University to host exhibition and conference on football fans’ views of the beautiful game

An exhibition that celebrates the passions and emotions of football fans across Europe is being held at Loughborough University this week.

‘Whose game is it? Football through the fans’ eyes’ is being held on campus on 24-25 October to coincide with a conference exploring supporter activism in the sport.

The events are being organised by the FREE Project (Football Research in an Enlarged Europe) of which Loughborough University is a member.

The exhibition comprises images, quotes and video footage produced by supporters from five European countries - UK, Turkey, Austria, Poland and Spain – that are participating in FREE research projects.

Dr Borja Garcia from the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences has organised the event and will be sharing research findings on supporter engagement, indicating that supporters in the UK broadly support recent proposals put forward by the Labour Party to give football fans a greater role in club ownership and governance.

Dr Borja Garcia, Lecturer in Sport Management and Policy, explains:

“This exhibition and conference demonstrates that football has a positive impact in the physical and mental well-being of the fans, and this is often overlooked by those who dismiss the game as just another leisure activity.

“In our project we want to empower the fans, who told us through the research that they are not listened to by their clubs or the football authorities. This event ensures that we give them a voice.

“If plans along the lines of the Labour Party proposals were ever implemented supporters would have an opportunity to get involved in how their club is run. It is clear from our research that supporters would like to feel more connected to their clubs.”

A number of football-based organisations will be in attendance at the conference to discuss supporter engagement - with their clubs and also the governance of the sport - that has become a subject of academic attention.

Ben Shave, Development Officer of Supporters Direct Europe, said:

“It's always great to see events shine a light on some of the work being done across Europe and beyond by supporters, with the aim of making football a better place for everyone.

“We're happy to be part of the conference, and to have the chance to discuss how we help the supporters undertaking this work. It's important for us to support initiatives like the FREE project, as it provides further spotlight on the positive role supporters can play in football.”

After the conference the exhibition will move onto the National Football Museum in Manchester. Representatives from the Museum are providing expertise to set up the exhibition on campus.

Kevin Moore, Director of the National Football Museum, said:

“We are delighted to be supporting this unique exhibition that tells the stories of football fans from across Europe.

“We hope that the local community takes the opportunity to view it and look forward to exhibiting the collection at the National Football Museum in the New Year.”

The exhibition is open to the general public during 24-25 October and is being held in the Wye Room at Burleigh Court, the four star conference centre and hotel situated on campus.

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