Month: February 2016

Gender in Sport: What’s the problem?

Gender is difficult to categorise. Masculinity and femininity balance on a spectrum that ranges from one extreme to another, which can create confusion and uncertainty. Yet there are dominant representations of both masculinity and femininity expressed through mediated sport. These popular representations, conveyed through the dominant narrative, construct a binary definition of gender. Women are expected to behave in a feminine manner and men are expected to act in a masculine manner.

The dominant representation of masculinity defines men as being powerful, vigorous, assertive and courageous. Male athletes who achieve great success embody the dominant and popular understanding of masculinity. Male heroes within sport are worshipped for possessing these masculine traits.  The athletes chosen to represent and reaffirm the dominant masculine ideology are typically white, middle class and heterosexual.

Femininity is defined in stark contrast to masculinity. A female sports person is “required to be both heroic – superior or exemplary in some way – and female – inferior by definition” (Thompson, 1997:397). Furthermore, female athletes are expected to express certain nurturing qualities which reaffirm the dominant narrative which portrays women as being protective, attentive, and tender, compassionate and unselfish. Female athletes who are chosen to represent hegemonic femininity are typically white, middle class and heterosexual.

Within both masculinity and femininity there are marginalised groups, who are excluded from the mainstream media and the popular narrative. These sub groups form a part of the individuals’ identity which is not fully accepted in society for a number of reasons. Additionally, these undesirable representations have been excluded from narrative and are perceived as ‘others’ and outsiders within society. As a result, these ‘others’ have been restricted in terms of participation, they have been misrepresented, deemed improper and stigmatized.

Stigmatized gender groups may include homosexuals, ethno religious identities, racial groups, class and people with a disability. Particular to men, stigmatized gender groups could also include “anti-sexist masculinities, men who don’t like sport, pacifist masculinities” (Whannel, 2002: 28). These marginalized groups are identified as being unalike and contrasting to the dominant gender ideology.

Modernized sport, which integrates standardised rules and specialisation, was created in Britain in the late 19th and early 20th century “by and for white, middle class men” in order to boast a dominant masculine ideology of innate primacy and supremacy, especially above women. Furthermore, sport has been used to instill the principles of hegemonic masculinity, whilst inflicting the stigmatized and marginalised sub groups to a silent existence. This dominance was, and continuous to be, a social construction.

At the present time, male sport is given precedence within the media, while female sport is given less attention. The disproportional media coverage manufactures a distinct divide between what women and men should and should not do. Importantly, the media appears to control and preserve the dominant masculine ideology by influencing the types of sport that each gender participates in.

The type of sport men and women participate in is important. It is important because each sport requires different bodily movements and different roles and responsibilities. Therefore to construct a popular narrative that describes gymnastics as a girl’s sport, would suggest that female athletes are better suited to individual sports that are elegant, technical, avoid contact and are aesthetically pleasing. Consequently this narrative, as well as encouraging women to participate, could deter men from taking part.

Mediated sport has constructed discriminatory and preferential coverage, which has resulted in a society dominated by patriarchy. The media, and the narratives it constructs, possesses the power to reaffirm the differences between masculinity and femininity within the realms of sport, moreover the media can belittle female athlete success and reaffirm hegemonic masculine ideology. The importance of this narrative is the construction of myth surrounding such sporting events and athletes, and the implications of these constructed symbols on gender identity. Narrative constructs an ideological discourse which seeks to either oppose or approve gender ideology. Fundamentally, the main purpose of mediated sport narrative is to nourish common and ill informed beliefs and identities relative to gender.

Narrative within mediated sport gives rise, predominantly, to a hegemonic masculine ideology that reinforces and re-imagines a society ruled by patriarchy. As a consequence of this constructed ideology gender differences and definitions of gender are difficult to locate. There is confusion within what it means to be masculine and what it means to be feminine, and importantly under what circumstances. What is known within this dominate imagined masculinity is that it is characterized within the media narrative as being white, heterosexual, aggressive and wealthy. Furthermore, it is perceived that masculinity is characterized in contrast to its significant other, femininity. Contrary to masculinity, femininity is characterized as being submissive and disproportionately delicate. Additionally within mediated sport female athletes are framed as sexual objects. Importantly, both gender ideologies display an explicit stance against homosexuality. It is almost forbidden within all media narrative. Furthermore, racial identities are restricted within the narrative upon the basis of the athlete being both successful and capable of financial gain. These assumptions created by the media narrative construct gender as a binary configuration, whereby an individual is either masculine or feminine. This is not the case. Especially while it remains unclear as to the definitions regarding both genders. What should be noted is that this is done within mediated sport in the most subtle of forms. The narrative is merely a product, and a re-submission, reproduced over time that constructs presumptions and imagined gender ideologies which lend to a chosen hegemonic power.

