Researching football, identity and cohesion in Europe

Tobias Finger, Jennifer Amann, Jonas Biel, Arne Niemann, Vincent Reinke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Multiple crises are endangering the project of European integration, increasingly threatening social cohesion in Europe. Countering these dangers is necessary for the persistence of the European project. While international cooperation continues, it regularly remains in the sphere of political institutions, and interpersonal contact and exchange across Europe is often reserved for socio-economic elites. This conceptual paper argues that football, as a highly Europeanised mass leisure activity with fandom from socially diverse audiences all over Europe, has a strong potential to supplement existing exchange and cooperation, thus strengthening social cohesion in Europe. Based on a secondary analysis of the existing literature, the central concepts of football, (European) identity, and social cohesion are discussed, and their causalities and potential effects are described. A draft research strategy is outlined to analyse concrete football-based European stimuli, European expressions of fandom, and international practices of exchange. We conclude that football leads to the emergence of European identities among fans by exposing them to Europe and strengthens social cohesion through the establishment of international social relations utilised for reciprocal cooperation and action. Football could further be used as a blueprint for similarly Europeanised cultural phenomena, and the outlined research agenda adjusted accordingly to examine them.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-157
Number of pages27
JournalSports law, policy & diplomacy journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2023


  • Football
  • Fandom
  • Europe
  • Europeanisation
  • Identity
  • European identity
  • Social cohesion


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