The structuration of a sporting social system? Northern Ireland fans, Football for All and the creation of the Green and White Army

John Bell, Ian Somerville, Owen Hargie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

In terms of the extant literature to date on sport and fandom in the divided society of Northern Ireland, academic attention has focused almost exclusively on its apparently contentious nature. However, until now, there has been a dearth of actual empirical data to inform such analyses. This article is designed to help rectify this deficit by drawing upon interviews with Northern Ireland football supporters and Irish Football Association staff to explore their co-creation of the Football for All campaign, which aimed to challenge sectarian fan behaviour within the national stadium. This resulted in the previously variegated Northern Ireland fan base becoming the Green and White Army, an informal collective identity for supporters. In continually (re)producing the Green and White Army as a ‘social system’, it is argued that fans are knowledgeable actors who continually draw upon what Giddens refers to as practical and discursive consciousness. Informed by Giddens’ structuration theory, the article argues that in relation to the current policies of the Union of European Football Associations and the Fédération Internationale de Football Association to close stadiums in the event of ‘discriminatory’ fan behaviour, priority should instead be given to supporting fan activism to effectively challenge such behaviour at matches; particularly given the potential for social control over supporters in a situated geographical space.
LanguageEnglish
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Review for the Sociology of Sport
Early online date17 Jul 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jul 2019

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structuration
fan
social system
military
collective identity
social control
federation
consciousness
Sports
deficit
campaign
staff
event
interview

Keywords

  • football fans
  • Northern Ireland
  • sectarianism
  • structuration theory
  • surveillance

Cite this

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