Football and its Communities

Football and its Communities

Room G01 – Clore Management Centre,
Birkbeck College,
Torrington Square,
London WC1 7HX

Wednesday 26th October at 6pm

Given by:

Dr Adam Brown, Dr Gavin Mellor, Manchester Institute of Popular Culture, Manchester Metropolitan University


This paper is based on the conclusions of a major three-year research project for the English Football Foundation entitled ‘Football and its Communities’. It is concerned with the relationship between English professional football clubs and ‘communities’ of various types, and the ways in which individual football clubs and the English football industry more generally can respond to new community development agendas. The study has been undertaken between 2002 and 2005 at the Manchester Institute for Popular Culture (MIPC) at Manchester Metropolitan University and the School of Sport and Leisure Management at Sheffield Hallam University . The research is based around 3 professional football clubs and funded by the Football Foundation.

There are a number of long-standing discourses of ‘community’ operating in and around the English football industry which have influenced the development of club-based community programmes. These have frequently been ill-defined and have resulted in confused understandings of who football clubs’ ‘communities’ are, and the multi-faceted relationships that clubs have with these groups. This paper will present a theoretical re-conceptualisation of ‘community’ (see, for instance, Delanty 2003) in the context of English football to aid understanding of the various types of social connection that operate around the game. It will also draw on debates around citizenship, responsibility and the communitarian turn (see, for instance, Etzioni 2004) to analyse how football clubs can engage with neighbourhood, business, ‘social problems’, supporter and other types of ‘communities’ within different settings.

As such the seminar will outline:

  • The scope of the research and methodologies employed.
  • The problem of ‘community’ in football.
  • The range of different interventions by football clubs in their communities.
  • Mapping communities of a football club and rethink what constitutes a club’s communities.
  • An outline of the research team’s practical suggestions for how the English football industry can develop a more holistic approach to community engagement. It will show through examples and models of ‘best practice’ how theoretical analysis can be operationalised to create lasting change.


  • Delanty, G. (2003) Community. London : Routledge.
  • Bale, J. (2000). The Changing Face of Football: Stadiums and Communities. In Garland , J., Malcolm, D. & Rowe, M. (Eds.), The future of football: Challenges for the twenty first century . London : Frank Cass.
  • Bale, J. (1994). Landscapes of Modern Sport . Leicester: Leicester University Press.
  • Crabbe, T. and Brown, A. (2004) ‘You’re Not Welcome Anymore: The football crowd, class and social exclusion’, in Wagg, S. (ed.) British Football and Social Exclusion . London : Routledge.
  • Football Association (2001) The Football Development Strategy 2001-2006 . London : The Football Association.
  • Football Task Force (1999) Investing in the Community: A Report by the Football Task Force . London : HMSO.
  • Smith, J. & Ingham, A. (2003) ‘On the Waterfront: Retrospectives on the Relationship Between Sport and Communities’, Sociology of Sport Journal , 20: 252-274.
  • Watson, N. (2000) ‘Football in the Community: ‘What’s the Score”, Soccer and Society , 1, 1: 114-125.

For further details contact:

Sean Hamil 
Department of Management
Birkbeck College
Malet Street
London  WC1E 7HX

Email: or Tel: 020-7631 6763

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