The purpose of this paper is to examine the impact of the digital culture on football supporters through analysis of official and unofficial websites and media reports. At first glance it would appear that technology has brought about greater opportunities to communicate, to share views which previously could not be widely published, and to organise against the commercial power of the large football clubs. However, surveillance, censorship and control continue to impact on supporters to restrict and ultimately prevent the ideal speech situation that is necessary to empower fans and promote greater participation in their clubs. Current media manipulation and corporate interests restrict and alienate fans who often have more of a historically constituted (over generations) sense of ownership and culture within their local clubs.
A critical social theory approach is adopted to examine structures and processes related to communication between fans, the media, football clubs and the public. Habermas' theory is draw upon using the concepts of “colonization of the Lifeworld” and “communicative action” to inform a theme and discourse analysis of official and independent football club websites and media reports. How corporate interests (the system) are manipulating public opinion and freedom to speak openly within an overall goal of profit maximization for club owners and the large media corporations are explored.
Although steps to enable free communication have been made we are still a long way off supporters having a powerful enough voice to organise against the commercial power of the large football clubs and media conglomerates. The ideal speech situation remains elusive and the hegemonic state remains unchallenged. Football supporters are increasingly constructed as “consumers” and the ultimate power remains in mass media and broadcast rather than personal “narrowcast”.
This paper extends debate on the impact of the developing “digital culture” focusing on football supporters, a specific and prevalent community within British society. It raises issues for further research in this area.
McLean, R. and Wainwright, D.W. (2009), "Social networks, football fans, fantasy and reality: How corporate and media interests are invading our lifeworld", Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, Vol. 7 No. 1, pp. 54-71. https://doi.org/10.1108/14779960910938098Download as .RIS
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