University of Worcester Worcester Research and Publications

Clashing Sub-Cultures: The Rivalry Between the Fans of Aston Villa and Birmingham City Football Clubs

Benkwitz, Adam (2013) Clashing Sub-Cultures: The Rivalry Between the Fans of Aston Villa and Birmingham City Football Clubs. PhD thesis, University of Worcester.

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This thesis explores the football fan rivalry between the fans of Aston Villa and Birmingham City. Football fan rivalries are unique and complex, with each one being underpinned by various social, historical and/or cultural factors. Therefore, each rivalry should be studied in-depth in order to understand the underlying factors that shape oppositions and social identities. This rivalry has previously received no academic attention, despite these two being the main clubs in Birmingham, England’s second largest city, with a long history of intra-city rivalry since the first fixture between the two in 1879. The constructivist approach adopted perceived people’s knowledge, opinions, interpretations and experiences as meaningful properties of social reality and, thus, this study aimed to gather data from those who actually experience the rivalry – the fans. An ethnographic study was undertaken in order to elicit rich, qualitative data and to gain a deep and reality congruent insight into the complex factors that underpin the rivalry. Participant observation was conducted at matches involving Aston Villa and Birmingham City. Additionally, semi-structured interviews were conducted with fans of the two clubs, with data being subjected to coding and a thematic analysis.
Informed by a cultural studies framework that focused on the centrality of power, the analysis identified three central themes underpinning the rivalry. The first theme was the constant struggle between the fan groups over territory. Fans placed great value on being perceived to control certain areas, or even the whole city, in order to gain power (territorial capital) and become the dominant identity. This is particularly significant as a detailed exploration of territory has previously been absent from football rivalry literature. Secondly, tensions were based on the historical footballing success of Aston Villa, and on Birmingham City’s relative lack of success. Villa fans were perceived as the dominant group as the success of the team afforded them high levels of (sub)cultural capital. Thirdly, the contestation over power was informed by the perceived socio-economic status of each fan group, with Villa fans being perceived as more middle-class and Blues fans more working-class. These complex factors are continually contested and under negotiation, with the passion and intensity of the rivalry enduring as both fan groups battle for dominance. In addition to exploring this particular rivalry for the first time, this study has contributed to the limited but growing literature on rivalries, providing a clear methodological and theoretical framework for future research in this area, which was previously lacking.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information:

A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the University’s requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
A print version of this thesis is held on Level 4 at the Hive.

Uncontrolled Discrete Keywords: football fan rivalry, Aston Villa Football Club, Birmingham City Football Club, cultural studies, identity, territory
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Divisions: College of Business, Psychology and Sport > School of Sport and Exercise Science
Depositing User: Janet Davidson
Date Deposited: 10 Sep 2013 10:02
Last Modified: 17 Jun 2020 16:59

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