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Football Fanzines and Cultures of Memory

A Content Analysis

Masterarbeit 2006 81 Seiten

Soziologie - Sonstiges


Table of Content


Authors Declaration


1. Introduction

2. Literature Review
2.1. Literature on fans and fanzines
2.2. Literature on theories

3. Research Methods
3.1. On Methods
3.2. Research Design

4. Results

5. Discussion

6. Conclusion

7. Bibliography



The increasing insecurity in the English society is countered by a resurgence of nostalgia and remembering the old times. This phenomenon can be found in football, too, but it differs from the need for nostalgia that is visible in society. High Street shops like Past Times are hugely successful in selling commodities that remember the English Commonwealth with goods from the countries that once belonged to it. Also, this becomes visible by the many replica items of daily life that are designed in a retro style but contain modern technology such as radios, watches, alarm clocks and furniture. Football fans can purchase replica shirts of their favourite club from the seventies and even earlier.

In the field of football, the introduction of the Premier League in England has changed the face of football massively. After the Heysel and Hillsborough disasters football fans got active themselves and started to publish football fanzines. In these outlets they mostly opposed the view that every football fan is a hooligan. They also used football fanzines as a platform to remember their heroes and glories of eras long gone. For this reason cultures of memory did become a part of football fanzines and did so very vivid.

Author’s Declaration and Note on Translations

The work presented in this dissertation is entirely my own and was carried out in the Department of Sociology at the University of Leicester. Where authors have been referred to, it is clearly acknowledged in the text. This work has not been submitted for any other degree at this or another University. The views expressed in this dissertation are my own and do not reflect those of the University. All names of the fanzines are correct and were not disguised in any way. Further, all German literature that is referred to has been translated into English without being altered in their meaning and content. No translator apart from the indicated in the bibliography has been involved in this work.

Christoph Wagner


This dissertation would not have been possible without the help and support of a number of people whom I would like to thank here.

I would like to thank Eric Dunning, Patrick Murphy, Sharon Colwell and Stuart Smith for their guidance and support throughout this course and for opening up the world of sociology of sport for me.

I am deeply thankful to my parents Maria and Günter Trosin who have made the biggest possible effort – not just financially!! - to let me go and study here. I further owe gratitude to my sister Juliane who gave me advice in how to write a dissertation and for her support throughout the year. I am even more indebted to my partner Susanne Jäger who believed in me when I doubted myself.

There is a huge thanks to be given to my friend Michael Schuster who, while being a teacher at Bolton School, not only supplied me with some of the fanzines examined here, but who also gave me critical feedback about what I was doing during the course and this dissertation.

My sincere thankfulness goes out to Keith Taylor at the ELTU and Brian Lisowy for rereading parts of this dissertation and giving advice for improvements in writing and researching.

Finally, my thanks are dedicated to Stephen Zechendorf whom I could ring at nearly any day and particularly night time and who would listen to me.

1. Introduction

The aim of this study is to show to what extent cultures of memory are important parts of the content of football fanzines and how they are exercised. It will also be discussed why these cultures of memory are an important part in the fanzines and for the people involved in the production of fanzines. The literature review in chapter one highlights the strength and weaknesses of written accounts on football fanzines and also examines concepts of memory that deliver an explanation for the use of cultures of memory in football fanzines. These include theories by Maurice Halbwachs who is acknowledged as the founding father of the field of collective memory. Pierre Nora takes this idea and adapts it to the collective memory of a nation, here France. Aby Warburg investigated how in Western European countries a pictorial memory has been developed over the course of the last 500 years through which pictures and images from the ancient past are recycled.

The sociological perspectives that will be presented here are used to give possible explanations about why there are cultures of memory in the content of football fanzines. Norbert Elias work on established and outsider relationships will be used to explain why football fans separate themselves from ordinary spectators in football stadia. He further looked at power relationships in this context. Also, the idea of a civilizing process is looked at and explained if such a thing had taken place among football fans to become producers and editors of football fanzines.

Throughout the work the history of football fanzines will be highlighted. This has partially been done by some writers mentioned in the literature review. These accounts examine the history of the fanzines until the mid-1990s. English football saw massive changes in the 1990s in the wake of the Taylor Report (1990) and with the introduction of the Premier League in 1992. Therefore the fanzines not only offered a platform for discussion of what has changed for them, but also the editors took the time to remember the favourite players of the supporters, their views of the past and to publish their opinion on club issues as well as footballing ones, that means match reports and a critical judgement of the players’ performance by the writers. In most of the literature mentioned in chapter one the 1990’s are described as the heydays of football fanzines. Something that Boyle and Haynes describe as harking back to a more secure, less complex society (2000:202). In their point of view the fans themselves become historians of the game and their club.

