Monday, 2 October 2017

Soccer Mad Boffins USA - UK Summer Tour 2017: Highlights

Another summer and another maelstrom of exciting conference and guest lecture activity, taking in both sides of the Atlantic (and one side of the Pacific, too....see below).  Here are the highlights.



The summer tour began in July, on 'home' turf at a University of York open day.  Visitors were treated to an informative display about our research.  We also gave out free postcards featuring the Soccer Mad Boffins logo, and some awesome glossy mini-brochures detailing the key facts and findings from our research of the 1966 FIFA World Cup.  There was even a display copy of 'Foundations of Managing Sporting Events', courtesy of our publisher Routledge, for people to browse.





Later that month, Dr Kevin D. Tennent attended the world's most significant and strategically important business/management/ administration academic event, Academy of Management (AoM) Annual Conference, held this year in Atlanta, Georgia in the USA.  Yet more thanks to our publisher Routledge, 'Foundations of Managing Sporting Events' was again available for inspection, taking pride of place amongst flagship titles on their display.



September was notable for two significant Soccer Mad Boffins appearances. At the beginning of the month, we both attended the UK's most significant and strategically important business/management/administration studies academic event, the British Academy of Management's (BAM) Annual Conference, which was this year hosted by University of Warwick.  

This year was particularly eventful for us because it was the inaugural year of the Business & Management Special Interest Group (SIG), for which we are both founding members of the committee.  Holding the first AGM was a big moment for us and testament to all of the hard work that Kevin in particular has put into building up the profile of business and management history at BAM over the years.  We were also able to attend the SIG Chair's meeting and it puts us in an influential place to champion history amongst the business/management/administration research community.

Of course as well as hosting and attending meetings and chairing sessions, we also presented our own research - this year a working paper that we have written about the historic and contemporary contribution of referees to soccer's governing institutions.  We hope to have more news about this exciting stream of research soon.




To cap-off such a productive summer we had the great honor of being invited by one of the world's leading experts, Professor Ray Levitt, to present to Stanford University's Center for Global Projects our research on the FIFA World Cup 1966.  This was undertaken as a webinar: We used internet technology to broadcast our presentation from Soccer Mad Boffin Headquarters in The University of York, on the East side of England in the UK, to Stanford University in California, on the West Coast of the USA.  

There was an 8 hour time zone gap between GMT (UK time) and Pacific Time (California) meaning that whilst the audience enjoyed an early afternoon lecture with the California sunshine outside, we were by contrast working at night with the rain lashing down on our windows. Perhaps next time we will take the airplane and appear 'in person'!

We thoroughly enjoyed the experience of presenting to Stanford's academics and graduate and postgraduate students who attended, and particularly the Q&A which followed our presentation. We hope to do it again soon!

The paper that we presented has already been accepted for publication in a forthcoming Special Issue of the Project Management Journal (TM) and we will of course provide more details about the publication date when we have them.




Thursday, 24 August 2017

Spotlight on: Professor Jim Walvin

It has been around a year since our book 'Foundations of Managing Sporting Events: Organising the 1966 FIFA World Cup' was published by Routledge.  We are still really proud of the book and the response it has been getting.

Equally, we were delighted that the book received its foreword from none other than James Walvin, Professor of History Emeritus at University of York, and himself an author and editor of over thirty books including some of the seminal works on association football.

We thought it would be interesting to mark the anniversary of 'Foundations of Managing Sporting Events...' 1st birthday by turning the spotlight on Professor Walvin and his work which has informed our own writing.

Professor Jim Walvin outside the King's Manor Building, University of York


Professor Walvin is a life-long supporter of Manchester United.  His dedication to the club can be traced back to the 1940s, a long time before the 'prawn sandwich brigade' took up their executive boxes at Old Trafford. In fact, Jim's match-day snack of choice is the classic "a cup of Bovril" and the first 'home' match that he attended, in 1948, wasn't even at Old Trafford, due to the stadium and pitch having been damaged by German bombs a few years earlier during World War II.  Instead, whilst Old Trafford awaited the completion of its repairs, the Red Devils ground-shared Manchester City’s Maine Road stadium, and it was here that young Jim stood behind City 'keeper Frank Swift's goal: "He was a giant of a man who picked the ball up with one hand. I remember there were huge crowds on the terraces back then, and coming from the pitch was a strong smell of liniment  - an oil that the players used to relieve muscle strains and pains."   

