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“Like Everton, you’re just a small club”: perceptions of greatness in British club football.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date2008
JournalJournal of Qualitative Research in Sports Studies
Journal number1
Volume2
Number of pages14
Pages45-58
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

The early regulatory protocols for organising a football club were established in Britain during the second half of the nineteenth century. Because of their long history, many English clubs founded within this period are considered to be among the most prestigious in the football world. However, longevity of existance versus current competitive status has led many to question how the stature of a club might be gauged. In February 2007 Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez refered to their city rivals Everton as a 'small club' sparking a heated debate which has stirred reactions from the media as well as players, managers and supporters. This paper explores fan perspectives regarding how the status of British clubs might be defined, particularly in the context of what counts as a 'big' or 'great' club. Electonic-fanzine (e-zine) data was gathered from the supporters of ten clubs from five British cities during two consecutive football seasons. Responses were grouped according to historical significance, domestic and international success, fan base, structural strength, global appeal and individuality. Supporters noted that European success built on a legacy of domestic acheivement was the most significant gauge of club stature, with Champion's League victories a pre-requisite for 'greatness'. Domestic trophy tallies were also considered important, although such acheivments were discussed relative to the competitiveness of individual tournaments. Ground size, fan base and distinctiveness were also perceived to be key definers of a club's prominence, as was 'strategic assets' such as playing and managerial staff.