The third chapter introduces the methods applied to the dissertation to find out about the presence of cultures of memory. This is done by way of a content analysis. All relevant categories of memory are presented here and were sought for in the content of the fanzines examined. These will be found in Appendix 1. The results from this chapter will be found in Appendix 2. There is a table which lists all fanzines examined and all categories of memory combined and it will be shown if these categories are part of the content of football fanzines or not.

Chapter four is dedicated to the explanations for the findings from the preceding chapter. As the sample for the study is split into two, one part examining the 1990s the other fanzines from 2000 onwards we can draw conclusions about the development of football fanzines since the mid-1990s. Therefore, the history of fanzines is continued in this chapter, although this dissertation does not intend to give a chapter on the history of football fanzines. But to split the sample and examine the fanzines proved useful to outline the history of fanzines in the time period examined.

Chapter five brings a discussion about whether or not the theoretical framework can be approved of or if the theories outlined are not useful and if football fanzines do not contain cultures of memory at all. In any case it is analyzed why that is and what possible conclusions can be drawn from it for the further exploration of football fanzines and cultures of memory.

In the appendices there is a list of fanzines as well as a table that shows the results of the content analysis

2. Literature review

There is a canon of literature dealing with the development of football, its commercialization and football hooliganism while there is only a small amount of writing about football fanzines. The literature dealing with football fanzines will be introduced here and examined for its strength and weaknesses. Further, theories on memory will be highlighted as well as sociological theories will be scrutinized for the purpose of this dissertation.

2.1. Literature on Fans and Fanzines

The topic of football fanzines has not been explored extensively, but nonetheless there is a reasonable amount of writing that deals with football fanzines, most of it was written in the early or mid 1990s. At that time football fanzines were mushrooming across the UK and as a new phenomenon attracted attention from scholars. Sufficient accounts on the emergence of football fanzines are given by Jary et al. (1991), Duke (1991), Boyle (1994), Brown (1994), Haynes (1995), Giulianotti (1997,1999) and Dunning (1999).

Haynes’ (1995) account on football fanzines has explored the topic most intensively to date. He describes the history of football fanzines from the roots until the mid-1990s. The first fanzines produced were edited by music fans who wrote about punk rock and punk culture in the late 1970 and early 1980s. Although some fanzines were published before When Saturday Comes (further: WSC) it was only with the emergence of WSC in 1986 that the fanzine scene kick-started and developed (Haynes: 55). The English national fanzine WSC started as an off-shoot of the punk fanzine Sniffin’ Glue (Haynes: 39), and was distributed as a “…page supplement to Cardigan , a short-lived magazine…” (Haynes: 69). It is important for Haynes to stress the idea that the voice of independent reporting about football opposes the main stream view perpetuated by the media and the government. Haynes argues against the wide spread belief that every football supporter was automatically a hooligan and thus sees the fanzines as a reaction by fans to this attitude. Fans’ reporting on football was necessary to help express alternative views about the game which differed from the perspective supported and perpetuated by the main stream media. Haynes writes about football fanzines as a culture of defence, as an opposition to the mainstream media and opinion makers and an expression of dissatisfaction with the media-saturated sport and simply to show that football fans are not all hooligans. The tools for this culture to be established were and still are fanzines and independent supporter groups such as the Football Supporters Association (FSA). Haynes gives a good insight into the history of the development of the fanzine scene in England and Scotland by outlining the history of WSC and Off The Ball (OTB), the Scottish equivalent to WSC. Also, Haynes sketches the development of the subculture that surrounds fanzines and the fan scene in terms of distribution and support. For example the sharing of articles between fanzines was common among fanzine editors showing that a sense of community was establishing with the editors and writers of different fanzines. The shortcoming of this book is that it does not state who the actual writers of football fanzines are, to which social class they belong to and what their educational background is. Roderick (1996) is right to address this failure in his review of Haynes, but then this is to be said of nearly every account on fanzines apart from Giulianotti (1999). Nonetheless, Haynes’ book is a very useful source for the history of fanzines and the culture that evolved around it, written at a time when fanzines in football were something new and fashionable.