 

 

 

 

Reference List

 

Hargreaves, J. (2000) Heroines of Sport: the Politics of difference and identity. London, Routledge

 

Boyle, E. (2014). ‘Requiem for a “Tough guy”: Representing Hockey Labor, Violence and Masculinity in Goon’, Sociology of Sport Journal, Vol. 31, No. 3, pp. 327-348.

 

Scraton, S. & Flintoff, A. (2002) Gender and Sport: a reader. London, Routledge

 

Whannel, G. (2002) Media Sports Stars: Masculinities and Moralities. London, Routledge

 

Kennedy, E. and Hills, L. (2009) Sport, Media and Society. Oxford: Berg

 

Archetti, E. (1999) Masculinities: Football, Polo and the Tango in Argentina. Oxford, Berg

 

Allain, K. A. (2011). ‘Kid Crosby or Golden Boy: Sidney Crosby, Canadian national identity, and the policing of hockey masculinity’, International Review for the Sociology of Sport, Vol. 46, No. 1, pp. 3 – 22.

 

Atencio, M. Beal, B. and Yochim, E. C. (2013). “It Ain’t Just Black kids and white Kids”: The Representation and Reproduction of Authentic “Skurban” Masculinities’. Sociology of Sport Journal, Vol. 30, No. 2, pp. 153-172.

 

Boyle, E. (2014). ‘Requiem for a “Tough guy”: Representing Hockey Labor, Violence and Masculinity in Goon’, Sociology of Sport Journal, Vol. 31, No. 3, pp. 327-348.

 

Cooky, C. Dycus, R. and Dworkin, S. L. (2013). “What makes a woman a woman?” Versus “Our first lady of sport”: A comparative analysis of the United States and the South African Media Coverage of Caster Semenya’, Journal of Sport & Social Issues, Vol. 37, No. 1, pp. 31-56.

 

Ho, M. H. S. (2014). ‘Is Nadeshiko Japan “Feminine?” Manufacturing Sport Celebrity and National Identity on Japanese Morning Television’, Journal of Sport and Social Issues, Vol.  38, No. 2, pp. 164-183.

 

Khomutova, A. and Channon, A. (2015). ‘Legends’ in ‘Lingerie’: Sexuality and Athleticism in the 2013 Legends Football League US Season’, Sociology of Sport Journal, Vol. 32, No.2, pp. 161-182.

 

McDonald, M. G. and Birrell, S. (1999). ‘Reading Sport Critically: A Methodology for Interrogating Power’, Sociology of Sport Journal, Vol. 16, No. 4, pp. 283-300.

 

Mwaniki, M. F. (2012). ‘Reading the career of a Kenyan runner: The case of Tegla Loroupe’. International Review for the Sociology of Sport, Vol. 47, No. 4, pp. 446-460.

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Fan Ownership: What’s the Problem?

Fan Ownership is one of footballs biggest talking points at the present time. With dwindling attendances, rising ticket prices and teams going bust left, right and centre it is surely time to take action!

In the season 2011/2012 the then Scottish Premier League experienced a collective loss of over £10 million. Only two of the 10 teams analysed within the PWC report calculated a profit. Since then British football fans witnessed the collapse of Hearts of Midlothian and Rangers Football Club, two of Scotlands biggest names. During the football seasons from 2009 – 2014 Scottish footballs’ top tier has experience a loss of almost £40 million. Scottish Football has generated substantial losses in contrast to the other European football leagues. There have been similar cases of financial loss in England with regards to Leeds United, Portsmouth, Hereford, Wrexham and most recently Bolton Wanderers.

There are clearly problems with the ownership models largely in use at this current stage. The predominant models are split into two different types. There are ownership types; examples of this include benevolent family ownership and individual ownership, and there are company types; examples of this include public limited companies and private limited companies. These models share a common advantage towards either a single individual or a group of select individuals. There are obvious problems with the current models in place, therefore alternatives must be encouraged.

There are significant benefits to fan ownership. Fanatics, individuals who express a life long devotion to their club, and most supporters in broad terms provide stability and continuity in relation to financial backing. In most cases it is unlikely for a supporter to switch alliance to another club. Supporters, for the most part, remain constant. The benefit of this continuity is that the supporters are, for the most part, key investors in the company and have a significant impact on revenue. Supporters, and devoted fans, will not turn their back on their clubs. Private investors are known to let clubs, fans and communities down by mismanaging business; this is most notable in the case of Manchester United Football Club with the takeover of the Glazer family, similar cases have occurred at Liverpool and Rangers Football Clubs. To resolve this, supporters must be encouraged to own their clubs.

“Results don’t matter; I mean you’re always going to support

your football club no matter what.”

