Female Sports Fandom in the North East:A Historical Study of Female Fandom & the Critical Intersections Between Sports Spectatorship and Participation

Lead Research Organisation: Durham University
Department Name: Sport and Exercise Sciences

Abstract

Sport has played an important part in the lives of British people for centuries and millions of people have been involved in sport as fans. Yet surprising little is known about women's experiences as sports fans historically, so there is an urgent need for research to address this before such memories and experiences are entirely lost to time. Barely any studies have examined the intersections between playing and watching sport and so there is a need for research to examine women's early sporting experiences and how these shape their future involvement in sport and to examine female fans involvement in sport across their lifetimes. Little work has examined the cross sport perceptions of fans of men's football and rugby union in order to consider the extent to which sporting preferences and cross sport perceptions are linked to historical social class differences. This proposed research will make a major contribution towards addressing these areas, making a highly original and important contribution to knowledge.

The research will build on Pope's (2010) original study through a comparative study of female fans of men's and women's sports in the North East of England. We draw on four sports' clubs from the county of Tyne and Wear: men's football (Newcastle United FC); men's rugby (Newcastle Falcons); women's football (Sunderland AFC Ladies) and women's netball (Team Northumbria). Arguably, the North East has historically been more male-dominated than other areas of England, thus providing a fascinating landscape to explore women's experiences as sports fans and how women have gained access to the traditionally male domain of sport across the generations. The research aims to examine women's experiences as sports fans in Britain during the second half of the twentieth century. It will also focus upon the critical intersections between sports participation and fandom and will examine how women's early sporting experiences influence their future involvement in sport. The study will focus upon the cross sport perceptions of supporters and the role of historical social class differences in sporting preferences. The research aims to address the following questions:
1. What have been the experiences of female fans of men's and women's sports from 1945-2000? What role has sports fandom played in the lives of female fans across their lifetimes?
2. To what extent is there a relationship between playing and watching sport for female fans? What is the role of physical education and other early sporting experiences in shaping females' future involvement in sport?
3. How do female fans view other sports in the local region? To what extent has sports fandom historically been important for community heritage and local identities?

We will achieve these aims by conducting approximately 25 life-history interviews with female fans from our four selected sports clubs, which will mean around 100 respondents in total. Respondents will also be asked if they have any visual images of their involvement in sport and copies will be taken where permission is granted. The research draws on a feminist framework to study sports history and will make a major contribution to the fields of history and sport. As the research draws on an interdisciplinary approach it will also be of interest to researchers working in gender studies, physical education, sociology, popular culture and regional studies. We will publish a research monograph from the research, along with a number of journal papers. Academic conferences will be organised in the UK and with our project partner at the University of British Columbia in Canada to disseminate findings. The research will be beneficial for: charities such as the National Football Museum and Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation; the general public; governing bodies of sport; the selected sports clubs and national government departments. We have planned a series of events to ensure that this wider impact is achieved.

Planned Impact

We have overviewed the key non-academic constituencies that will benefit from this research and how they will benefit, evidencing that the research offers the potential to contribute to the nation's health, wealth and culture.
1) Beneficiaries of the research will include the third sector. We have excellent links with the National Football Museum and this charity has already expressed an interest in the research. The exhibition that we will develop from the research (see Pathways to Impact) will be of interest to the wider public, thus generating cultural benefits. This may increase the number of visitors to the museum which could lead to financial benefits for the museum and local economy. We will work with the education team at the National Football Museum to provide research materials to be used in their educational work with schools. We will also explore the possibility of working with other museums to develop further public exhibitions, such as the World Rugby Museum.
2) Our focus upon females' participation in sport will be highly useful for charities such as the Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation (which aims to help Britain's women to become more active) and the International Association of Physical Education and Sport for Girls and Women (which aims to promote the interests of females in physical education and sport) and we will disseminate research findings to these bodies.
3) The research will be beneficial for governing bodies of sport, including the Football Association, Rugby Football Union and England Netball Association, along with agencies such as Sport England and UK Sport. The findings will be useful for the case study clubs used in the research: Newcastle United FC (men's); Sunderland AFC (women's); Newcastle Falcons and Team Northumbria. Key recommendations from the study will be useful for clubs and governing bodies to improve conditions for women to participate in their sports as players and fans, thus contributing towards enhancing women's quality of life.
4) The research will inform and benefit national government departments and has the potential to influence public policies and legislation. Data has shown that the North East has the lowest percentage of people participating in sport in England (Sport England, 2015), making this an important region for our research to focus upon. By examining women's experiences of sport, our research hopes to contribute towards increasing the numbers of females who are physically active across the life cycle, thus helping to enhance the quality of life, health and well-being for females in the UK. The research could be used to inform future policies for the Department of Health and Public Health England to address female physical inactivity. This outcome may in turn generate economic benefits. Physical inactivity is now estimated to cost the UK economy £8.2 billion annually (Public Health England, 2015). The research would also be beneficial for the Department of Education. By examining the role of physical education in shaping females' future involvement in sport the research is likely to lead to key policy recommendations for the Physical Education National Curriculum in England to improve female experiences of physical education.
5) We will contribute to increasing public awareness and understanding of issues connected to our research by generating press releases at regular intervals which will be of interest to the media. This would be supported by media communications officers at our institutions.

