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Identity in football fans

Within this essay report an attempt will be made to examine the data gathered from a primary research project. The primary research project in question is on an aspect of group identity and will be focusing of football fans. The aspect of group identity used for the research will be social identity theory and the research will focus on the collective identity that football fans appear to have when they are attending a football match.

This report will be structured in a typical report style and will begin with an introduction to the topics of social identity theory and football fans.

A brief history will be explained of both so that the reader can have an understanding of the topics chosen. Following that this report will give a brief review of the literature chosen for this study.

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During the literature review an attempt will be made to identify the main theoretical bases for this study.

It will also take a critical stance when reviewing this literature chosen for this study. Following the literature view, this report will focus on the methods used for this research; it will examine the method used to obtain the data and also the instruments used. Following the method this report will then focus on the data received. It will examine the data and relate the data back to social identity theory. During this stage it will also be critical in the reviewing the data.

It will then move on to discussing the data in more detail, what the data means, how the data can be linked to theory and the criticisms that can be used against the data.

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The report will then conclude by summarizing what the data means, and what has information has been learned from this report. It will then be followed by references and the appendices which will contain a copy of the questionnaire used as well as literature used for the literature review and a set of tables and charts with the data on it.

Social identity theory is a theory that was created by Henri Tajfel and John Turner in the 1970s and 80s, and is there most influential work in psychology. The basic idea of social identity itself is a self-perceived notion of who there are based on their membership to certain social groups. With that being said that idea creates the base from which Social Identity Theory forms. Social identity theory is best described as primarily a theory that predicts certain intergroup behaviours on the basis of the perceived status, legitimacy and permeability of the intergroup environment. According to Tajfel individuals gain self-esteem by their group membership and this is a sense of pride to them. Social identity theory states that people are driven and behave in certain ways by both their interpersonal and intergroup circumstances.

One of the main features of the social identity theory is that individuals are driven by a need for a positive self-concept. This is achieved by the group membership. It is achieved by promoting the status of the current group the individual belongs too (Hayes N). For example saying Chelsea is the best football team and raising their status may be done by a Chelsea football player or even a fan in order to increase an individual’s own self-image. As stated self-image increases based on the group status, this is done though promoting the group an individual belongs to but is also done by criticizing, devaluing and discriminating against other groups in which an individual does not belong. For example if an individual says “England is the best country in the world, countries like France suck” that individual is promoting his group while devaluing the other group.

Social identity defined this as the in group out group relationship. According to Turner and Tajfel the act of determining whether a group is the in-class or the out-class takes three steps. The first is social-categorisation. This is where an individual categorizes objects in order to understand them and identify them. In a very similar way an individual categorizes people in order to understand the social environment.

Social categories are used with people too for example categories like black, white, English, Christian, Muslim, student are all used. Using these category’s helps people learn more about others but it also helps people learn more about themselves. We define appropriate behaviour by reference to the norms of groups we belong to, but that can only be achieved if an individual can tell who belongs to which group. The second part is self-identification. This is where an individual adopts the value’s beliefs and the behaviours of the group that they have that they categorise themselves with. This is where an individual’s self-esteem begins to become reliant on the status of the group. The final part is social comparison where groups compete and compare with other groups (Burke P).

This research is focused on the identities of fans of football. Football fans are renowned for their loyalty that they give the team that they support. The majority of fans will have two football teams they follow and support; their local team and their national side. There is great rivalries between certain football teams and their fans as this can get emotional about the rivalries. As said in a previous paragraph this can be due group competing for status.

Football teams have certain uniforms (kits) that they have to wear on the pitch the most famous on this is the football shirt. Fans are encouraged to purchase replicas of these t shirts and the majority of them wear them when at the stadium. This could promote some kind of group identity as everyone is wearing a uniform which distinguish themselves as part of the also shows that they will have shared values beliefs etc. as they are part of the same group.

Literature Review

For the information reviewed it has consisted on theories and research and in particular a past studies which indicated interesting results. The first study was undertaken by a S. Wolfson of Northumbria University in which he attempts to analyse the social mobility and team allegiance in highly identified football fans. He began his research from a social identity theory standpoint and undertook an online research in which he 256 participants to partake through questionnaires and message boards.

His finding show that the results suggested that fans with high group identification rated fans who changed team allegiance significantly less trustworthy and reasonable, and more self-centred, than fans who were lower in group identity. Fans with high group identification also rated their partner, children, career and money significantly less important, whilst their football team was rated significantly more important (

For the second piece of literature, the one that was used was a study on the Greek Football Fans and their national identity after a defeat. This study used an internet survey shortly before and after the match using questionnaires. This survey included 52 participants and the results showed that the main finding was that, despite expressing disappointment about the team’s failure to replicate the result which had occurred four years earlier, fans rated their national identity high. Of those who completed both questionnaires, national identity remained stable from before to after the competition (

Cite this page

Identity in football fans. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

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