Football and community in the global context: studies in theory and practice
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Football and community in the globalcontext: studies in theory and practiceAlan Bairner aa Loughborough University , UKPublished online: 16 Jun 2010.
To cite this article: Alan Bairner (2010) Football and community in the global context: studies intheory and practice, Leisure Studies, 29:3, 346-347, DOI: 10.1080/02614360902784380
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02614360902784380
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346 Book reviews
tendency towards anecdote about her many friends and colleagues which, while inter-esting from a sociological perspective, does not always work well for the reader. And,finally of course, this is not a book about leisure research. Yet, these are minorconcerns in what is otherwise an excellent work that should speak to all leisureresearchers, at all stages of their academic careers.
Neil RavenscroftUniversity of Brighton, UK
firstname.lastname@example.org 2010, Neil Ravenscroft
Football and community in the global context: studies in theory and practice,edited by A. Brown, T. Crabbe and G. Mellor, London, Routledge, 2009, 141 pp., 75(hardback), ISBN 978-0-415-44816-1
The main aim of this book is to build on work that the editors carried out on behalf ofthe English Football Foundation which examined the responsibility that football clubshave for fan, neighbourhood and other types of communities (p. 1). Their workis intended to clarify and better understand who footballs communities might be,and analyse how these groups of people can be said to constitute distinct and observablecommunity formations (p. 1). To that end, following an editorial introduction, the bookis divided into four sections politics, theory and practice; nations and ethnicities;community and the instrumental use of football; and postmodern community and futuredirections.
Subscribers to and readers of Soccer and Society will already have had the chanceto see these essays which now reappear as part of Routledges Sport in the GlobalSociety series. I have no doubt that there are sound commercial reasons for this over-lap between books and special issues of journals. I am at a loss, however, to see theacademic or intellectual value of dual-format publishing, and I have serious concernsabout the impression of the social sciences of sport that is created by the practice. Isay this despite having contributed to such dual publications and notwithstanding myhigh regard for the editors of this particular collection.
Editors who enter into this kind of exercise are in an invidious position. Whereasone would expect uneven quality in a journal and perhaps even an eclectic approachalbeit to a central theme, an edited book traditionally offers editors the opportunity toshape the contents so that they become more even in terms of quality and more coherentin their focus. If the special issue of the journal simply mutates into a book withoutfurther editorial intervention, however, the resultant book is inevitably something of adisappointment. This is compounded if the title of the book is primarily intended tojustify inclusion in a specific series.
In this case, the contributions are uneven in length, quality and scope and the useof the phrase the global context in the title of the collection is misleading to say theleast. The book has an international element with essays on Japan, Israel, Australiaand the USA. But the main emphasis of the editors is on England and, in any case,international and global are very different things. For example, there is little or noempirical evidence in this collection of the ways in which information technology hasfacilitated the emergence of global communities and, furthermore, opportunities tocorrect this omission are missed. Thus, Adam Brown writes interestingly about the
Leisure Studies 347
various fan communities associated with the FC United of Manchester club foundedby people who were keen to contest popular characterizations of Manchester Unitedsupporters. This is a story worth telling in the context of a book on football and itscommunities but so too, and arguably more relevant in relation to globalisation, is thatof the emergence of Manchester Uniteds global fan base which helps to sustain someof the more extreme popular characterisations.
In relation to the international, as opposed to the global, dimension, John Horneand Wolfram Manzenreiter offer valuable insights into the role played by thecorporate world in constructing fan communities around Japanese football clubs evenin an otherwise dark period of Japans recent economic and social history (p. 62). Itwill be interesting to see how long this inorganic approach to community building canbe sustained in uncertain economic times. Indeed similar thoughts came to mind whenreading Gavin Mellors chapter in the first section of the collection on Englishfootball, community and the legacy of New Labours version of Anthony Giddenssthird way. Mellor concludes his thoughtful study with the gloomy verdict that thereis little evidence in English football that third way thinking has produced more egali-tarian policies across the industry (p. 20). One wonders to what extent such policiesmay increasingly be forced upon the football industry, not only in England butelsewhere, as a consequence of economic recession.
The introduction and the opening three chapters are theoretically rich with TonyBlackshaws study of contemporary community theory and football, so much so thatone is left with a degree of indigestion resulting from Blackshaws apparent desire toname-check as many social theorists as possible and tell us what they might have said.In fact, one is quite taken back when Blackshaw eventually turns his attention to Englishfootballs black communities, a shift in direction for which the reader has been leftlargely unprepared. What is interesting about this chapter, however, is that Blackshawreaches a rather more positive or less critical assessment of Baumans contribution tothe debate about community than is apparent in the chapters written by the editors.Indeed, the books greatest value arguably lies not in what is written about football butin the theoretical discussions which take place in the opening section, and in TimCrabbes concluding examination of England fans at the 2006 FIFA World Cup.According to Crabbe, the World Cup sustains the liquid modern individuals predi-lection for the palimpsest reinvention of him or herself; that is, the capacity of indi-viduals to erase traces of the past and assume new ready-made identities (p. 134).
Along with Blackshaw, the editors have a clear vision of the aims of this book.Their intention to think about English football within the context of intellectual argu-ments about the idea of community is plain to see. In the other chapters, the wordcommunity appears but it is far from evident how these contributions add directly tothe goals identified by the editors. As a special issue of a journal, the resultant lack ofcoherence is probably acceptable. I return to my earlier point, however, that books andjournals are very different things. Editing a book is not the same as acting as a guesteditor for a journal. None of this is the fault of these particular editors. That said, Iwould suggest that they would almost certainly have edited a more coherent collectionof essays had they found themselves operating in different circumstances.
Alan BairnerLoughborough University, UK
email@example.com 2010, Alan Bairner