Other beneficiaries and research impacts are likely to develop as the research progresses. We will contact relevant stakeholders in year one of the project to plan the application and exploitation of the research, although many of the benefits of the project will be realised in the final year when findings are available to disseminate. The impact of the research will continue beyond the life of the project as the findings are utilised by our beneficiaries.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Contacted by CFE Research and asked to contribute to DCMS Standing at Football Evidence Review. Provided research findings on impact of seating on diversity/for female fans
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
 
Description Article for the Football Collective website - 'Sexy' Women and the Men's World Cup 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Wrote an article as a Q&A on 'Sexy' Women and the Men's World Cup: (Mis)representations of Female Football Fans. This was promoted by the Football Collective website and widely shared through social media.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://footballcollective.org.uk/2018/06/28/sexy-women-and-the-mens-world-cup-misrepresentations-of...
 
Description British Society of Sports History annual conference 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Around 50 academics attended a presentation delivered by the investigators Dr. Stacey Pope and Prof. David Kirk about the AHRC project. This led to a number of questions and discussion afterwards. Feedback and ideas were subsequently incorporated into the plans for the research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Interview about research in international newspaper (South China Morning Post) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Quoted in an article entailed 'The not-so-beautiful game: How the FA stifled women's football for 5 years and paved the way for today's vast gender gap'. I discussed my views linked to my AHRC research in gender and sport.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.scmp.com/sport/football/article/2179279/not-so-beautiful-game-how-fa-stifled-womens-foot...
 
Description Interview for Sky Sports News 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I featured in an interview for Sky Sports News discussing my research on the impact of rivalry on supporters' lives. This was televised across in the build up to and across the weekend as part of a 'Sporting Rivalry' weekend (where Sky Sports were televising a number of men's football matches which were against rivals).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Interview for national newspaper 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Selected to be interviewed about AHRC funded project when I was presenting findings at an academic conference taking place at Edinburgh (British Society of Sports History). The research received coverage in Scotland's national newspaper The Herald.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/14722006.Sex__money_and_scandal_____the_lives_of_Scotland__39_s_f...
 
Description Published article in The Conversation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Published article in The Conversation entitled 'Sing When You're Women: Why It's Time to Take Female Sports Fans Seriously'. This discusses some issues for female fans based on literature review findings for AHRC project and previous findings from ESRC funded project. To date the article has had over 6,000 readers in a range of countries internationally.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://theconversation.com/sing-when-youre-women-why-its-time-to-take-female-sports-fans-seriously-...
 
Description Research on female fans featured on TV5 Monde Terriennes 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I was quoted in an interview about my research on the representations of female fans in the run up to the men's FIFA World Cup Final. This featured on the TV5 Monde Terriennes (the website affiliated with the global TV channel broadcasting in French).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://information.tv5monde.com/terriennes/coupe-du-monde-de-football-les-supportrices-anglaises-me...
 
Description Research on representations of female fans featured in Grazia magazine 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I was interviewed by Grazia magazine. My research on representations of female fans appeared in an article entitled 'Why is 'sexy' always the default when it comes to pictures of female fans'.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://graziadaily.co.uk/life/health-fitness/female-football-fans/
 
Description Research quoted in an article for the Huffington Post 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Research quoted in an article for the Huffington Post entitled 'Tackling the future: CEO's game plan to end gender bias in sports'
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://guce.oath.com/collectConsent?brandType=nonEu&.done=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.huffingtonpost.com%2Fen...