Frank Swift, Manchester City & England's goalkeeper

However, Jim's first footballing memory can be traced to a few months earlier, when he listened with his father to the radio broadcast of the 1948 FA cup final. United beat a strong Blackpool team featuring the two prolific ‘Stans’ (Mathews and Mortensen) 4-2.  The memory is particularly notable for James because it was the first game that he ever listened to on the radio with his dad, who by half time was noticeably agitated by the score (Blackpool were leading 2-1). The vivid memory came in useful to Prof Walvin at a conference decades later, when a delegate who happened to be a Wolverhampton Wanderers supporter decided to test the extent of his knowledge and support for Manchester Utd by asking a question that he thought he might not be able to answer: the score line of the 1948 FA Cup Final! To the delegates astonishment Jim replied correctly and also recounted the half-time score and the names of the goal scorers!

Two other games were though even more memorable for him, in his words, "for very different reasons".  The first fixture after the Munich air disaster was "an absurdly emotional occasion.   We beat Sheffield Wednesday 3-0 at old Trafford, in front of an enormous crowd" whilst the 1968 European Cup Final at which United beat Benfica at Wembley is another favourite moment.

Over the years, James witnessed some truly great soccer matches and some of its most esteemed players including the Manchester United greats Duncan Edwards and George Best who he names alongside Pele as all-time his favourite players.

It was during his youth then that football fever first took hold and together with his naturally studious nature the foundations were laid for a future research direction. "Needless to say, my favourite stadium is Old Trafford. It was a regular haunt for me as a schoolboy. I'd spend a morning in the library, and then take the train to Old Trafford, then go back to the library for the evening. Little swot!"

Historical photo of Manchester United's Old Trafford Stadium 

Pursuing a career as a historian, James began his first book, which was not about football, fifty years ago (1967) a task that took three years to complete and publish. His first book on football, 'The Peoples Game - The Social History of British Football' came a few years later and started out as historian of late 18th century working class life: Whilst in Jamaica in 1974 he read CER James' book on cricket and thought it would be interesting to write something similar on football for the simple reason there was "not much available academically about football and English society".


Published in 1975 'The Peoples Game…' was well received and is arguably an important starting point or catalyst for the plethora of work on football and society that began to appear soon after.  However, despite the books success and influence it was not until the mid-1980s that Prof Walvin began his next book on football. 'Football & the Decline of Britain' was a "response to the rubbish written about football disasters, particularly by the newspapers. Disgusting things were being said about football fans. Yes hooliganism and racism existed in some quarters, but it was wrong that everyone was being damned for that. So I wrote the book in one summer, 1985, whilst lecturing in Australia. Revisiting it today, it holds up better than I’d thought". Published a year later, in 1986, it is indeed a well-informed and passionately written work on a controversial era for football.


It was around a decade and a half before James once more published on football, this time a revised edition of his first tome entitled 'The People's Game: The History of Football Revisited' which saw light of day in 2000. The original had been popular "so the publisher asked if I’d revise it and bring it back in print".   It’s a great read and its publication was timely, corresponding with the growing nostalgia for (as well as academic interest in) football history during that time, and of course corresponding with that year's UEFA European Football Championship.  


He followed it up a year later with 'The Only Game', a book more obviously targeting the mainstream football fan than the sport historian, and gave greater emphasis to 'contemporary' issues such as racism and violence "to bring it up to date". Less celebrated than 'The People's Game' or its revised edition, perhaps due to "the difficulty in bridging academic and popular/mainstream audiences", it is nonetheless interesting to read Professor Walvin's take on such matters.


Despite his long-time interest in the game and his success as a football writer, Prof Walvin remains modest about his achievements - and of his ability to predict score lines "don’t listen to me! especially predictions of games", and today focusses on his other research interests, notably the topics of slavery and the sugar trade.  He still enjoys the game though and reading about soccer and sport generally, and lists his favourite sport writers as Hugh Macillvaney, " who has written a collection of essays about sport in general including a terrific essay on boxer Muhammad Ali " and Tony Mason, in Jim's opinion "the first academic to write a serious book on football" although he adds with a smile "but Tony tells me I beat him to the best title!"

