four questions I wanted answers to.  These questions were:

1. How do you define fandom?
2. How do you reach out to the fan community?
3. How much influence does league management provide in terms of defining fandom and how to engage in outreach?  Do they give guidance on social media policies?
4. How much do other sports, teams and leagues play a role in development and implementation of concepts related to fan engagement and social media?

The research out there about sport fandom defines it differently depending on your relationship to it.  Sport marketing and management literature tends to define fans and fandom as spectatorship or viewers.  Sport sociologist and historians tend to define fandom as identity that is sustained over longer periods of time.  Newspapers and fans themselves tend to define fandom as identity coupled with actions to express that.  I was interested to see how a team would define that.  In the case of the Canberra United, they define fandom for their team based on spectatorship.  In the case of spectatorship, it is not a wide definition of any possible fans but rather a subset of people they have identified as having the highest potential to attend their games.  The group that the team has decided to target is the female players in Capital Football, the ACT’s state soccer organization.  This is a group that the team feels would turn out to see the games as they are already interested in soccer, have knowledge of the club, and may dream of playing on that level or for the Matildas.    It is also easy to target as the team has access to Capital Football’s membership list.  They can easily send out e-mails to the members before a game to encourage them to attend and after a game to let them know the results.

Beyond that population, the club also hopes to attract an audience of general football fans located in the ACT.  The Canberra United are the highest level of soccer in the territory and play during the summer, when there are fewer sport options for people to watch.  When watching the team, fans have the potential to see future and current Matilidas, something that they might not otherwise have a chance to see regularly.

Most of the outreach that the team does involves reaching out through Capital Football.  They have a database of members which makes this easy to access this population.  Beyond that, they do outreach through sponsor related events.  Their major form of outreach beyond those two venues involves their website: The site includes information about the W-League, the team and local Canberra football clubs.  When shown data regarding how the club ranked on Alexa compared to A-League clubs, they were pleased.  W-League sites, with the exception of the Canberra United, are hosted as subpages inside A-League sites.  It is not possible to use publicly available data to distinguish between different pages.  Using Alexa, the Canberra United ranked 52,076 in Australia.  This compares to 50,430 for the Adelaide United, 60,807 for the Central Coast Mariners and 26,091 for the Sydney Football Club.  The Canberra United outperformed two teams, are about even with one, and are behind three teams.  This comparatively high rank happened when the team is not playing and against A-League sites that have a bigger attendance draw than the Canberra United.  In addition to the website, the team has ventured some into social media with an official presence on Facebook, where they have 460 fans. When we looked through a list of networks that their followers belonged to, they were able to explain pretty much every network on the list. The team has a Twitter account but they do not actively maintain it.  In the future, they plan to grow their social media presence.

The club has a fair amount of autonomy when it comes to making decisions regarding how to promote their team in their own market and online.  The W-League has their own promotions that are intended at promoting the league as a whole and the Canberra United participate in those promotional events.  The club also has some guidance from Capital Football.   Still, there is no indication that there are a lot of restrictions regarding how the club goes about promoting themselves.  The W-League does not have a formal policy regarding social media usage for its clubs or players in the league.  Canberra United also does not have such a policy as it has not been an issue so far.  Senator Kate Lundy is involved with the Canberra United and is keenly interested in social media and the law.  She is apparently helping the club think about the legal implications involved with this issue.

The team is aware of what other teams and some of the other leagues in Australia are   doing.  They were able to discuss how the AFL handled things compared to the NRL, and were willing to speculate as to how each league would handle certain situations.  They are also aware of what is going on with the Socceroos and the Matildas.  However, they did not know if the FFA had official policies regarding player usage of social media.  This was interesting in that player usage has been an issue the media has paid attention to in the run up to the World Cup, with the US allowing players to use social media but England banning players from using it. The team appeared to be more aware of other Australian leagues than they were of how international footballing bodies handled social media and marketing related issues.

