The safe standing movement in English football (1989-2019)
: Timescapes, tactics and networks

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Abstract

Twenty eight years after the Taylor report into the Hillsborough stadium disaster recommended that all Premier League and Championship football grounds in England and Wales should become all-seated, the UK Government Sports Minister Tracey Crouch, in June 2018, announced a government review into the safety of modern standing areas and whether new developments in stadium safety and spectator accommodation, might justify changing the current all-seating legislation to permit Safe Standing. In October 2019, the review concluded that their remains significant scope for further research to build an evidence base to trial different standing areas, alongside monitoring clubs taking different approaches to the management of standing. These recent events are the outcome of a thirty-year social movement in which a critical mass of football supporters, through the networks they formed, have built relational collective action across the neoliberal timescape of English football from 1989-2019. This thesis presents a social movement analysis of Safe Standing and in doing, produces a largely untold thirty year social history of English football supporter activism. To achieve this, it applies a relational sociology approach (Crossley, 2011; 2015) to capture the importance of football supporter networks, relationships and interactions which built this social movement across different temporal periods, or what Gillan (2018) refers to as multiple timescales. It offers an original contribution to knowledge of football supporter social movements through a rich micro-level analysis of the most important issue which fans collectively coalesce around, and the legacy of the worst sporting disaster in the UK, which has dominated public consciousness for thirty years. And as a social movement, I argue Safe Standing is one of the most important recent development in the game, because it evidences how supporters, who have been deeply affected by the all-seating legislation, are now in a position to affect the future consumption of English football. My analysis showed how this was achieved, and argued that a small core network of approximately 30 supporters, to which I gained insider access, stand to potentially impact and shape the consumption habits of a leisure practice all over the world. In doing so, the thesis represents the most comprehensive study ever conducted on the 30 year movement against the all-seating legislation and offers an important social history which informed both the focus of the government review and its primary conclusions.
Date of AwardOct 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Solent University

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