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    Female fans and social media: micro-communities and the formation of social capital

    Fenton, Alex, