Globalization and Football

October 15, 2009

Richard Giulianotti, arguably the most prolific academic writer on football over the past 15 years, and Roland Robertson, one of the most prominent figures in the scientific analysis of globalisation, have joined forces to write an account of what has often been referred to as the "world game".

Offering an overview of the interrelationships between key globalisation processes and football, this text makes a valuable contribution to the growing number of works on sport and globalisation. Expanding on their earlier collaborative research undertaken while colleagues at the University of Aberdeen, in Globalization and Football Giulianotti and Robertson clearly outline their intention to locate the core concepts and diverse debates of globalisation studies within the specific research field of association football.

Through interrogating the conceptual and methodological aspects of global studies with an analysis of football in a world context, the authors use a range of examples from across the continents to highlight the cultural complexities of the sport.

Taking Robertson's six-phase schema of globalisation as their starting point, they clearly outline some of the key developments in the sport. Much of this was previously outlined in Giulianotti's influential account Football: A Sociology of the Global Game (1999), although the present study also considers the sixth phase of globalisation in a post-9/11 world.

This thought-provoking text offers illuminating insights into the relationships between different places that highlight many of the key transnational aspects of contemporary football. While the concept of globalisation itself may not be as new as is often suggested, there is little doubt that the process has intensified markedly. With reference to English football, socio-historical analysis by Patrick McGovern (in the 2002 study "Globalization or internationalization? Foreign footballers in the English league, 1946-1995") cogently argued that the movement of players into the English league was more reflective of internationalisation than globalisation, and clearly highlighted the movement of athletes across regional lines rather than global ones.

In the seven years since that work was published, however, there have been significant changes to the game, including a marked increase in the number of non-English coaches and football club owners in the domestic sphere. There were 11 "foreign" players during the first season of the English Premier League, but 15 years on there were more than 300 players from more than 60 countries contracted to Premiership clubs. The transnational circulation of players will continue to increase as the sport becomes ever more global.

The conceptual and theoretical underpinnings of Globalization and Football are made clear in its prologue, where an acknowledgement of the authors' own backgrounds and positioning is provided in setting the scene for the subsequent analysis. This locating of authorship is crucial given the very nature of the central concept, and continued debates over its uses and abuses. Each of the five substantive chapters focuses on an aspect of globalisation, encompassing history, culture, economics, politics and the social. Every chapter includes detailed examples of football in a variety of cultural contexts, highlighting the interplay of local and global forces on the shaping and reshaping of the game.

Each theoretical perspective introduced is substantiated by numerous examples from the football world, so the reader is clear that the authors have a real understanding of the game: discussions of playing styles and hooliganism are notable examples here. The language used makes this a more suitable text for researchers and postgraduate students than an undergraduate readership, and will surely provide impetus for further discussions and debates on a popular subject across the globe.

Globalization and Football

By Richard Giulianotti and Roland Robertson. SAGE Publications. 216pp, £65.00 and £22.99. ISBN 97814129215 and 1282. Published 17 June 2009

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