To read this content please select one of the options below:

“The club on the hill”: footballing place as an arena for sustainable and ethical action

Anthony Samuel (Business School, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK)
Cathy McGouran (Management School, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK)
Robert J. Thomas (Business School, Aston University, Birmingham, UK)
Gareth Reginald (School of Management, Cranfield University, Bedford, UK)
Terence White (School of Management, Cranfield University, Bedford, UK)

Qualitative Market Research

ISSN: 1352-2752

Article publication date: 28 June 2022

Issue publication date: 15 November 2022




Places have deep-seated meaning and serve to shape our social grouping and practices. Sporting stadia are a highly influential aspect of many people’s lives that drive the inexorable journey towards team affiliation, immersive experiences, intense loyalty and the creation of an enduring, local identity. This paper aims to explore how the nature of a sporting place has been shaped to change the practice of football as a sport, as a business and as entertainment. This paper uncovers how Forest Green Rovers (FGR) differentiates itself from the historical and socio-economic roots of football and uses numerous novel sustainability initiatives to re-imagine a new type of football place, club and fandom.


Over a two-year period, the authors used multiple data collection methods, engaging in participant observation, interviews and focus groups, at FGR and related events. A thematic data analysis was conducted to pinpoint and extract key areas surrounding the unique structures, practices and reinforced behaviours that have developed in FGR.


The findings show that FGR’s place operates as a central location through which stakeholders, ideas, resources and practices have been disrupted and re-imagined around the principles of sustainability. This fundamental shift in FGR’s place, changing its composition, character and reach, means that FGR can be conceptualised as a novel place synonymous with new global social movements.


This study presents unique insights into the world’s first socially and environmentally conscious football club. This study examines the construction and operation of the place that facilitates its actions which go beyond what has been seen and maybe expected from commercial sporting institutions.



Authors thanks to Helen Taylor, Sarah Urquhart and everybody from Forest Green Rovers Football Club who supported this study.


Samuel, A., McGouran, C., Thomas, R.J., Reginald, G. and White, T. (2022), "“The club on the hill”: footballing place as an arena for sustainable and ethical action", Qualitative Market Research, Vol. 25 No. 5, pp. 570-584.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles