Becoming Fans: Socialization and Motivations of Fans of the England and U.S. Women’s National Football Teams

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Rachel Allison Department of Sociology, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, MS, USA

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Stacey Pope Department of Sport and Exercise Sciences, Durham University, Durham, United Kingdom

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The professionalization, commercialization, and mediatization of women’s football have opened new opportunities for fan attachments, engagements, and identities. Yet limited empirical research has addressed how or why fandom develops for women’s football, particularly in comparative perspective. We rely on in-depth interview data collected with adults in England (n = 49) and the United States (n = 53) who attended live matches of the 2019 Women’s World Cup to address pathways into and motivations for fandom. We find that awareness of and attachment to women’s football developed through exposure to women’s football mega events or online women’s football communities, through having played football, or after being recruited by existing fans. For English fans only, fandom included when men’s teams added women’s sides or through attending local women’s matches. Motivations for fandom included connections to players, family, and friends, appreciation of athletic talent, a commitment to gender equality, entertainment, and the inclusivity of fan cultures.

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