Document Type

Theses, Masters

Master Thesis

Master thesis


Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence

Publication Details

Thesis submitted for the award of Master of Philosophy (M.Phil) to the Technological University Dublin, 2008.


research is to explore social life and interaction in sporting space. Despite the growing interest in the field of sport consumption, the experiences of supporters have not been adequately theorised. Studies acknowledging the sport supporter tend to focus supporters as lone individuals or as rigid groups of homogenous individuals that fit into a typology. In this study, I examine the distinct ways in which supporters in small groups interact in the sporting space through mutual relationships and interdependent social networks. Maffesoli (1996) is the original proponent in the study of tribal consumption groups. Maffesoli’s (1996) work has not been used as a theoretical framework for studying sport before. However, from a critical review of Maffesoli’s (1996) theory and an examination of consumer research literature it is evident that his theory contains several threads which provide a contribution to our understanding of how people interact socially in sporting space. The research utilises an ethnographic methodology, comprising of both fieldwork and interviews. The research detected numerous sub-tribes within a football crowd united by certain styles of support. However, the study also found that social structures, such as family and friendship groups, play a role in facilitating interactions at football games. Groups based on strong ties, such as familial relations and main friendship groups, were termed supporter clans. Irish football provides an arena for the maintenance of deep social ties with friends and family while also providing the potential for temporary and spontaneous interactions with others who share a common passion for the consumption object. The various groups within the general tribe were found to negotiate their identity through aligning themselves with similar people and distancing themselves from groups that were perceived to be different. The research also revealed that the level of interaction between different groups, both sub-tribes and supporter clans, is related to proximity, regular contact and perceptions of similarity. This study adds to the body of sport marketing literature through revealing the diversity of consumer communities within football. It also provides insight regarding the discrete practices that supporters draw on to interact. In addition, the study has added to tribal theory through demonstrating Maffesoli’s theoretical underpinnings in an empirical setting.




Document Type

Master thesis