Several other things were discussed that are not easy to categorize as part of the four questions.  These were rather interesting.  The team is aware of the major blogs and message boards that cover their team.  One of these included Girls With Game, .  Another was Capital Punishment, .  It sounded like they monitor them to see what people are saying.  They were not as aware of the Wikipedia article about themselves.  They did find it thorough and assumed that some of content was generated by finding information from their site.

Another issue discussed was the marketing of the W-League.  If you’ve been to their site or seen some of their promotional pictures, the players look like models with their hair done and wearing lots of makeup.  This was originally done as the W-League was aiming for a teenaged girl audience and because some in the league believe that sex sells.  Players were given the option of it they wanted to be photographed like that and participate in a sponsor-related event where they were asked to model clothes.  There was a question of “Was that sexist?”  The team told me that the players did not necessarily feel that it was because they were given a choice and they were portrayed positively.  Some of them considered it very feminist in that they could be high level athletes who are also capable of being beautiful women.

One issue I brought up was the issue of being female fanspace.  I referenced a study done involving the WNBA and how lesbians carved out their own space and definition of the league as being lesbian friendly.  This happened in a space that is not obviously queer space and is shared equally by other groups that a team might have greater incentive to maintain.  I asked how this type of issue was handled inside the W-League.  According to the Canberra United, part of the early marketing attempts by the W-League were to counter stereotypes of female athletes as lesbians by using advertising that played up on the players’ femininity with the modeling type pictures. I was also led to believe that this was an ongoing issue with women’s sports defined as pinks vs. ponytails, where some teams and players have gone out of their way to identify one way or another. My impression of what they said was that this was a regular battle of how to be as inclusive as possible while realizing that certain segments are not going to be very tolerant of each other.

In conclusion, the Canberra United use a definition of sport similar to those described by sports marketers.  The only caveat is that they more narrowly define spectator to specific populations they are intentionally targeting.  The club has a great deal of freedom to define their target audience and create their own social media policies.  Most of the team’s influence for how to handle marketing and social media policies comes from within Australia.

In preparation for talking with the Canberra United, I completed an overview of the size of the online community for the team.  It can be found at :

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May 19, 2010 Meeting Notes

Posted by Laura on Wednesday, 19 May, 2010

Research Question: What are the demographic, geographic and social characteristics of online AFL fandom and the implication of these for AFL clubs?

Tasks for June 2, 2010: Remember that not meeting next week: Next meeting is two weeks from the 19th. Work on Review of Literature.  Think about Methodology. Create a semi-structured survey questions for interview.  Update the About page on OzzieSport.  Publish paper about the Melbourne Storm controversy on OzzieSport.

Ongoing tasks: Check the media pages from The Australian to see what they have to say about social media and online activities in Australia.

Keep a list of material I am reading related to sports and social media both online and off.

Paper notes and tasks: The order of writing should ideally be something as follows:

  • Write half the review of literature.
  • Write methodology.
  • Write individual chapters about specific aspects of online activity or about specific sites.  Publish individual chapters as unique chapters.  Develop additional sources for the review of literature.
  • Complete the review of literature.

Some of this is because a lot of the work being done is very in the moment and time sensitive.  The best thing that may come out of this paper isn’t the results themselves but the establishing of a methodology that other academics and sports leagues, teams and organizations can use to further their own knowledge.  In the case of the AFL, the results may also be useful in terms of setting measurable benchmarks, which they can use in the future.

Other conversations: Discussion about the Melbourne Storm and Canberra Raiders:

  • Attempt to figure out what to do with my paper.  Should it be published online?  The paper is very time sensitive.  Should a more formal outlet for publishing it be sought?  Will be published on OzzieSport by the end of the week.
  • What can other teams learn from the Melbourne Storm controversy?  Better yet, how did other fanbases respond to the controversy?  Given the behavior of Canberra Raiders fans described in the Canberra Times after the team played the Melbourne Storm, it seems probable that the controversy strengthened the team’s fan base: Fans felt the need to reaffirm their attachment to a team that is not connected to cheaters.  Some evidence of this may be seen on Twitter, where the Raiders saw the next highest growth in percentage of new total followers.

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