Football in Europe

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Hallgeir Gammelsæter
Molde University College, Molde, Norway



Wolfram Manzenreiter & Georg Spitaler
 (red)
Governance, Citizenship and the New European Football Championship: The European Spectacle
202 sidor, inb.
Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge 2011 (Sport in the Global Society – Contemporary Perspectives)
ISBN 978-0-415-55106-9


Reviewing Governance, Citizenship and the New European Football Championship is practically speaking reviewing the special issue of Soccer and Society, vol. 11, issue 6, 2010. Since journal issues, even special issues, are not normally reviewed, the question arises: why is a special issue compilation of papers recycled and published in hardback? Is it because the content deserves being re-packaged and marketed to reach audiences that do not normally read academic journals? Or is it because the papers congregate particularly well around a common theme so that they deserve a special place in our bookshelves? Or is it simply because the publisher tries to sell the same product twice, in particular to university libraries, and to attract special attention through being, for instance, reviewed?

After having studied Governance, Citizenship and the New European Football Championship. The European Spectacle, I’m inclined to conclude that the answer is “yes” to the third question and no two the previous ones. The language of the book is clearly academic and at times, including the introductory chapter, difficult to access. It is obviously an advantage to be an insider to subjects of sociology, cultural anthropology or political economy to access the themes treated in the book, and there are no signs that the book is adjusted to meet any new readership. Most people that will find this book interesting reading will also be able to access the journal itself. Except for the index and an almost disguised page, a sort of intro or foreword that precedes the content list (yet absent in the listing!), the book is nothing but the special issue in hardback.

Now, there is of course the possibility that the book provides a particularly fine selection of papers which all shed light on a precisely framed issue or research topic. Sorry. While leaving the quality of the individual papers aside, it is in fact difficult to see that all the 15 chapters (which are in fact not numbered) contribute to explicating a common theme or sub-themes. The contributions are presented seemingly without any overall structural considerations and it is difficult to discover any meaning in the sequence in which they are presented. The absence of a final chapter in which the editors bring together the contributions to show how they coalesce around a common theme only underlines the impression that the book lacks cohesion and a concerted effort.

The theme that comes closest to occupying the focal point of the book is perhaps Europeanization seen through football (is football being Europeanized from above, or is football itself (part of) a governance structure or vehicle through which a new European identity is being created). However, in many of the chapters this theme is overshadowed by other themes, or it is simply difficult to see the relationship between what is treated in the articles and the overall key question presented as “what kind of Europe was represented in the cultural, political and economic manifestations of the 2008 EUROs” (page unnumbered). And the index confirms my suspicion that the keywords used in the title (citizenship, governance, and spectacle) are hardly used outside the Introduction. I am not sure how chapters on the urban dimension of large scale football tournaments (chpt 3.); the influence of EURO 2008 on Switzerland’s placement in Europe (chpt 5); the mobilization around prostitution and trafficking in Austria during EURO 2008 (chpt 10); comparing the economic forecasts of EURO 2008 with the appreciations after the event (chpt 12); and, the narratives produced by the UEFA Under-17 Championship (chpt 14), reveal a European dimension more than any other event that takes place in Europe. The lack of internal cohesion in the book is in fact reflected in the editors’ introduction in which most of the contributions are referred only in passing with the bulk of the introductory text being based on authors that are not represented in the book. One is left with the impression that the book is built on any available contribution slightly related to the event of the EURO 2008 rather than around any clearly defined research question or theme.

It should be emphasized that the critique so far is not directed towards the individual contributions in the anthology but towards the compilation itself, which is weakly edited and as such exemplifies the limits or dangers of the genre. The publisher has established a series of book publications called ”Sport in the Global Society – Contemporary Perspectives” which issues books often based on special journal issues of Sport in Society or Soccer and Society.Governance, Citizenship and the New European Football Championship is included in this series, which now comprises an impressive list of titles (printed in the book). I assume the publisher has a proper reason for hard covering special issues but based on the anthology reviewed here my recommendation is to go to the journal issue (available on-line) to check titles and download the ones you find interesting rather than buying a poorly edited book.

Rounding up in a more positive tone, the special issue on ”Governance, Citizenship and the New European Football Championship”, along with many of the other special issues in the mentioned journals, should be credited for exposing a broader selection of researchers than is usually seen in scholarly sports journals. It is noteworthy that most of the authors in this issue represent German and Austrian universities (however, this is all we are told about the authors – a brief author presentation is also missing) and therefore also a Central-European voice on issues of Europeanization, football’s governance and the diverse meanings of mega events. Besides the mentioned chapters the issue presents read worthy articles on the legacy, history, development, and success of the European championship (chpts 2 and 14); the meaning and function of fan-zones (chpt 4); the effects of the European transition on Austrian football (chpt 6); the inclusion-exclusion dynamics of the UEFA’s tournaments (chpt 7); the identities emerging through German and British press coverage of the EURO 2008 (chpt 8); gender and the carnivalization of the football event (chpt 9); UEFA’s approach to anti-racism (chpt 11); and the governance of European football in the wake of the financial credit crunch (chpt 15).

 

 

 

 

© Hallgeir Gammelsæter 2012.



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