An overview of research 

The overall objective of the FREE project is to develop a better understanding of football as a highly relevant social and cultural phenomenon in contemporary Europe. In order to achieve this, the project seeks to combine both quantitative and qualitative research methods from different academic disciplines, covering a number of thematic areas.

Historical research: Competitions & Memory

Two research strands look at the history of the Europeanisation of football through competitions and at the construction of football’s collective memory.


Supporters of Europe

They focus on football as producer of national and transnational media events and its symbolic dimensions.

The aim of these research strands is to explore the extent to which European football’s history & memory, through competitions and through media coverage, have created a subcultural communication space which transcends the borders of the European Union (EU). One of the central reserch questions is: ‘to what extent is this supranational communication space characterised by shared interest, mutual curiosity and spontaneous intercultural dialogue rather than ignorance and indifference among juxtaposed national spaces?’

Socio-anthropological research: Feminisation & Identities

Partially drawing, ideally, on the findings brought by the historical studies, two other research strands adopt a socio-anthropological approach. They will look at issues of identity dynamics and perception patterns as they are experienced and expressed through football, with a particular focus on ‘East-West relations’ within Europe. They will also explore gender-specific attitudes and behaviour patterns related to football.

The aim of the first of these two research strands is precisely to study the extent to which football’s strong tradition of discursive gender construction is being challenged today by what could be termed the ‘feminisation’ of football. This ‘feminisation’ finds its causes and expression in the growing number of female fans and increased interest for women’s football. How do women actually participate in the transnational encounters and dialogues – and to what extent do they?

The second socio-anthropological theme seeks to explore the extent to which perception patterns have undergone changes through international football encounters and through increasing mobility of both players and fans. To what extent may this enable individuals to develop a certain reflexive understanding of identity dynamics?

Socio-political research: Public sphere & Governance

Two other research strands have a socio-political agenda. They underpin the work of the other four themes and, in turn, are expected to benefit from their respective findings.

The first socio-political strand will explore the emergence of a European public sphere in football culture, using different survey methods. It will apply the concept of ‘European public sphere’ both to the football subculture and to an exploration of how the discourse of the football community has spilled over into mainstream discourse.

The second socio-political strand will study the concept of  ‘stakeholder empowerment’. It will specifically focus on the perception of football governance and the ‘European Model of Sport.’ To what extent does the football community in Europe really know about the existence of such a ‘model’ and, if it does, actually see a need to preserve it? Which attitudes prevail towards different models of governance and potential supranational regulation in the field of football?