At the time of writing, Professor Walvin is finishing a new book on the history of sugar, which he describes as taking his journey as a research academic "full circle".   "Sugar is a big, big issue for health and social reasons.  This new book is built on all of the work I’ve done on slavery. Next I’ll do another book on the overthrowing of the slave empire - in the space of a lifetime it vanishes but was unchallenged for 300 years. What changed? That's a really interesting complex story."



Sugar by James Walvin was published by Robinson on July 13th 2017

Monday, 24 July 2017

'Foundations of Managing Sporting Events' Named as 'Book of the Month'!

Our book about the 1966 FIFA World Cup 'Foundations of Managing Sporting Events' has been awarded the prestigious title 'Book of the Month' by University of Lincoln for their Sports Business Management degree programme.  There were in fact two 'books of the month' this time around and we share the  accolade with highly regarded edited volume 'The Routledge Book of Sports Event Management'. 

Thanks to all at University of Lincoln and their library for this great honour!


University of Lincoln offers a Sports Business Management degree as well as an Event Management degree. We are pleased to see that our book is useful to students on these courses.

Monday, 3 July 2017

The China Soccer Observatory (CSO)


Here at Soccer Mad Boffins, as well as writing about our own research we like to share other interestinng articles and to give a platform to other interesting research ventures.  We have recently been in contact with Prof Simon Chadwick a Senior Fellow of the China Policy Institute (CPI) at University of Nottingham who runs the CHINA SOCCER OBSERVATORY (CSO) alongside Dr Jonathan Sullivan (Director of CPI).

We considered the CSO to be of interest to many of our readers and so we asked Prof Chadwick to provide a short overview as to their activities. Take it away, Simon....


 

Professor Simon Chadwick, yesterday

In late 2014, President Xi revealed his vision for China to have created a domestic sport economy worth $830 billion by 2028. To drive the country towards this target, Xi identified football as being a focal point for his vision, identifying that he wants China to host and win the World Cup, become a leading FIFA nation by 2050.




Comparison of BRIC nations' FIFA rankings in 2014 (circa most recent World Cup)

Since then we have seen a multitude of different investments in football being made by Chinese private-sector organisations and provincial government bodies. These have ranged from the creation of grassroots football projects through to the acquisition of football clubs to the signing of big-name overseas players by clubs in the Chinese Super League (the 'CSL').





These activities have each been intended to improve the available pool of Chinese talent, to build the competences of leaders and managers working in football, to raise the profile and enhance the presence of Chinese football, and to generate a financial return for the burgeoning Chinese sports industry.

Football, sport and business in China are always highly politicised, whilst its vision for football also incorporates elements of soft power projection, diplomatic influence, nation branding, the promotion of domestic social cohesion and the control of its health problems.







Beijing National Stadium - the 'birds nest', built for the 2008 Summer Olympics and visited by Soccer Mad Boffin Dr Kevin Tennent in 2014!

The multi-disciplinary nature of China’s football revolution, allied to the scale and speed with which it has taken place, led Dr Jon Sullivan and I to create the China Soccer Observatory (CSO). The CSO is located within the China Policy Institute at the University of Nottingham, and has been set up to monitor, analyse, and publish insights into the growth and development of Chinese football domestically and internationally.

The CSO is seeking to ensure that relevant stakeholders are aware of and informed about the most important issues pertaining to football and China. We place great emphasis on the academic rigour of our work, but also on its practical application in addressing real-world issues and challenges. The CSO's work focuses knowledge creation and thought-leadership, academic research and publication, intelligence gathering and consultancy, and policy advisory services.


Details of the CSO can be found here: http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/cpi/china-soccer-observatory/index.aspx A related archive of materials pertaining to Chinese football can be accessed here https://wakelet.com/@zuqiu


Prof Simon Chadwick





Thursday, 29 June 2017

Soccer Mad Boffins Present Paper at University of York Workshop on 'Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Study of Brands in Business'



An awesome chapter from this book was presented


Coinciding with The York Management School's increased emphasis on 'inter-disciplinarity', this workshop organized by the Centre for Evolution of Global Business and Institutions (CEGBI) brought together academic experts and PhD students from a diversity of disciplines, united by an interest in studying brands.

