The Moral Economy of the English Football Crowd: The European Super League and the Contingency of Football Fan Activism

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On the 18th April 2021, six of the most storied clubs in English football –
Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United and
Tottenham Hotspur – announced they would be joining a new breakaway
European Super League (ESL). These proposals triggered vehement
opposition from football fans, which catalysed the intervention of the UK
government in the form of a fan-led review of football governance. The
reaction to the ESL – which collapsed within forty-eight hours –
demonstrates that the commodification and globalization of football is
contested. This article applies the lens of moral economy to analyse the
contemporary mobilisations of football fans in England counter to these
processes. The novel application of a moral economy framework provides
a fresh perspective within the extant literature on football fan activism.
This article represents the first systematic application of a moral
economy approach to the political sociology of contemporary sport and
its fandom. Employing an expanded understanding of moral economy,
the article extends its application beyond the analysis of pre-modern
food riots popularized by E.P. Thompson, incorporating the insights of
Karl Polanyi and Andrew Sayer. Adopting this broader meaning, the
concept of moral economy enables us to explore emergent and dynamic
forms of fan activism, which seek to contest the commodification of
football. The supporter mobilisations against the European Super League
(ESL) are examined to illuminate this perspective. Through an
exploration of the contingency of the moral economy of football fandom,
this article expands, in conceptual terms, the literature on football-based
social movements, connecting it to the wider commodification and
financialization of football (as an important aspect of everyday life) and
the internal contradictions and crisis of advanced capitalism
Original languageEnglish
JournalCapital & Class
Early online date15 Feb 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 Feb 2024

Bibliographical note

Copyright © The Author(s) 2024. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (


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