(Cork City fan, 2015)

Supporters influence their club massively. Even with the absence of fan ownership supporters engage in and influence all aspects of their club, including the clubs culture and identity. For most supporters the clubs stadium is the epicentre of their cultural expression and regional pride. It is within the realms of the football ground that supporters will express their undying support for their team. Importantly, the financial influence of the supporters comes predominantly from gate money. It is clear from a number of reports that supporters’ involvement is crucial to the financial gain of any football club. Supporters’ are fundamental to the process which allows football clubs to maximise their potential returns. The loyalty of supporters is often exploited to generate finance for the club. Merchandise is tailored to fan interests and supporters are given no choice but to pay extortionate ticket prices. This is not in the best interest of those who devote all their efforts to the club they love: the fans. There surely has to be a resolution.

FINANCIAL MISMANAGEMENT

A contemporary example of supporter mistreatment is the case of Leeds United Football club. The Yorkshire side have experienced financial plight for the worst part of 15 years. Despite having a unified Supporters Trust (Leeds Fans United), chairman and majority share holder Massimo Cellino has halted the supporters’ bid for their club. After agreeing to sell the club to the Leeds United Fans trust in October 2015, the controversial Chairman changed his mind a month later and withdrew his interest. The Leeds supporters were subjected to further financial and managerial mistreatment in early December 2015, when Cellino imposed a £5 increase in ticket price. This inflated price included a food voucher to be used at half time, which would be used as an incentive to encourage supporters to use the clubs catering facilities regardless of whether the loyal supporter wanted the half time pie or not. This incentive provides support for fan ownership in football. Leeds United is one case out of a multitude of others. Supporters and their clubs are experiencing a complete lack of communication and consultation. Supporters are being completely disregarded and ignored with regards to decisions that affect them. Importantly, the more fans continue to be excluded from ownership the more they become disenfranchised from their football clubs. To discourage the club from fan ownership is to discourage the club from gaining any form of stability and transparency.

“It’s now all about the football. It’s not even the case of like; I don’t go around the place saying ‘oh I run a football club’, because you know that’s not part of it.

But just for me as a fan, who’s gone through all the shite with bad owners, for me knowing that my club will never be in that situation again because its fan owned is fantastic.”

(Cork City fan, 2015)

HAPPIER TIMES

There are certainly indications that fan ownership is met with a positive response from the majority of fans. In my opinion football will only be better when owned by its supporters. However there are certainly negatives amongst the positives. There is a huge question as to whether or not supporter associations can control, or at least affect, the power within the board room. Can the representative individual, or individuals, successfully engage in important decisions especially when these representatives are likely to be the ‘outsider’ on the board. Furthermore, supporter associations have even been accused of exploiting their own clubs by forming unfavourable alliances with board members who possess majority shares in order to strengthen their own authority. When instances like this have occurred it has naturally caused distrust amongst supporters, which has a negative effect on transparency and assurance.

However, there are too many positive examples of supporter ownership that greatly outweigh any such negatives. Hereford FC dropped out of the Football League through relegation in 2012 and since then the supporters were made to endure three seasons of financial mismanagement under two different owners in David Keyte, who refused to sell to the Hereford United Supporters Trust, and Tommy Agombar. Under Agombar’s rein Hereford was ejected from non league football due to large sums of debt and in December 2014 Hereford FC collapsed. Since 2015 under fan ownership, Hereford FC, have created a sustainable future attracting no fewer than 2,000 members, the club have acquired kit sponsorship and have even obtained possession of Edgar Street stadium, the ground the original club used since 1924. Fan ownership has brought sustainability, democracy, inclusion and continuity to the club. There are many examples of this positive change in the light of supporter ownership at other clubs, such as FC United of Manchester and Portsmouth FC, which is why I strongly believe supporters’ should be given the right to own their club.

FAN OWENRSHIP: THIS IS OUR TIME! 

Majority ownership has led to the collapse of many British football clubs. Supporters’ loyalty and devotion to their clubs have been exploited by owners, and the common aspiration for success has been employed as a rational explanation for groundless, unreasonable and unmanageable economic abuse.

There are successful cases of fan ownership at both the bottom and top end of professional football. Importantly, there are far too many cases of bad ownership.

Football, is about community. British football must regain this sentiment.  The supporters, the people who invest time and money into their club, should be the ones who own it and make decisions in regards to what is best for their club. A great man once said “Football without fans it nothing.”, and never have those words resonated more with football supporters than right now. Everyone who loves this game has a responsibility to take a good hard look at themselves and ask, ‘What am I doing to make a difference?’.

 

 

References

BBC Sport (2015a) ‘Massimo Cellino: Leeds chairman calls off plan to sell club to fans’, BBC Sport website  http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/34721028 accessed on 7 December 2015

BBC Sport (2015b) ‘Hereford FC: New club to play in Midland Football League’, BBC Sport website http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/32740977 accessed on 8 December 2015

BBC Sport (2015c) ‘Hereford FC supporters crucial to future of phoenix club’, BBC Sport website http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/33500060 accessed on 8 December 2015

BBC Sport (2015d) ‘Hereford FC shirt sponsor deal agreed for new season’, BBC Sport website http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-hereford-worcester-33067824 accessed on 8 December 2015

Beech, J. (2010) ‘Finance in the football industry’, in S., Hamil and S., Chadwick (Eds.), Managing football: An international perspective, Butterworth Heinemann, Oxford.

