An ethnography of English football fans

Cans, cops and carnivals

By Geoff Pearson

An ethnography of English football fans


  • Hardcover

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-9540-5
  • Pages: 224
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £15.99
  • Published Date: July 2014
  • BIC Category: SPORTS & RECREATION / Soccer, HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / Cultural, Sociology, Social & cultural anthropology, Anthropology, Lifestyle, sport & leisure / Football (Soccer, Association football), Society & social sciences / Physical anthropology
  • Series: New Ethnographies


This book, available in paperback due to popular demand, is an ethnographic account of English football fans, based upon sixteen years' participant observation. The author identifies a distinct sub-culture of supporter - the 'carnival fan' - who dominated the travelling support of the three teams observed - Manchester United, Blackpool and the England national team. This accessible account follows these groups at home and abroad, describing their interpretations, motivations and behaviour and challenging a number of the myths about 'hooliganism' and crowd control.

The text will be of value to anyone studying, researching or interested in ethnographic modes of enquiry or the behaviour of football fans. In particular it will be of value to anyone involved in the academic disciplines of policing, criminal justice, sociology, criminology, sports studies and research methods. It also makes recommendations for the management of football crowds that will be of use to practitioners involved in policing, crowd control and event management.


"...Pearson has provided us with a much needed fresh perspective on football fan research. It should become a leading text in the field. There are three excellent participation observation studies presented here, all conducted by the author, from a period of fifteen years of fieldwork."

"The book is outstanding."

"It is a subtle, engaging account of the interaction of fans who sometimes become involved in what the media call 'football hooliganism'..."

"... we should be eternally grateful that Geoff Pearson did the hard yards and embedded himself within these fan groups for so long and produced such an accessible, thoughtful and innovative book."

An ethnography of English football fans is an extremely thorough ethnography of football fans, describing their motivations and behaviour. It will be of great importance to anyone interested in the behaviour of football fans and in management of football crowds.


1. Introduction
2. Ethnography: theory, method and practice
3. The football carnival
4. Identity and expression
5. Fans or hooligans?
6. Authority and social control
7. Alcohol and the effectiveness of alcohol controls
8. Attitudes to gender, sexuality, race and disability
9. The impact of technology
10. Conclusions


Geoff Pearson is Lecturer in Law at the University of Liverpool's Management School

An ethnography of English football fans

By Geoff Pearson

Paperback £15.99 / $23.95

Hardcover £80.00 / $120.00

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