Book Review: The Routledge Handbook of Football Studies

Posted by on Dec 23, 2016 in Book Review | One Comment
Book Review: The Routledge Handbook of Football Studies
Image available under Creative Commons (c) Norio Nakayama

The Routledge Handbook of Football Studies
edited by John Hughson, Kevin Moore, Ramà³n Spaaij and Joseph Maguire
Published by Routledge
2017, £150

Academic publishers have performed an invaluable service in recent times via the production of so-called handbooks, one-stop summaries of a field aimed at advanced students, postgraduates, libraries, researchers and policy makers with some crossover to the generally interested reader on occasion.

With football a serious topic of academic discussion, it is high time that it was afforded this level of analysis and this 500 behemoth of a volume is the result. Edited by a team drawn from a range of UK universities plus Ramà³n Spaaij who splits his time between Australia and the Netherlands, it is likely to be the last word on academic research into the game for some time to come.

Football as an academic discipline tends to be split into two areas of analysis — the first will concentrate on the technical aspects of the game — coaching, technique, fitness and nutrition — while the second takes a sociological and cultural approach. The Routledge Handbook of Football Studies is very much positioned in the latter field.

Hence, we have chapters on race and gender, both topics which have preoccupied this website in its seven years of existence, as well as other key tenets of sociology as disability (a welcome chapter in a massively underexplored field from Martin Atherton and Jess Macbeth) and the rise of social media — Peter Millward explores the use of twitter to ignite fan protests over two pithy pages and it’s good to see bloggers and proto-bloggers such as Stand AMF, Got Not Got and various fanzines receive mentions.

The book does inevitably include a lot of UK based material and references and that’s only to be expected given how well developed supporter activism is in this country — Mark Doidge charts the activities of Supporters Direct and the Football Supporters Federation for instance — but a last section in particular devotes much space to the international game including the thorny topic of FIFA and the influence of the respective continental associations. Indeed, Christos Kassimeris sums up UEFA with the chapter title, ‘Football in Europe: apolitical UEFA plays politics with football’. Quite.

With academics under pressure to present research output amid arcane concepts such as ‘impact’ the book can be dense at times, but it would be simply unacceptable not to show one’s workings and hence cite every possible source and that is the nature of the beast. Those looking for a racy, half-formed account minus footnotes of the various topics within the book will need to go elsewhere — and the individual books written by the numerous top line contributors helpfully listed in their bios at the front of the book can be relied upon for more detailed analysis.

In all, it’s a superb effort (the price of which is reflective of the fact that the volume will mainly be available via libraries and each issue will be used hundreds of times) and it’s no mean feat on the part of the editors to cajole contributors into producing such succinct summaries of the aching issues that face the field.

Rob Langham
Rob Langham is co-founder of the defiantly non-partisan football league blog, The Two Unfortunates, a website that occasionally strays into covering issues of wider importance. He's 50 and lives in Oxford while retaining his boyhood support of Reading FC. He tweets as @twounfortunates and has written for a number of websites and publications including The Inside Left, When Saturday Comes, In Bed with Maradona, Futbolgrad and The Blizzard as well as being nominated for the Football Supporters' Federation Blogger of the Year Award in 2013.