In the opening chapter, Haynes analyzes Marxist theories and Figurationalist theories in terms of explanations of football hooliganism in citing Taylor (1971) and Dunning (1988) for suitable explanations on the topic of hooliganism. Taylor produces a “romanticised view on the past” (Taylor cited in: Haynes:5) in writing about a “participatory democracy” (Taylor:143) that football fans establish with their local team; meaning that they can tell managers and coaches where to find a talented player and help to raise money for the club. Thus, the involvement of supporters was much higher. Only through professionalization and bourgeoisification of the game this democracy became obsolete (Taylor:145). The influence the fans and supporters had before the Second World War was much bigger than it was after and especially the 1960s and 1970s saw a massive change in the ruling of football clubs and the full establishment of professionalism that consequently led to football hooliganism, according to Taylor. This approach is opposed by what Haynes calls the “Leicester School of Thought” (Haynes:12). He gives an analogy of the rise of the school and names its publications to date that deal with hooliganism but falls short in outlining the theory the members of the Leicester school adhere to. Rather he describes the scholars working there as strictly adhering to Norbert Elias’ theory of civilizing processes and defending this approach against criticism from the outside. Although it seems that Haynes does not warm to these two theoretical frameworks, he nevertheless delivers a fruitful insight into the development of football fanzines, the distribution of fanzines, issues concerning the content and commercialization of football fanzines and the topic of full-time employment of the editors.

In their article about fanzines Jary et al. (1991:582) postulate that sport is a field that can easily be “…utilized as a vehicle in the exercise of hegemony…” because it is less alien than “’high culture’”. The link between sport and politics is well documented in the literature but this dissertation does not focus on sports and politics. It is mainly the Olympic Games that offer a great stage for the expression of political thoughts or for the use as a political stage. The most famous examples are the Games held in Berlin 1936 or the Black Power salute by Tommy Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Games in Mexico City. Since the end of WWII no Olympic event went by without any political connotation. Vinnai (1972) explores topics such as sport and the military and the political conscience of students of sport. In East Germany, and probably throughout Eastern Europe, sport was used to underline the idea that communism was supposed to be the better way of living and which produced Olympic medal winners and world champions. For example, it is now proven that East Germany ran a sports programme that was only rivalled by the former Soviet Union which might help to underline this point.

Therefore, Jary et al. follow a tradition among Marxist writers that sport is a political tool in stating that football fanzines can be used as a platform for resistance. This is exactly where they place the fanzine movement into, a form of politically motivated resistance against a bias from the national media and the government. Fanzines are thus a possibility to publish opinions that would otherwise go unheard either by neglecting or repression through the media and the clubs. Jary et al. describe the same phenomenon as Haynes but subscribe the fanzines into a political role as the authors postulate that the fanzines are supposed to work as a way of ‘cultural contestation’ against the main stream (Jary et al. 1991:581). The authors further deliver chapters on the general content of fanzines, look at the producers and how fanzines together with the FSA form a successful pressure group within the football industry. There are two conclusions in this article, a) fanzines in fact are a case of successful contestation in and through sport and the authors point out that fanzines not only in sports are a form of successful contestation and b) they bring implications for football research, demanding to widen the focus of football research and not only to focus on football hooliganism. That is an ambitious request and is certainly correct, but as the 1970s and 1980s saw hooliganism as the main problem in British football it is only logical that most attention is brought towards a sufficient explanation of the problem and to deliver possible solutions. The authors deliver a critique on the Leicester Centre for Football Research in complaining about the focus being too narrowly focused on football hooliganism. Further, Jary et. al. they denounce the Centre as being too close to policy making. That is because the Centre is dependent on public funding. (Jary et. al:593). This polemic adds a bitter aftertaste to the article which is well written and therefore it is a very useful account on the possibilities of cultural contestation done by fanzines.

Duke (1991) again as Jary et. al. have done, expresses the need of an alternative sociology of football that goes beyond the issue of hooliganism, but again as was the case with Jary hooliganism was the main topic of the 1980s and thus had all the attention. Duke therefore suggests a number of topics that seem to be interesting for him. These include the modernization of football grounds in Britain in consequence of the Taylor Report (1990), fanzines, comparative research and social demography. Apart from these demands what makes this article helpful is a list of fanzines of English and Welsh (Cardiff and Swansea) fanzines. The paucity of information, including the absence of a list of Scottish fanzines, is perhaps unfortunate.