Begbies Traynor (2015) Begbies Traynor Red Flag Alert Football Distress Report: Scottish Football League – March 2015, University of Stirling website https://succeed.stir.ac.uk/webapps/blackboard/execute/content/file?cmd=view&content_id=_712405_1&course_id=_10330_1 accessed on 3 December 2015

Fitzpatrick, C (2013) ‘The struggle for grassroots involvement in football club governance: experiences of a supporter-activist’, Soccer and Society, Vol. 14, no. 2, pp. 201 – 214.

FourFourTwo (2015) ‘“Come on both teams!” Westfields vs Hereford’, FourFourTwo. November 2015, pp. 60 – 64.

Garcia, B & Welford, J. (2015) ‘Supporters and football governance, from customers to stakeholders: A literature review and agenda for research’, Sport Management Review, Vol. 18, no. 4, pp. 517 – 528.

Giulianotti, R. (2002) ‘Supporters, followers, fans, and flaneurs: a taxonomy of spectator identities in football’, Journal of Sport and Social Issues, Vol. 26, no. 1, pp. 25 – 46

Kennedy, P. (2012a) ‘Supporters Direct and supporters’ governance of football: a model for Europe?’, Soccer and Society, Vol. 13, no. 3, pp. 409 – 425.

Kennedy, P & Kennedy, D. (2012) ‘Football supporters and the commercialisation of football: comparative responses across Europe’, Soccer and Society, Vol. 13, no. 3, pp. 327 – 340.

Kennedy, D. (2012b) ‘Football stadium relocation and the commodification of football: the case of Everton supporters and their adoption of the language of commerce’, Soccer and Society, Vol. 13, no. 3, pp. 341 – 358.

Margalit, A. (2009) ‘“You’ll Never Walk Alone”: On property, community, and football fans’, Theoretical Inquiries in Law, Vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 217-240.

Morrow, S. (2015) ‘Football finances’ in J., Goddard and P., Sloane (Eds) Handbook of the Economics of Football. Edward Elgar, Cheltenham.

Morrow, S. (2015) ‘Power and logics in Scottish football: the financial collapse of Rangers FC’, Sport, Business and Management: An International Journal, Vol. 5, No. 4, pp. 325 – 343.

Morrow, S. (2012) ‘The financial collapse of Rangers: lessons for the business of football’, Perspectives, Vol. 33, pp. 15-18.

PWC (2013) Turbulent times ahead: Scottish Premier League Football, The University of Stirling website https://succeed.stir.ac.uk/webapps/blackboard/execute/content/file?cmd=view&content_id=_712403_1&course_id=_10330_1 accessed on 2 December 2015

Szymanski, S. (2015) Money and football: A soccernomics guide, Nation Books, New York

 The Guardian (2015) ‘Leeds fans up in arms at imposition of £5 pie tax in South Stand, The Guradian website http://www.theguardian.com/football/2015/dec/02/leeds-united-pie-tax-massimo-cellino accessed on 7 December 2015

The Independent (2015) ‘Massimo Cellino will not sell Leeds United until next year’, The Independent website http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/live-match-centre/championship/massimo-cellino-will-not-sell-leeds-united-until-next-year-a6743241.html accessed on 7 December 2015

The Scottish Government (2015) Consultation on Supporter Involvement in Scottish Football Clubs, The Scottish Government website http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0048/00486130.pdf accessed on 2 December 2015

The Telegraph (2015) ‘Leeds United’s pie tax is an abuse of supporters’ loyalty’, The Telegraph website http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/teams/leeds-united/12032063/Leeds-Uniteds-pie-tax-is-an-abuse-of-supporters-loyalty.html accessed on 7 December 2015

 UEFA (2015) The European Club Footballing Landscape: Club licensing benchmarking report financial year 2014, The UEFA website http://www.uefa.org/MultimediaFiles/Download/Tech/uefaorg/General/02/29/65/84/2296584_DOWNLOAD.pdf accessed on 2 December 2015

Working Group Report (2015) Supporter Involvement in Football Clubs, The Scottish Government website http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0046/00469245.pdf accessed on 2 December 2015

Working Group Report (2014) Key Messaging Document – ownership and governance in Scottish Football, The Scottish Government website http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0045/00453211.pdf accessed on 2 December 2015

Copa90 (2015) Cork City FC – The Rise of the Rebel Army, YouTube website https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9t-Iq-2uiTU accessed on 19 January 2016