You are here

Football and the Global Media

The next panel is on the 2006 Football World Cup - it's a high density panel, so there will be some very short and fast presentations. Cornel Sandvoss notes that more nations partipated in the World Cup qualifiers than are members of the United Nations - clearly this is a highly international, global event which also evokes a good deal of national enthusiasm: even in the normally flag-shy Germany we do see small flags on people's cars at the moment. Behind modern, association football and its formation was the rise of industrialism which turned it from an unregulated village contest to an organised inter-city game, thereby also giving rise to professional football, of course. More recently, there was also the emergence of important international competitions.

Those on the peripheries of international football then follow their local (e.g. U.S.-born) players in their international clubs; those at the centres do similarly by following the various national teams that their local club's players may belong to. While some globalisation scholars have argued that globalisation and the weakening of the nation state are unconnected, Cornel argues against this view: football fans often cheer less for their national squad and more for the players in their local team wherever they play; similarly, citizens now identify less with their national culture than with other more locally or globally rooted phenomena.

Stand Up, Speak Up?

The next paper focusses on football's increasing push against racism: there is increasing cultural diversity in football, as the current World Cup demonstrates, and there is a shift from a focus on combatting hooliganism to promoting wider social inclusion. The solution seen here is a change in the culture of football itself - including relations between players, clubs, and authorities. Can a corporate campaign like Nike's 'Stand Up, Speak Up' offer a solution here?

The campaign donates some funds from the sale of wristbands to anti-racism campaigns, and otherwise aims to galvanise the quiet, non-racist majority into active engagement. It is disputable whether this worked, though - the study did not find a demonstrable change in attitudes; the campaign locks into a commonsense discourse on racism by which people already find themselves to be part of the silent majority, while racists are seen as hooligans. At the same time, some 5 million wristbands were sold, and so the anti-racist ideals were connected with consumption identities.

Commercialising Football

Lothar Mikos is up next; he argues that the professionalisation of football needs to be considered. At the same time, there is also a commercialisation of football, where sponsorship and advertising is ever more important. Further, access to sports events is increasingly gained via television, adding a further tendency towards mediatisation. Sporting goods manufacturers operate across the advertising and media markets, and there is great competition especially between Nike and Adidas, following Nike's massive entry into the football market for the 1994 World Cup in the U.S.

The entry of such players has also turned key football players like David Beckham into major celebrities. This is driven in part also by the massive advertising on iconic pop culture channels such as MTV. Even the movement of such key players between clubs may be driven in part by the contracts which are attached to them.

Dissing the Opponent Nation

Eggo Müller is the next speaker, studying the 'dissing' of opposing nations using the example of recent communication between Dutch and German fans. Dissing sites on the Internet create a mediated intercultural space where cultural differences are playfully acted out, while at the same time presuming a common communicative ground between both nations. Such sites act as if in a contest to perform creative skills at dissing one another, resembling the competing chants in the stadium. Such dissing sites may play on national stereotypes both of the dissed and of the dissing nation; the stereotypes are part of the game of dissing the other nation. This demonstrates the transformation of the ways mediated football constructs national identity, and of the role of the Internet in this context.

Stereotyping the U.S. Football Team

Todd Fraley and Daniel Buffington are next, continuing on with the stereotype topic and reconnecting it with the centre/periphery question. Their focus is on 2002 U.S. press coverage of the Football World Cup, which was compared with coverage elsewhere. Notably, in the U.S. coverage there was a great focus on individual players and coaches (some 31% of U.S. articles focussed on them, as compared to 2% in the international press). There was also a great deal of racial marking, where black players were seen more as powerful and white players more as mentally strong. U.S. teamwork was also stressed (as compared to Latin American individualism), and this also extended to a depiction of the U.S. site as combining Latin American skill and flavour with European strategy. Further, the industrial development of Asian nations was linked with their emergence on the football field (also stressing the frequent importing of European coaches to such teams).

