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11 April 2012 | PR 12/65

European study sets out to understand changing face of football

A Loughborough lecturer is to lead a strand of an international research project exploring attitudes and opinions of football supporters to the sport’s governance in Europe.

The project is funded by the European Commission under the 7th Framework Programme for Research and besides Loughborough, the FREE project is a joint collaborative effort of nine universities in six different countries.

Dr Borja García from the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, has been awarded £300,000 as part of the FREE project - Football Research in an Enlarged Europe: Identity dynamics, perception patterns and cultural change in Europe’s most prominent form of popular culture. He will be joined by Loughborough colleague Dr Brett Smith on the study.

Dr García will lead the governance and stakeholder empowerment research strand of the project which aims to better understand supporters’ perceptions of the game, to ultimately inform football policy decisions in Europe.    

Researchers will carry out interviews and surveys with supporters in Europe, focussing on those involved in football governance’s institutional structures such as local supporters clubs and national supporters associations.

The Loughborough research team has designed an innovative methodology, which includes recruiting participant football supporters to do a photo and audio diary of their football experiences.

Dr García explains:

“Sport, and football in particular, is an important part of our European identity. By understanding how supporters engage with existing governance structures, and what they think of them, we hope to develop a picture of the changing face of football in Europe.

“The FREE project is no ivory tower research, and we hope that our findings inform current efforts by governments and governing bodies to improve football governance. It is extremely important that football does not alienate its best asset - the supporters.” 

As part of the project, Loughborough University is to host a conference on Transnational European fandom and stakeholder empowerment in October 2014.

For more information about the FREE project visit www.free-project.eu

−ENDS−

For all media enquiries contact:

Amanda Overend
PR Officer
Loughborough University
T: 01509 223491
E: A.J.Overend@lboro.ac.uk 

Notes for editors:

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It was awarded the coveted Sunday Times University of the Year 2008-09 title, and is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in national newspaper league tables. In the 2011 National Student Survey, Loughborough was voted one of the top universities in the UK, and has topped the Times Higher Education league for the UK’s Best Student Experience every year since the poll's inception in 2006. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, the University has been awarded six Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

Loughborough is also the UK’s premier university for sport. It has perhaps the best integrated sports development environment in the world and is home to some of the country’s leading coaches, sports scientists and support staff. It also has the country’s largest concentration of world-class training facilities across a wide range of sports.

It is a member of the 1994 Group of 19 leading research-intensive universities. The Group was established in 1994 to promote excellence in university research and teaching. Each member undertakes diverse and high-quality research, while ensuring excellent levels of teaching and student experience.

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