Giulianotti’s (1997) article about fanzines related to Aberdeen FC in Scotland highlights the Scottish perspective on football fanzines. What attracts attention is the fact that the emergence of football fanzines in England and Scotland has the same causes and roots. Both scenes developed in the mid 1980s after the biggest tragedies in British football, Heysel and Bradford in 1985 and Hillsborough in 1989. This constitutes an interesting fact as the cause for these tragedies was specifically English, yet the reaction to these causes affected the whole of Britain. Therefore the development of fanzines is connected to national as well as local causes. Further, Giulianotti gives an insight into the local culture of Aberdeen and the role of fanzines attached to the club within it. This example shows how football fanzines can act on a local stage and allows conclusions for clubs and cities similar to Aberdeen. Although the producers of fanzines exercise a certain power in the field of football, according to Giulianotti they are well aware of their powerlessness compared to the club, the players and authorities and “…yet are still laden with an explicit humour, irony and invective about their own identities…” (p. 214). He contradicts himself in terms of power later when he highlights the role of fanzines in the sacking of two managers of the club in the early 1990s. The article is therefore useful only in cases similar to Aberdeen, a city with one club, which has seen better times and a media biased negatively towards fans and supporters.

Another account on Scottish football, this time on Celtic FC is delivered by Boyle (1994). He follows questions as to what extent football clubs as cultural institutions are important for shaping specific identities and how this “…process is being shaped by wider cultural agendas that enjoy prominence within local regional or national spaces…” (p. 74). In another article that concentrates on several clubs, here Manchester United FC, Arsenal FC and West Ham United FC, Brown (1998) examines the power and influence fans achieved in the mid and late 1980s. He raises questions of regulation and control, but also of participation and exclusion that followed the Taylor Report of 1990 (1990). Further, he mentions the FSA and the NFFSC (National Federation of Football Supporters Clubs) as the two main supporters associations and fanzines to gain control and influence in the game. Although the focus is not primarily put on fanzines, Brown includes them into this article as an important part of fan culture and fan democracy.

Dunning (1999, p.125-6; 135) mentions football fanzines only shortly in the context in the commercialization of football and does not deliver any explanations on the topic itself, rather his focus is on the development of sport and its sociology. He produces a critique of Haynes in which he criticizes him for failing to examine the social backgrounds of the fanzine writers. For Dunning the fanzines are part of what he calls the “football figuration” (p.126), thus they have an influence and power, though only to a small extent and they are part of the football industry (p.126). A deeper examination into football fanzines is delivered by Giulianotti (1999) who describes the background of the people involved in writing football fanzines and gives a historical paragraph about the circumstances that led to the emergence of football fanzines in the UK, but he does not specify his thoughts any clearer. He links them to trends in social history that are rooted in the 1960s. Further, Giulianotti identifies fanzine writers as white-collar workers who tend to have a university degree.

Boyle and Haynes (2000) deliver a book on sport being part of popular culture which is influenced by the media and vice versa. The authors deliver a history of the media-sport relationship emphasizing the time from 1989 to 1998 as the decade that brought the most dramatic changes in sports coverage in the media. The book does not focus solely on televised sports but also covers the development of sport in newspaper journalism including the internet although at the time of writing the internet has not had its widespread influence that it enjoys now. Here, Boyle and Haynes start an outlook into the future of sport broadcasting on the internet. In this respect they place football fanzines as a representation of British football fans and describe the media perception of fans which has changed significantly since the Hillsborough disaster in 1989 (Boyle, Haynes, 2000:198). They also describe football fans as historians which is suitable as a description.

Two studies, one English, one German (Robson, 2000; Schmidt-Lauber, 2004) that focus on a particular club. The English club is Millwall FC, the German is Hamburg-based St. Pauli FC. Both deliver an insight into fan groups from both clubs and how each group of fans identify themselves in relation to their club. Both studies examine the strong local ties that the clubs have to their geographic locality as well as investigate how groups of fans mainly recruit other fans from other areas of the towns the clubs are located in. Both focus on the myth that surrounds each club making these clubs particular and thus worth studying. The myth of Millwall FC constitutes itself from the reputation of Millwall being the club of the dock workers. The myth is built around images of masculinity and hard ship based on the life in the Docklands of East London. Even comparisons to the London of Charles Dickens were made and seemed to be appropriate (Robson:23). The image of Millwall supporters is that of being hooligans. Robson produces a number of quotations from other fanzines to underline this perception. The quotes in these fanzines refer to the supporters of the club as being savage, nasty and malicious (Nottingham Forest’s Forest Forever ). The Arsenal fanzine The Gooner hopes that Arsenal supporters returning back safely in one piece after an FA-Cup match against Millwall (Robson:22).



ISBN (eBook)
555 KB
Institution / Hochschule
De Montfort University Leicester – Social Sciences, Department for Sociology
soziologie sport fußball erinnerungskulturen indentity




Titel: Football Fanzines and Cultures of Memory