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Children as football fans: an exploratory study of team and player connections

Elizabeth Thomson (Lecturer, based at the Business School, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK)
Russell Williams (Lecturer in Management, based at the Business School, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK)

Young Consumers

ISSN: 1747-3616

Article publication date: 11 November 2014

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore children’s relationships with football teams and players and the influences on these.

Design/methodology/approach

A child-centric (Banister and Booth, 2005) inductive qualitative approach was utilised to capture children’s voices. The children were asked to take photographs around the theme of “football in my life” and these served as interview prompts when talking to friendship pairs.

Findings

Football played a central role in children’s lives in terms of interest, activity and consumption. The children articulated a portfolio of team (club) and player connections of varying strength. This contrasts with the existing adult fandom literature which focuses on individuals supporting a single team. Another strong theme emerging from the data was the children’s market-centred relationships with football clubs. Children’s connections were shaped by a complex web of influences including family and family history, friends, media and geography.

Research limitations/implications

Existing fan literature has an adult focus which does not appear to fully explain the child fan. This research provides impetus for developing new theory that better captures child fandom. The findings reinforce the idea that football plays an important part in children’s lives and in doing so they establish their own meanings. The findings presented in this paper provide important insights into the lives of children that could be reflected on in the design of policy across a number of areas including education.

Originality/value

This paper presents the first child-centred football fan study.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This research was supported by a small grant from the Carnegie Trust.

Citation

Thomson, E. and Williams, R. (2014), "Children as football fans: an exploratory study of team and player connections", Young Consumers, Vol. 15 No. 4, pp. 323-341. https://doi.org/10.1108/YC-09-2013-00394

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited