Globalization & Football


Richard Giulianotti & Roland Robertson

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  • Theory, Culture & Society

    Theory, Culture & Society caters for the resurgence of interest in culture within contemporary social science and the humanities. Building on the heritage of classical social theory, the book series examines ways in which this tradition has been reshaped by a new generation of theorists. It also publishes theoretically informed analyses of everyday life, popular culture, and new intellectual movements.

    EDITOR: Mike Featherstone, Nottingham Trent University


    Roy Boyne, University of Durham

    Nicholas Gane, University of York

    Scott Lash, Goldsmiths College, University of London

    Roland Robertson, University of Aberdeen

    Couze Venn, Nottingham Trent University


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    We wish to thank the Editorial Board and the Journal Manager, Jacquie Gauntlett, at the British Journal of Sociology for publishing in 2004 our co-authored article on football and globalization. That paper provided the inspiration for the writing of this book. We would also like to thank the Economic and Social Research Council for funding our two-year project on Scottish football and globalization (award number R000239833). Much of the theoretical and empirical work for this book was facilitated through that project. In the course of the last few years, we have benefitted substantially from correspondence and conversations with a wide range of social scientists on the subjects of football, sport and globalization. We would particularly like to thank the contributors to our edited book on Globalization and Sport (Blackwell, 2007) – David Andrews, Gary Armstrong, Thomas Hylland Eriksen, William Kelly, Frank Lechner, George Ritzer, Chris Rumford, Barry Smart – as well as John Boli, Susan Brownell, Robert Holton, Paul James and Franciscu Sedda. We are also grateful to Theory, Culture & Society for publishing our new book in conjunction with Sage. Particular thanks are due to Chris Rojek, Jai Seaman and Katie Forsythe at Sage who have done a tremendous job in patiently and expertly guiding this project through to completion.

    List of Abbreviations

    AELFP – Association Européenne des Ligues de Football Professionnel (European Association of Professional Football Leagues)

    AFA – Asociación del Fútbol Argentino (Football Association of Argentina)

    AFC – Asian Football Confederation

    ASEAN – Association of Southeast Asian Nations

    CAF – Confédération Africaine de Football (Confederation of African football)

    CAS – Court of Arbitration for Sport

    CBF – Confederação Brasileira de Futebol (Brazilian Football Confederation)

    CBO – Community-Based Organization

    CONCACAF – The Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football

    CONMEBOL – South American football confederation (also known as CSF or Confederación Sudamericana de Fútbol)

    CSR – Corporate Social Responsibility

    DFB – Deutscher Fussball Bund (German Football Association)

    EPL – English Premier League

    EU – European Union

    FA – Football Association (England)

    FARE – Football Against Racism in Europe

    FDI – Foreign Direct Investment

    FIFA – Fédération Internationale de Football Association (International Federation of Association Football)

    FiFPRO – Fédération International de Footballeurs Professionels (International Federation of Professional Footballers)

    IFAB – International Football Association Board

    IGO – International Governmental Organization

    ILO – International Labour Organization

    IMF – International Monetary Fund

    IOC – International Olympic Committee

    MEP – Member of the European Parliament

    MLS – Major League Soccer (US)

    NAFTA – North American Free Trade Agreement

    NASL – North American Soccer League

    NFF – Norges Fotballforbund (Football Association of Norway)

    NGO – Non-Governmental Organization

    NSM – New Social Movement

    OFC – Oceania Football Confederation

    OFFS – Open Fun Football Schools

    PFA – Professional Footballers’ Association

    TNC – Transnational Corporation

    TNS – Transnational State

    UEFA – Union Européenne de Football Association (Union of European Football Associations)

    UN – United Nations

    UNHCR – United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

    UNICEF – United Nations Children's Fund

    WADA – World Anti-Doping Agency

    WHO – World Health Organization

    WTO – World Trade Organization

    WUSA – Women's United Soccer Association (US)


    This book is about the interrelationships of globalization processes and the sport of football (sometimes known as ‘association football’ or ‘soccer’). As joint authors, we share a deep fascination with both ‘the global game’ and transnational processes, and these subjects would appear to have a similar allure across most societies throughout the world.

    To clarify matters, our focus is on the diverse sociological aspects of football. We are committed to looking well beyond football qua game, to explore its social history and diffusion, and its cultural, economic, political, and social dimensions. The more specific, technical aspects of football – such as playing skills or technological developments – are certainly not ignored here, but we do locate these within their full sociological contexts.

    In placing the game within its global context, we need to clarify our understanding of globalization per se. Here we follow Robertson's (1992: 8) opening statement, which defined globalization as a concept that ‘refers both to the compression of the world and the intensification of consciousness of the world as a whole’. To put this statement in another way: globalization is characterized by increasing global interconnectedness, or connectivity (for example, through greater migration and digital communication); and by stronger forms of globality, as people are increasingly reflexive about the world per se.

    If we think initially of globalization in this way, then it is clear that the investigation of football is far from a marginal, academic pursuit; obversely, the game must be understood as increasingly important to globalization processes. Football's biggest event – the World Cup finals – is an exemplar of worldwide connectivity and advanced global consciousness; it is a tournament which attracts tens of thousands of international spectators, is televised intensively and worldwide for an entire month, and initially organizes more than 200 national teams in the quest to qualify. Football events promote and normalize forms of connectivity that in alternate social realms have been deeply contested. For example, since the early 1960s, UK club and national sides have been increasingly committed to participation in European football competitions; yet, in England particularly, deep forms of antagonism towards European engagement or integration have constantly surfaced, especially during the 1980s and 1990s. Similarly, major football fixtures have been contested between nations at times of lingering diplomatic or military hostility, such as the USA–Iran game in 1998, or the England–Argentina clash in 1982.

    Despite some recent important advances, mainstream social science and the specific field of global studies have rather overlooked the significance of football and general sport to globalization processes. Our aim in part, then, is to contribute towards filling that lacuna. We are further concerned to develop the field of global studies itself, notably in conceptual and methodological terms. Through focusing on globalization in regard to a highly salient substantive realm such as football, the field of global studies may mature theoretically, and help to reveal the intensively complex ways in which transnational processes impact upon particular domains of social life.

    One preliminary observation is that football may be understood in anthropological terms, as illuminating globalization processes in different ways. Consider, for example, how the game may be understood as a metric, a mirror, a motor, and a metaphor of globalization; these are heuristic terms that are particularly apt for a cultural form that attracts an array of alliterations as well as a variety of vantage points.

    As a metric, football may be used to measure transnational, political, and social connectivity. The game's world governing body (FIFA) has a larger membership than the United Nations (208 to 192, as at end 2008), and holds jurisdiction over thousands of international fixtures each year. As a mirror, football is used by different peoples as a global looking-glass, as a means of imagining and reflecting upon their appearance, status, and identity, in relation to changing transnational audiences. As a motor, football may be understood as accelerating particular global transformations. In the early twentieth century, for example, football advanced the participation of non-European societies, particularly South American nations, within the emerging international society. More routinely, new social relations are developed across participants at major international football fixtures and tournaments. Finally, as a metaphor, the ‘global game’ provides a benchmark for comparing the transnational popularity of other cultural forms, while figuratively depicting the making of global consciousness (such as when images of a football and the earth are blended). Metric, mirror, motor, or metaphor – whichever interpretative device is favoured, one result remains constant: that the football–globalization nexus is one of the most significant and indeed fascinating of quotidian subjects for social scientific investigation.

    Developing the Global Studies Field

    In social science, the emergence of globalization as an object of inquiry was presaged by early scholarship regarding, for example, ‘international society’ in the 1960s, the world economic system in the 1970s, and transnational religious movements in the 1980s (cf. Nettl and Robertson 1968; Wallerstein 1974; Robertson and Chirico 1985). The ‘global turn’ in social science was confirmed in the early 1990s, as benchmark texts on globalization were published, and as the emergent keyword itself was transmogrified into an idée maîtresse, and so accelerated the shift that was otherwise occurring towards greater interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary scholarship. The methodological impact of the global turn has been such that it is increasingly difficult to formulate plausible research programmes that do not at least account for transnational processes.

    The field of globalization studies now has the opportunity to make some epistemological and methodological advances by locating its core concepts and diverse debates within specific research fields or subdisciplines. Substantive research fields such as football, health, food, sexuality, and work, offer scholars of globalization the opportunity to examine, and to account more fully, for the ‘second-order’ complexity and uncertain outcomes of global processes. These types of specific inquiry should also encourage analysts to discard the relatively oblique or sweeping statements – for example, on issues of cultural domination or autonomy – that may still loiter in discussions of globalization, and to explore instead how more middle-range explanations account for the complex manifestation of global processes within particular social realms. Certainly, there have been significant moves in this direction within social science in recent years, and this book is intended to contribute towards that broad transition.1

    Book Context and Contents

    The focus of this book on globalization and football effectively fuses our research strengths and interests. Robertson is one of the founding figures in the social scientific analysis of globalization; his work has explored in particular the theoretical and socio-cultural issues surrounding global processes (see Robertson 1990a, 1990b, 1992, 1995, 2001, 2004, 2007a, 2007b, 2007c; and White 2003a, 2003b, 2004; and Scholte 2007). He has been a leading analyst of international societies and modernization since the mid-1960s, and is also known globally for his work in the sociology of religion. Robertson was an enthusiastic footballer and, despite spending much of his academic career in the United States, has remained a lifelong follower and intensive observer of the game.

    Giulianotti is a trained sociologist whose research specialism since the late 1980s has been in football and sport studies. In terms of both research focus and collaborative projects, his work has always been marked particularly by its transnational interests and dimensions (see Giulianotti 1991, 1995, 1999a, 2002, 2004a, 2005a; Armstrong and Giulianotti 1997, 1998a, 2001, 2004).

    While working together at the University of Aberdeen, our collegiate chats on football and globalization quickly transformed into full research collaboration on these subjects. Our main work to date has featured inter alia articles in English, German, and Spanish, a two-year research project funded by the UK ESRC, and a special edition of the journal Global Networks. This book extends our article in the British Journal of Sociology2.

    In our joint work thus far, we have developed Robertson's earlier arguments to interpret globalization as a long-term, complex, and multi-phased historical process, underpinned by subtle and shifting interdependencies between the local and the global, or the universal and the particular. Thus, the global football field is characterized neither by the routine manifestation of cultural imperialism, nor by the imposition of autonomous individual actions across a transnational domain. We do not advance essentialist arguments regarding the innately appealing qualities of football. Rather, we demonstrate that the global football field reveals many complex patterns of convergence and divergence within varied settings; many ways in which the game's rules, ethos, techniques, and aesthetics are interpreted across time and space. In developing these arguments, we disentangle the interrelations of competing politico-cultural themes and discourses that shape the global game. Specifically, these themes and discourses relate to neo-liberalism, neo-mercantilism, international governance, and global civil society.

    The book is organized into five main chapters and concludes with a short epilogue. We consider in sequence the five particular perspectives and dimensions – the historical, cultural, political–economic, political, and social – that are most salient to world football. We adopt this procedure largely for reasons of analytical and explanatory coherence. We should emphasize that we are not arguing that each of these aspects stands in splendid isolation from the others; rather, they are interwoven in highly intricate and changing ways.

    We set out in Chapter 1 our historical perspective on the globalization of football. Our discussion is structured by Robertson's five-fold historical model of globalization, spanning the 1500s to 2000, which we modify partly to correspond with football's genealogy. We concentrate particularly upon the third, fourth, and fifth phases from the 1870s to 2000 that are shaped in turn by globalization's ‘take-off’, and by increasingly complex transnational struggles and power balances. Our discussion of each phase is built around the four ‘elemental reference points’ of globalization that are highlighted by Robertson, namely the individual, national societies, international society, and humankind. We conclude by exploring briefly the implications for football of Robertson's later submission that contemporary globalization has entered a sixth, ‘millennial’ stage since 2000, distinguished in part by climates of fear alongside the intensification of surveillance and security across social settings.

    We turn to the cultural dimensions of the football world in Chapter 2. Drawing strongly on Robertson's earlier work, we argue that football's globalization must be understood in terms of the highly complex interplay of the local and the global, or the particular and the universal. Robertson's concept of ‘glocalization’ has particular utility here, in revealing how globalization is marked by trends towards both commonality or uniformity and divergence and differentiation. These interdependencies are more fully captured by the broad opposition between ‘homogenization’ and ‘heterogenization’, which registers trends towards cultural convergence and divergence. To pick the most elementary illustration, while football's global diffusion points towards a worldwide convergence over the popularity of particular sports, many societies display divergence in how they organize, interpret, and play the game. We assess debates regarding the possible ‘Americanization’ of football with strong reference to the game's cultural history and contemporary condition across the United States. More broadly, we consider how football is pivotal to periods of ‘exceptional nationalism’ (in a cultural sense) within many societies; and more routinely to the transnational development of ‘banal cosmopolitanism’, as individuals and social groups increasingly experience the practices and styles of other cultures at the everyday level. Football's globalization in recent times has also harboured significant postmodern cultural influences, notably in the contemporary forms of nostalgia that are constructed within popular media coverage of the game.

    In Chapter 3, we develop a critical, ‘global-realist’ analysis of the contemporary political–economic dimensions of globalization, exploring in particular the implementation and consequences of neo-liberal or ‘free market’ policies within football and beyond. We address the contribution of television monies, notably through transnational pay-TV stations, in multiplying revenues in the richest football systems, primarily Western Europe. We consider how economic deterioration has seriously blighted the game in South America, although free-market policies have also engendered economic turbulence and indebtedness in Western Europe. We explore how the world's leading clubs correspond to our global-realist analysis of transnational corporations, in sustaining strong economic and symbolic ties to their national ‘homes’, while displaying increasingly transnational characteristics in labour recruitment, marketing, and ownership.

    The political dimensions of global football are examined in Chapter 4. Building upon the earlier chapters, we consider initially the status of the nation and the nation state, with substantive reference to the ‘club versus country’ struggles that increasingly arise in the world game. We turn then to consider the ‘neo-mercantile’ dimensions of football, particularly the role of national league systems and associations, as well as international governing bodies, in globalizing their tournaments and representative teams by penetrating new markets, usually in competition with equivalent sporting bodies. We explore how particular tensions between neo-liberal and neo-mercantile strategies continue to be played out in regard to the UEFA Champions’ League, especially in struggles between specific clubs, national associations, and governing bodies. We also focus on broader issues regarding international governance, noting the corruption and other pathologies that continue to blight the current political frameworks and balances of power. Subsequently, we assess some models that would reform football's global governance, notably the Habermasian idea of a ‘cosmopolitan democracy’ that is derived principally from the work of David Held.

    In Chapter 5, we examine the social aspects of globalization, a realm frequently overlooked by many analysts of global processes. We argue that the keywords of transnationalism and connectivity enable us to interpret the complex diffusion and adaptation of football-related social practices, as well as the different kinds of ‘disconnection’ endured by many groups and societies. Football supporter cultures provide particularly vivid and varied instantiations of social transnationalism and connectivity. In recent years, the broad and contested concept of the ‘global civil society’ has become integral to the social dimensions of globalization. On one hand, football remains a contested domain for the extension of particular transnational processes of social inclusion, such as concerning gender and ethnicity. On the other hand, many governmental and non-governmental institutions – including the UN, UEFA, and national governments and numerous charities – have come to understand football as a crucial medium for the making of particular kinds of global civil society. Just as the game's governing bodies have sought to cultivate its social role in peripheral societies, so football is utilized by other agencies to assist with human development, the promotion of peace, and the resocialization of traumatized peoples. However, in line with the broad thesis of this book, we argue that the critical and creative contributions of local peoples need to be recognized and fully engaged if such projects are to maximize their potential social impacts.

    The sociology of religion, for instance, has been underpinned by some sophisticated arguments on globalization (see, for example, Robertson 1985; Beyer 1994; Lechner 2005). Anthropological research has connected everyday practices in developing societies to the global context (see, for example, Hannerz 1992; Ferguson 1999; Friedman 2003), while important methodological innovations emerging from ‘global ethnography’ are also noteworthy (see Burawoy et al. 2000). Journals like Global Networks and Globalizations have enabled scholars to explore global processes within specific sub-disciplinary fields.

    See, variously, Giulianotti and Robertson (2005, 2007a, 2007b); Robertson and Giulianotti (2006); and ESRC research grant award number R000239833.

  • Epilogue

    As we noted in the Prologue, in writing this book, our aims have been two-fold: first, we have aimed to place the analysis of football squarely within the academic mainstream, and second, we have sought to advance understanding of globalization processes through close investigation of the global game.

    We trust that by now, the reader is well enough informed about football's global significance, whether in terms of its expanding cultural significance, financial value, or political status. Examination of the global game has also enabled us to advance a variety of concepts – including duality of glocality, hard/soft Americanization, exceptional nationalism, Americolonization, and dis/connectivity – that may be readily transferred into studies of other realms of globalization.

    Here, our intention is to advance these aims further by developing a theoretical model of the key global themes within football. We do so by integrating and expanding arguments from our earlier chapters.126

    Mapping the Global Game

    The four global themes that we set out in earlier chapters were neo-liberalism, neo-mercantilism, international governance, and global civil society. In developing our model, we have integrated these four themes within the ‘global field’, as initially set out by Robertson (1992) and discussed in Chapter 1. The global field consists in four ‘elemental reference points’ which, to reiterate, are individual selves, national societies, international relations, and humankind. Each of our four themes is connected to one of these elemental reference points. Thus, neo-liberalism links to the individual, neo-mercantilism to national societies, international governance to international relations, and global civil society to humankind.

    In broad terms, the global field reveals the different pushes and pulls experienced by individuals and social groups within the context of contemporary globalization. For example, in recent times, football supporters in Europe or Latin America have been pulled variously towards individualistic cultures of global celebrity and consumerism that surround elite players or sporting products; towards national societies through strong forms of ‘exceptional nationalism’ during major football tournaments; towards greater reflexivity over the international politics of world football, and how arising conflicts influence the game at everyday levels; and towards a stronger, cosmopolitan appreciation of the benefits of multiculturalism, as illustrated by the embrace of non-national players at league clubs or by widespread interest in foreign football systems.

    Figure 6.1 The global field and associated themes

    We set out below the four relationships of political themes and elemental reference points. These relationships are also depicted in Figure 1.


    Neo-liberal political–economic strategies are strongly associated with advancing the interests of the individual ‘free agent’ across the global marketplace. Historically, neo-liberalism has been particularly influential within football through the uncertainty and millennial phases, notably since the late 1980s, following deregulation of the media sector and various international markets.

    In the millennial phase, the thematization of individuals has moved towards issues of regulation and risk management. In football, individual spectators are both regulated through more orchestrated and intensive security strategies, and moulded through particular authorized fan identities. Various institutions, including intergovernmental bodies and TNCs, engage role-model players to endorse diverse social policies ranging from local education initiatives to the alleviation of global poverty. Alternatively, risk-taking or ‘excessive’ behaviour is also brought into sharper public focus, notably through the nightlife tastes of some elite players or the occasional eruptions of spectator disorder.

    In institutional terms, neo-liberalism in football is strongly associated with major TNCs, notably elite clubs, media networks, and the game's key sponsors, which gain most from economic deregulation and which seek to appeal to the ‘footloose global consumer’. The implementation of neo-liberal principles in football would enable elite clubs to function more fully as TNCs in terms of branding, player recruitment, and exploring the option of break-away league systems.

    The relationship of neo-liberalism to processes of cosmopolitanization and glocalization is double-edged. On one hand, the free movement of players, merchandise, and television coverage of national leagues has created increasingly transnational and multicultural football experiences at everyday levels. Local and national societies also have more opportunities to place themselves on the world stage, and to engage critically with other cultural practices and belief systems through football.

    On the other hand, neo-liberalism has a significant elective affinity with relatively instrumental, market-centred strategies that are associated with thin cosmopolitanism or corporate-driven types of glocalization. For example, individuals are more likely to accept their classification as global football consumers, and to hold relatively weak, flâneur-type social solidarity towards clubs or players. This process is accelerated by the ways in which TNC clubs increasingly adapt their public images to appeal to these transnational football consumers.

    The neo-liberalism–individual relationship harbours some inherent dangers. The free-market, consumerist ethos is difficult to reconcile with the collectivist values that are consciously sustained at most clubs and national sides. The tendency of neo-liberalism to produce market cartels – such as, in theory, a European league dominated or controlled by a few clubs – runs counter both to the ‘uncertainty of outcome’ principles that make sport highly marketable, and to the traditional promotion/relegation system which adds further layers of competitive complexity. Free markets often exacerbate competitive inequalities within or between nations and regions, and stoke financial turbulence as more clubs or league systems fall into debt and decline.

    We envisage that social divisions and conflicts surrounding commodification will be manifested more acutely within football. The distribution of revenues – notably television income, access to tickets, and elite players – will be contested at national and international levels, in part as a way of challenging perceived pathologies in football, such as socio-economic exclusion from stadiums, growing competitive gulfs between clubs, and weaker structures of feeling between supporters and teams.

    At the elite level, football's commercial dimensions will become more globalized and transcultural. Clubs in Western Europe will see a wider range of international ownership and investment, notably from Asia, to go alongside growing East European and American involvement. Given the additional revenues released by wealthy football oligarchs, leagues such as those in Germany and France will struggle to resist the competitive commercial pressure to adopt UK or Italian models of club ownership.

    Emerging TNCs from Asia will play a more prominent role in football sponsorship. Clubs and associations will advance the opportunity for closer vertical integration with media corporations, as more football institutions seek to maximize direct revenues from the live broadcasting of fixtures and tournaments. Meanwhile, the elite game and its players will be more intensively integrated within mainstream consumer and celebrity culture, thereby further sharpening divisions with players at semi-professional and amateur levels.

    Neo-Mercantilism/National Society

    Neo-mercantile political–economic strategies are strongly associated with national football systems. Historically, neo-mercantilism in football intensified through the twentieth century as the power of national associations and league systems was cemented, while national teams gained potent representative significance. In recent years, expansionist neo-mercantile strategies have been best illustrated by the global televising of Western European leagues, most obviously the EPL, and in Russia by the influence of state and national industries in building up the domestic sport system.

    In the contemporary, millennial phase of globalization, national football industries and the nation state have combined particularly over themes of governance, risk-management, and social control. The free market in players, spectator allegiances, and media–sport contracts has sparked recurring debates over the long-term viability of established national leagues. In the post-9/11 context, national governments that host football mega-events have taken on enormous security responsibilities and budgets.

    At first glance, neo-mercantilism has a significant correlation with contemporary processes of banal and exceptionalism nationalism. For example, the EPL has become part of the everyday mediasphere of many nations, while heightened national identification erupts periodically during international mega-events. Neo-mercantilism corresponds too with the glocalisation processes identified by urban studies analysts, as national football institutions ‘upscale’ to transnational partnerships with TNC clubs or media networks.

    More subtly, national societies and identities are concretized further through critical engagements in multicultural contexts. For example, ‘rooted’ forms of cosmopolitanism and glocalization demonstrate how national particularities may be sharpened and revivified as part of a critical openness towards other cultures.

    The neo-mercantilism–national society relationship harbours some inherent weaknesses and problems. Intensive nationalism may be actuated through aggressive or violent antagonisms towards other societies. Evermore powerful national football empires may emerge from the zero-sum struggle between neo-mercantile forces. Greater disconnectivity may bedevil the national football systems in many ‘emerging’ nations, as Asian and African peoples come to favour glamorous international leagues over depleted indigenous tournaments.

    We envisage that football will continue to crystallize many of the forces and conflicts surrounding the nation. As its transnational significance increases, football will be a more important domain in which national societies pursue global status or, in some instances, the right to establish autonomous nation states. The deterritorialization of elite national league systems will become increasingly politicized, most notably as the game's developing nations seek to counteract their virtual penetration by Europe's football industries.

    The influences of Americanization and ‘Asianization’ upon national football systems will be more closely scrutinized and contested (cf. Crothers 2007; Tsuda 2007). On one hand, elite European leagues will tailor their televised products to suit the tastes of international markets and, we expect, will also explore further opportunities to stage competitive fixtures in these new settings. On the other hand, North American and Asian leagues will endeavour to compete against these globalized football systems by nurturing their own multicultural, indigenous competitions with a greater array of star players and coaches, alongside inflated commercial and media revenues.

    International Relations/International Governance

    The close interrelationships of the two internationals – relations and governance – are confirmed in institutional terms, as IGOs in football such as FIFA and UEFA have sought to control and to shape the game's multipolar complexity.

    Football's international governance has expanded enormously through the twentieth century, as membership of continental and global bodies has risen inexorably, thereby producing complex transnational political matrices. In the millennial period, these international institutions will experience further struggles between economically powerful and weaker forces within football, while risk-focused issues regarding security and the game's ‘carbon footprints’ will have growing salience for mega-events.

    The future internal structure of football's governing bodies will influence significantly the likely outcome of these processes. The gradual modification of governing bodies would ensure realpolitik remained the heartbeat of football's international society, with a greater propensity towards more instrumental, thin variants of cosmopolitanism. More radical restructuring would require more political engagement with more stakeholders, particularly at grassroots level, and would reflect a thicker form of political cosmopolitanism, though it is difficult to envision exactly how this new framework would operate.

    International governance does harbour some significant weaknesses and dangers. Internally, though unlikely in the short term, football's governing bodies need to strengthen their status by tackling allegations of corruption, patronage, and lack of transparency more robustly. Governing bodies may be incapable of integrating the heterogeneity of competing interests and aspirations across the widening spectrum of stakeholders. Moreover, given the game's intensive commodification, the European Union may interpret as spurious the governing bodies’ claim that football should retain an essentially non-economic, ‘special status’.

    Greater political influence will continue to be exerted by less established football regions, particularly North America, the Far East, and the Global South, with consequences for the allocation of World Cup final places and the right to host the game's mega-events. Potential challenges will linger over the special membership status of the UK's four national associations inside FIFA. Political conflicts between elite clubs and smaller national associations will also become more acute within the international governing bodies.

    Global Civil Society/Humankind

    The fourth and final interrelationship connects the political–economic theme of global civil society with the elemental reference point of humankind. The global civil society promotes ideas regarding a common world humanity and shared transnational fate. Numerous IGOs, NGOs, new social movements, TNCs, and nation states have sought to connect football with principles and issues associated with the global civil society, such as peace-building, development, democratization, social inclusion, and social responsibility.

    Football's global civil society may be said to have had a lengthy incubation, encompassing ‘the right to play’ struggles of marginalized social groups such as the male working-classes, women, and non-whites in different contexts. Development and humanitarian programmes have crystallized through the engagement of football's leading institutions with NGOs and IGOs since the early 1970s.

    At first glance, the global civil society is the most likely of all four themes to embrace the universalistic possibilities of transnationalism and cross-cultural exchange. ‘Ethical glocalism’, with its concern for normative issues surrounding the local–global interface, is most easily located inside this quadrant. However, a broad range of cosmopolitanisms may still be evidenced: thin cosmopolitanism across international institutions, through discourses on the ‘global football family’; rooted cosmopolitanism, as supporters and players gel strong partisanship and generalized appreciation of technical artistry; and thick cosmopolitanism, through full engagements with the differences that undergird other football cultures.

    The global civil society harbours several tensions or problems. As with international relations, it contains a wide range of competing and potentially irreconcilable institutional forces. In real terms, highly influential institutions within global civil society – notably IGOs, TNCs (through CSR), and pragmatic NGOs – have significant or stronger ties to alternative political–economic themes that are discussed here. Those split loyalties will inevitably impact upon the type of global civil society that is realized within football.

    We envisage that the global civil society will witness further transnational convergence on issues of social inclusion. For example, greater pressures will be exerted by international governing bodies, corporations, and NGOs for convergence between nations and regions on the themes of race and gender. The extension of social inclusion strategies to the realm of sexuality will occur, though this process will be relatively slow and driven on initially by social movements and some NGOs principally in Western Europe.

    Stronger critical reflexivity will be exercised by academics, social movements, and critical NGOs, towards two issues pertaining to the global civil society: first, the social effects of extensive surveillance and securitization in football contexts, especially mega-events in the Global North; and second, testing the real value of football-related projects in the promotion of peace, development, and human rights, especially in the Global South.

    The global civil society will become a greatly enlarged realm in terms of the volume and variety of participating institutions and associated projects. In turn, it is likely to become an increasingly contested realm. TNCs and some sporting federations, under the banner of CSR, have sought to implement particular development and inclusive programmes that are rather weaker than some NGOs or social movements would prefer. Conversely, more radical, external NGOs and social movements will probe human rights and social development issues within football and other sports. These latter, diverse forces may cohere and mobilize within shared political spaces such as the World Social Forum.

    Football and other sports will become increasingly prominent domains in which ‘appeals to humankind’ are made by diverse social forces. The buildup to the Beijing Olympics in 2008 was paradigmatic, as nationalist movements, human rights groups, and global celebrities spotlighted the Chinese government's record on various domestic and international issues, Tibet, arms trading in the Darfur region, and support for Mugabe in Zimbabwe. At the everyday level, liberal media, NGOs, and new social movements will continue to extend the politics of football into humankind issues, for example when publicizing the backgrounds of international investors and sponsors within the European game.

    Domains of Contestation in Global Football

    As we have indicated, significant tensions and conflicts often arise within and between the four political–economic themes. Each quadrant contains competing forces that seek to shape or to dominate that specific theme, most obviously TNC clubs (neo-liberalism), national associations and league systems (neo-mercantilism), national and continental associations (international relations), and various forces ranging from radical social movements to corporate PR departments (global civil society).

    Tensions also arise in the institutional relationships that engage the themes. Thus, for example, the neo-liberalism/neo-mercantilism relationship involves clashes between elite clubs and national associations, notably on the ‘club versus country’ issue; the international governance–global civil society witnesses some tensions between global federations and critical NGOs, notably over corruption or development issues; and, the neo-liberalism–international governance relationship contains struggles between elite clubs and federations over issues like international fixture schedules.

    When we consider some of global football's more contentious issues, all four thematic forces are evidently contesting the outcome. For example, the broad issue of distributive justice at the World Cup finals involves the allocation of match tickets, revenues, and tournament places, and thus engages the competing interests of national governments and associations (neo-mercantilism); elite clubs, media, and merchandise TNCs (neo-liberalism); continental governing bodies (international governance); and NGOs and supporter groups (global civil society). As with many other issues, global civil society has relatively weaker influence than the other political–economic themes.

    Global Football's Future?

    As we have indicated, the ‘world game’ of football will experience a range of internal and external pressures in future years.127 Many of these pressures will crystallize the increasingly prominent themes of globalization through the twenty-first century, such as the interplay of surveillance/transparency, the complex opening and closing of national societies, greater multiculturalism and polyethnicity within nations, and the creation of more diverse forms of cosmopolitanism and glocalization.

    Among the game's individual spectators, we envisage that the status differentiation between ‘supporters’ and ‘consumers’ will sharpen, and underpin conflicts over resource allocations. Meanwhile, football attendance and related consumption will become increasingly important domains for the implementation of ‘dataveillance’ systems, whether by nation states for the purposes of monitoring citizens, or by commercial organizations to enhance marketing techniques. For some national societies – particularly those hosting mega-events like European finals – football may function to open the nation state in formal ways, for example by easing tourist entry requirements. Additionally, consumer ‘piracy’ may become more prominent and difficult to police at the transnational level, for example as individual viewers evade national pay-TV networks by freely accessing live matches through foreign internet platforms.

    Everyday cosmopolitanism within football clubs and national societies will intensify as the transnational circulation of players will increase further, well into the 2010s. Endeavours by FIFA to restrict the participation of ‘non-national’ players in fixtures, even if implemented, would still be jeopardized by the reassertion of European labour laws, and might boomerang as nations respond through the ‘naturalization’ of many more foreign stars.

    Issues of Asianization and Americanization will acquire greater magnitude, for example as struggles intensify to host the World Cup finals from 2018 onwards. Longer-term influences may be evidenced, however, if India and China join the United States and Japan in developing elite league systems that are more able to attract leading players and to challenge established tournaments in Europe and South America. Elsewhere, particularly if the credit crunch has long-term global impacts, accumulated wealth in the Gulf states and Russia may be a fresh source of financial support for the global game, notably in elite club ownership, sponsorships, and the hosting of mega-events. Meanwhile, the struggles between different sporting leagues and federations, including football, will become more intense, either as they encroach into each other's apparent territory, or pursue expansion into rich new markets, especially in Asia.

    We envisage greater pressure being exerted on governing bodies and major sponsors to substantiate their grandiloquent universalistic statements on football, such as through more extensive funding of development and humanitarian programmes. One possible focus might be on whether football's governing bodies can be pressed into standardizing the sole usage and endorsement of ‘fair trade’ products, particularly equipment and kits, during showpiece tournaments.

    More broadly, football will increasingly become a public domain in which the parameters of cosmopolitanism are explored. Individuals and social groups will pursue, and be expected to establish, different mixtures of intensive particularity (such as partisan fan identification with clubs or nations), instrumental interests in transnational processes (such as appreciating only foreigners at specific clubs) and deeper, thicker variants of cosmopolitanism. At the same time, football will continue to offer the full gamut of particularities in terms of identity: to supporters who claim territorial meanings for their clubs that are either archaic, residual, or dominant in historical terms; to those who, through a blend of migration and mediatization, have rather more deterritorialized and imagined ties to their sides; and to others who, in creating or entering new towns and cities, seek to reterritorialize themselves socially by founding representative teams.

    To these points, we would add that there are three realms which deserve closer inspection in regard to the nexus of globalization processes and football in the twenty-first century. First, the role of gender in shaping the ‘global game’ will become more significant. In this book, we have highlighted in particular women's endeavours to gain full participatory roles inside football, both in historical terms and as part of the making of global civil society. While these struggles continue, more attention may be turned towards women's growing and diverse influences upon the game in economic, political, and cultural terms. In this regard, sociological analyses of the globalization of football would need to extend beyond more general sociologies of global processes, since the latter have tended hitherto to pay relatively little attention to gender issues.

    Second, the sociological fields of race, ethnicity, post-colonialism, and post-imperialism will acquire greater salience in the globalization of football. Here, we have emphasized the relevance of these fields. We envisage that this broad realm may be extended in manifold ways by analysts of football, such as through detailed ethnographies from the ‘Global South’, studies of Asian and African diasporas in the Global North, or the theoretical elaboration of ‘subaltern studies’ in relation to the global game (cf. Chaturvedi 2000).

    Third, the interface between sociological studies of the body and of globalization offers some intriguing opportunities for analysts of football. We have indicated already how cross-cultural tensions and balances – in terms of convergence and divergence, or the ‘duality of glocality’ – are revealed by the way in which different societies come to nurture particular technical skills and to develop specific corporeal interpretations of the game. Future research may yield further findings on how the medicalization of football is manifested transnationally, such as in regard to techniques of treatment or discourses of risk surrounding player injuries. Moreover, we need also to address the possible impacts and influences of prosthetics and the ‘post-human’ condition within football, and to set these emergent analyses within the context of transnational processes (cf. Haraway 1991; Shilling 2008; Turner 2008).

    Finally, we may reflect on how social scientists might approach the study of these and other processes within global fields such as football. What research techniques and analytical strategies are most appropriate for investigating these complex transnational phenomena?

    To answer this methodological question, we return to explore the possibilities of our keyword, glocalization. Here, we seek to echo and to extend Holton's (2005: 191, 2008: 199–200) argument that sociologists should employ ‘methodological glocalism’ when conducting contemporary social research. In our view, methodological glocalism contains two components that underpin the research process. First, glocalization features the ‘duality of glocality’, and thus requires sociologists to recognize and to explore in methodological and ontological terms the possibilities of transnational convergence and divergence among social groups and societies. Second, the multi-scalar aspect of glocalization processes must also be acknowledged within the research process; in other words, researchers need to recognize the interrelations between, as well as the making and remaking of, the local, regional, national, international, and transnational realms.

    Methodological glocalism stands in some contrast to ‘methodological cosmopolitanism’ (Beck and Sznaider 2006; Beck 2007). The latter is explicitly constructed in opposition to what Martins (1974) had long ago termed the principle of ‘methodological nationalism’, to the extent that Beck and his colleagues dismiss the national as a sociological ‘zombie category’. Conversely, methodological glocalism requires us to adopt an open stance towards the possibilities of the national and the nation state, as one of many scalar categories that are consciously constructed and transformed by social actors.

    But ultimately, we insist that what requires full recognition, whether in method or in theory, is the central transnational and sociological status of football itself. If our fellow social scientists are serious about understanding globalization in the twenty-first century, then all of us need to look far more closely at the global cultural form that transfixes and fascinates so many diverse societies and so many millions of the world's citizens.

    126 The model provided here will be outlined more fully as the ‘global football field’ in future work.

    127 We should point out that, while we have used the phrases ‘global game’ or ‘world game’ to designate football, we recognize that in the USA, such terms have long been connected to indigenous sports and to associated events (witness, for example, claims to ‘world’ championships for the final games of the American football or baseball seasons).


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