Leeds Beckett University
SundayLeagueFootballAndPotentialForSocialChange-TUCKER.pdf (1.47 MB)

Sunday league football and potential for social change

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posted on 2022-11-15, 11:14 authored by Lee Tucker

This thesis examines the role and importance of football in the lives of players from a Sunday league football club representing a pub in the north-east of England. It considers the extent to which the club provides a context for social change and what influences this. The study employs a predominantly Bourdieusian analysis to consider how various forms of capital are accumulated and operationalised by different individuals within the club to gain status and influence. The thesis also evaluates the researcher’s role(s) within the club, particularly how leadership and social change can be understood as an interdependent dynamic. 

Drawing on a three-year ethnographic study, influenced by the researcher’s role as founder and manager of the club, a deep insider status gave access to all aspects of club life. A research diary was maintained, supported by eight semi-structured interviews with two or three participants in each interview, culminating in 21 people in total. Interviews were conducted to explore players’ and supporters’ views, provided first-hand accounts of which forms of capital are valued within the club and directly informed the analysis of how successful the club was in achieving social change. Further, narratives based on the researcher’s experiences, provide insight into embedded and embodied relationships with football. 

The thesis concludes that football continues to be a significant aspect of habitus for individuals and the community at the centre of this study. Football shapes and influences dispositions, values and lives. In a wider context, the thesis locates football as an opiate, distracting players and supporters from other, potentially counter-hegemonic, activity. Conceptually, bonding social capital is regarded as critical in the sense of belonging created within the club. Embodied cultural capital is critical in influencing behaviour, status and relationships within the club. The thesis introduces football capital as an emergent concept complementary to other forms of capital.

Social change has occurred at the club, helped by adherence to a club Constitution and dialogue with influential members of the club. Data demonstrate that individuals with significant football capital who consciously adopt a sociology of leadership approach can be influential in instigating social change, including challenging dominant dispositions and learned values, with a resulting emphasis on inclusivity and equality and that can be adopted and embodied in a community based football club. It is concluded that the club here, understood as a cultural field, can be regarded as successful at resisting and challenging dominant hegemonies to an extent.


Qualification name

  • PhD


Watson, rebecca ; McKenna, jim

Awarding Institution

Leeds Beckett University

Completion Date


Qualification level

  • Doctoral


  • eng


Leeds Beckett University

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