Women's Football Coverage

Lindsey Mean now focusses on the Women's World Cup in 1999, studying the role of sport as a foundational discourse in our understanding of the world. Football is perhaps the primary sport to which this is connected, and a key site for masculine identity development - leading to a mass exclusion of women in male-dominated societies. Such practices frame football in particular ways - it is seen as an intrinsically innocent discourse which is taken as natural and unquestioned. The U.S. situation is markedly different, though - here, football is both an immigrants' and a women's sport, which makes it occupy a space in opposition to 'real', U.S.-specific sports. (Stereotypes here also claim that the most common result in football is a draw, and that football is therefore boring.) The successful U.S. women's football team is seen positively as a highly skilled team - and yet the domestic U.S. league has persistently struggled with poor business administration as the commercial side of the league is not taken seriously. More generally, too, women's football is construed in many countries as 'comedy football', and goal celebrations are likened to striptease.

Football as a Foreign Sport?

Michael Koch continues the U.S. theme - he notes that interest in football has developed considerably in recent times, even if it is not a large-scale phenomenon as yet. American youth may play football, but they do not necessarily follow it - this may be related most of all to the status of football as a 'foreign' sport that did not originate from the U.S. itself. The status of football then becomes a sign of the United States' overall disconnection from the rest of the world, perhaps. But postmodernisation with its attendant trend of corporatisation (and much of U.S. football is owned and/or run by major sports clothing corporations) might carry some signs of change here: there have been some very large sponsorship arrangements between Nike, Adidas and Major League Soccer and the U.S. national team, and there must be a reason why such major investment is happening. U.S. football is today portrayed in advertising as predominantly male, multi-racial, multi-ethnic, and urban -this now portrays football as quintessentially American.

Japanese Football Nationalisms

Todd Holden now shifts focus to Japan. The process leading up to the cup was a very nationwide process in Japan, with four and a half forms of nationalism being expressed mainly through high levels of TV consumption: political, social, historical, cultural, and economic. Such nationalisms are reproductive. Political nationalism occurred through Japan's beating China in China in the qualifiers, which caused riots of Chinese fans, and through Japan's game against North Korea; cultural nationalism created a 'national we' by focussing on depictions of the team; social nationalism centred around the replacement of a star player with a relatively unknown player, which led to a protracted process of presenting the new player, his family and background, to the nation; economic nationalism is about the marketing of 'Samurai Blue' beer by Kirin Beer; historic nationalism deals with the re-presentation of Japan's historic failures in football before each match as a way of drawing historical connections.

Taiwanese Interest in the World Cup

Yupei Chang now presents the Taiwanese case - while football is certainly not a mainstream sport in Taiwan, there was nonetheless a great deal of reportage about the 2002 World Cup. Yupei perfomed a content analysis of the three main Taiwanese newspapers, finding an average of 2.5 full pages of reports each day between 30 May and 1 July 2002. This can be explained in part by the location of the World Cup in Japan and Korea. It is also interesting to note that the fan population is largely male, with good education and social and economic status. Further, the World Cup can be seen as a world event, of course, and therefore shows the pressures of globalisation (or for global participation), as well as the potential for manifesting national ability, both of which factors are important to Taiwan.

The Comedy of the World Cup

Thomas Horky is the final presenter, on the Football World Cup as comedy. There were around 12,000 accredited journalists in 2002 in Japan/Korea. There are a variety of aspects here, especially the rising consumption of actuality which leads to the showing of relatively inane content (such as team buses arriving); the increased competition between outlets (in which non-rightsholders must make do without actual footage and increase the follow-up communication forms such as commentary). One such form of non-rightsholder content is increasingly also an orientation towards comedy and entertainment; as a result, a new programming area of mediasport as a staging of the event is created.

Some futures for mediasport are therefore the emergence of new topics, increasing coverage, and an invitation to a common celebration of sport; mediasport as a social experience where audiences are invited to take place in the follow-up communication events (such as televised expert commentary shows); and a differentiation of the program area of mediasport, where emotion and entertainment take the place of sportive tension and surprise. Mediasport becomes a multi-faceted mediasport entertainment system.

Technorati : , , , , , , , , : , , , , , , , ,