Football is perhaps the last spectacle which is able to create an open and intense social relationship. Nobody is forced to come to the stadium. Nobody is made to sing." Eric Cantona.
This quotation, used by the author, in many ways encapsulates the heart of this book - the nature of the relationship between football and supporters. Steve Redhead's most recent text is timely. Football is big business and the numbers of books being published on the sport are beginning to rival the output of cricket and boxing titles. Football's own literati (amusingly termed its "soccerati") were kickstarted by a number of events, including Italia '90 and specifically Gazza's tears. More recently the mood has shifted from a celebration over the reclamation of the game from the disasters of Heysel/Hillsborough/Bradford and hooliganism to analysis of the Premier League. There is a distinct tendency with much football writing to categorise all league football as enjoying common characteristics, though lower parts of the Nationwide League clearly operate within very different parameters.
Redhead's analysis clearly addresses the upper echelons of the game, arguably the league within the Premier League, and he has managed to maintain his interest in this group despite the plunge in fortunes of his beloved Manchester City.
It is the new symptoms of fandom that provide the backdrop for Redhead's text and develop arguments first raised in Sing When You're Winning (1987) and "remixed" in Football with Attitude (1990). Chapters range from an analysis of Italia '90 and the hooligan issue to the shifts that have occurred within what might be termed "cultures of fandom", crystallised in the varied responses to a number of issues that affected football. These range from the creation of football fanzines, the increasing "musicalisation" of football and the rise of the highbrow soccerati.
In keeping with Redhead's title of professor of law and popular culture, the book also deals with the relationship between the two. In recent years this relationship has become more marked with a number of laws being passed with the aim of regulating areas as diverse as ravers/recreational drug users/musicians etc. Football has not escaped such intervention and indeed is perhaps a prime target. Redhead argues that law has "disappeared" into popular culture and that his book charts "the disappearance of soccer hooliganism into popular fan and media culture". Whether this is in fact the case is open to debate but Redhead has undoubtedly provided a useful point from which to begin to survey the state of football within the wider sphere of popular culture at the beginning of the next millennium.
Steve Greenfield and Guy Osborn are at the Centre for the Study of Law, Society and Popular Culture, University of Westminster.
Post-Fandom and the Millennium Blues: The Transformation of Soccer Culture
Author - Steve Redhead
ISBN - 0 415 115 2 and 11528 0
Publisher - Routledge
Price - £45.00 and £14.99
Pages - 160