Dr Alex Gillett's made a presention 'Over the Bar!' that was based on the Soccer Mad Boffins' recent book chapter 'Beer and the Boro—A Perfect Match!' (Gillett, A., Tennent, K. and Hutchinson, F., 2016. Beer and the Boro—A Perfect Match!. In Brewing, Beer and Pubs (pp. 303-320). Palgrave Macmillan UK.)  The study focussed on the relationship between Middlesbrough Football Club and its relationship with two brewers, Camerons and Scottish & Newcastle, which invested money in the club during the 1980s.  Discussion then turned to the relationship between soccer clubs and alcohol more broadly, and in the contemporary context of a ‘scalloped’ industry comprising fewer but larger and more global players at one end and smaller ‘craft’ style breweries at the other, with an apparent reduction in the number of mid-sized regional breweries. 

Overall, an interesting event and a good showcase for our work.  An edited version of the slides presented on the day is available here as a .pdf file.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Railways and 'the beautiful game' before 1914: football, fans and formalisation

The following article is 'reprinted' (with minor updates) from an original post by Dr David Turner on the website 'Turniprail' back in 2014. We thought it would be of interest to readers of Soccer Mad Boffins too:  



Recently I have been doing some work on how the railways of Britain influence the development of organised sport  before 1914 and most of my investigations have focussed on the ‘beautiful game’: football. Early forms of football, which used rules that may have borne only a passing similarity to those in the current game, was being played in public schools from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century.[1] However, by the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries going to a football match was on the nation’s favourite pastimes. The question I have therefore been asking is to what extent to were the railways a factor in transforming football (and while we are thinking about it rugby) from a ramshackle game into the popular spectator sport it is today? Were the railways a key factor because of the improved transportation they provided, or did other, non-railway factors play a role, for example urbanisation or increasing incomes and leisure time amongst working class individuals? This issue can be split into two parts. Firstly, to what degree did the railways augment the number of spectators going to matches? And, secondly, how did it change participation in the game? 

I’ll start by talking about how attendance at football matches was augmented by the railways. The traditional view was that the railways played a big role, and some have argued that the improved transport communications they brought widened the population’s access to sporting events generally. L. H. Curzon was a proponent of this idea. In 1892 he wrote ‘today the railways convey the masses in large numbers to the different seats of sport’.[2] Years later this view was echoed by scholars. Vamplew argued that that ‘railways revolutionised sport by widening the catchment area for spectators,’[3] while Simmons concurred, stating that they ‘contributed to the growth of spectator sports.’[4] While not directly mentioning football, these statements heavily imply that these academics believed that that the railways were a major factor in its development as a popular spectator sport after the 1870s.

Recently, however, this view fallen out of favour. Huggins and Tilson argue that the role of the railways in the growth of football spectatorship from the 1870s onwards has been overstated. Most supporters rarely ventured to away matches, except in the case of a local derby or an important cup tie. Indeed, the vast majority of fans travelled to local matches by foot and, from the 1890s, by electric tram.[5]David Goldblatt, a noted football historian, agreed, arguing that ‘apart from local derbies away fans were almost absent [from matches] during the’ whole of the period between 1880 and 1914.[6]  Exemplifying this, even when a special train accommodation was put on for away fans by the railway companies it was not well used. In 1886 Middlesbrough F.C. was to play Lincoln in an early round of the F.A. Cup. The railway provided a special saloon carriage for away fans, but only 200 excursionists travelled by it, which included the team and officials.[7] 

So why did football fans not travel to away matches that often? Primarily, it was because of economic and time constraints. Most did not have the money to travel to away matches, while in an era when many employed individuals worked on Saturday morning, they also lacked the time to traverse the hundreds of miles to an away fixture.[8] As such, there is a good case for saying that growth of football spectatorship after the 1870s, particularly amongst the working classes, was not because of the improved transportation the railways provided. Rather, other factors played a role, for example working individuals' increased disposable income. 

But what about participation in football? Here academics are broadly in agreement that the railways played a much bigger role in its development, mainly through allowing teams to play games outside their locality, as Mason has argued.[9] McDowell has suggested the growth of Cumnock in Scotland as a football centre has ‘as much to do with access to railways as to mere corporate acumen.’[10] Lastly, Golblatt similarly argued that by the 1880s trains allowed the bigger teams to conduct Easter and Christmas tours.[11] For example, in December 1902 Dundee conducted its Christmas tour, visiting Derby and Newcastle. A journalist reported that ‘Whilst I write we are en route for Newcastle where the United are met on St James’ Park. It is a seven hours’ journey from Derby to Newcastle – 19 hours in a railway train out of 36 hours is not at all pleasant.’[12]

Alongside this, the railways were also important in the growth of formal football associations and leagues. The Football League, for example, recruited teams to it on the basis of their distance from a station. The result was that Sunderland was not elected to it initially because the Midland clubs felt that transportation costs to play games in the city were excessive.[13] But it is important, as Huggins and Tolson suggest, not to see the railways as a ‘panacea’ for team sports, as many football clubs had to shorten postpone and cancel games in the 1880s and 1890s because of the railway network’s failures.[14] In 1874 (when presumably players could still handle the ball) a football match between Durham School and Stockton was shortened from four twenty-minute quarters to fifty minutes owing to the ‘usual unpunctuality of the North Eastern Railway, the train reaching Durham fully half an hour late.’[15] 

Overall, there is good evidence that the railways played a mixed role in the development of football as the nation’s most popular sport. On the one hand it was instrumental in establishing the organisational structures within the game. However, the growth in the popularity of the sport and the number of spectators that saw matches was down to other influences. 


[1] Richard William Cox, Dave Russell and Wray Vamplew, Encyclopaedia of British Football, (London, 2002), p.234 
[2] L. H. Curzon, A Mirror of the Turf, (London 1892), p. 32 cited in Mike Huggins and John Tolson, ‘The Railways and Sport in Victorian Britain: A critical reassessment’, Journal of Transport History, 22 (2001), p.100 
[3] W. Vamplew, Pay up and Play the Game, (Cambridge 1988), p.47  
[4] Jack Simmons, The Victorian Railway, (London, 1991), p.300  
[5] Huggins and Tolson, ‘The Railways and Sport’, p.108-109 

[6] David Goldblatt, The Ball is Round: A Global History of Football, (London, 2007), p.53
[7] Huggins and Tolson, ‘The Railways and Sport’, p.108
[8] Huggins and Tolson, ‘The Railways and Sport’, p.108-109 
[9] T. Mason, Association Football and English Society, 1863–1915, (Brighton, 1980), p. 146–7 
[10] Matthew Lynn McDowell, ‘,Football, Migration and Industrial Patronage in the West of Scotland, c.1870–1900’, Sport In History, 32 (2012), p.408 
[11] Goldblatt, The Ball is Round, p.53  
[12] Evening Telegraph, Friday 26 December 1902  
[13] Goldblatt, The Ball is Round, p.53  
[14] Huggins and Tolson, ‘The Railways and Sport’, p.109-110  
[15] York Herald, Saturday 21 November 1874


Dr David Turner is a railway and brewing historian.  In July 2016 David was awarded funding by the  Business Archives Council’s bursary for research into business archives, which he is using to look at the relationship between the railways and the brewers of Whitbread of London and Bass of Burton-on-Trent.  You can follow David's work at his website: https://davidturnerrailway.wordpress.com

Dr David Turner, yesterday

Monday, 17 April 2017

Reviving a 3,000 year-old Ball Game in Mexico


Remains of a Mayan Ball Court

According to the BBC, the finals of a revived 3,000-year-old ball game have been played in the Mexican city of Teotihuacan.  The game known as ‘Ullamaliztli’ has ancient cultural and religious significance in Mexico.  Giant ball courts can still be seen in ruins across the region, for example in the famous Yukatan region.

Some researchers have suggested how in ancient times the losers of the game were often sacrificed to the Gods! 

Unlike soccer, players use their hips rather than their feet, and the ball is made of solid rubber (factoid: ancient Mesoamericans were the first to invent rubber balls).

Whilst we do not suggest a direct relation to association football ('soccer'), Ullamalitztli is interesting to us because it evidences how variants of ball games emerged around the world and how contemporary interest in reviving the sport shows that games and sport can have significance to culture and society.

Prof James A. Fox of Stanford University reveals how the indigenous people of the region, the Mayans, sometimes died from “bleeding bruises” from playing sports involving the hard rubber balls, which they sometimes headed as well as using their hips.  Perhaps because of the inherent danger, the actual playing of the sports was often delegated to teams of captives or prisoners!

For more information about Mayan ball sports and games here are a couple of interesting links including the BBC article: