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Labour wants to make England the best place in the world to be a football fan – but there’s much work to do first

مجلة المذنب نت متابعات عالمية:

Labour wants to give football special treatment. It only features on one page of the party’s manifesto so it’s not a priority focus, but it is positive to see the sport considered important enough for an individual mention.

Perhaps this is because football is interwoven with complex layers of national identity and cohesion. It is rooted in the social fabric of British people’s everyday lives, past and present, giving it a strong ability to aid political agendas. But this means trying to reform football could raise complex social issues as well as organisational ones.

Labour is pledging to make England a world-leading place to be a football fan, specifically by focusing on how the sport is governed and giving fans a greater voice. Labour also wants to ensure English football’s financial sustainability with the proposed introduction of a football governance bill to preserve the English football pyramid, its tiered league system.

The pyramid currently faces financial instability due to the considerable wealth gap between the higher and lower clubs. It has been reported that 58% of clubs across the pyramid’s four divisions are now “technically insolvent”.

These are bold pledges but they are sure to connect with many people. Football has long been considered essential for socialisation and provides people with a sense of community and place. Football stadiums are considered to be a form of “home” environments compounding the importance of comfort that the sport brings to many. It also has the power to offer fans a space to belong.

Football can give fans a sense of belonging and community.
Impact Photography/Shutterstock

Football has other benefits, such as encouraging fans to engage with mental health issues. And it is often viewed as integral to forming and sustaining important relationships. More broadly, research shows that football fans are more liberal with how they define “Europe” and as such are important in developing a more encompassing, continental community identity.

But English football fandom is complex. It straddles emotions of both loss and desire while being doused in melancholy sentiment.

Not every football fan (or player) is currently accommodated in the sporting environment. The 2022-23 Kick It Out summary report claims a 65.1% rise in reports of discriminatory behaviour and a staggering 279% increase in reports of online abuse. The same report shows racism as the most frequent form of discrimination but also notes a 400% increase in reports of sexism and misogyny.

More broadly, fans’ views of women’s football paint a mixed picture. Positive changes in attitudes sit alongside findings that show that (mostly) male football fans are resistant to an “agenda” to promote the perceived “inferior” game of women’s football. Football fans’ relationship with violence will also need looking at, with reports of clashes prior to the England men’s 1-0 victory over Serbia on the team’s first match of the 2024 Euros.

My latest book shows that the relationship between gender, sport and society is complex and imbalanced. This is shown by the paradoxical increase in football sexism amid a backdrop of football growth and success for girls and women.

There are other issues to be dealt with, too. The many ways football commands our attention as a theatrical form of entertainment (through mega-event euphoria and all-encompassing match-day experiences) has ramifications for its sustainability, both in terms of the environment and consumption.

In its manifesto, Labour also references the ways that mega events, such as the men’s UEFA European Championships, can create effective legacies. Legacies that they hope will encourage future generations to participate in sport and maintain healthy lifestyles.

Despite its popularity among politicians, “legacy” is a difficult word. That’s because there is no unified way to define, frame or measure it. It will be interesting to see how our next government, whoever that may be, will use and quantify legacy for our society.

Making Britain the best place in the world to be a football fan cannot be achieved in isolation. Britain must first establish itself as world-leading in inclusive and equitable opportunities for sport, ensuring sports for all are resourced, promoted and supported in unison.

Whichever political party wins the next election, it’s clear that sport broadly, and football specifically, has incredible potential to positively lift the nation. To do this successfully, we need a government that is prepared to resource, facilitate and back equitable sporting opportunities for all – and a football environment that is fit to deliver on this.

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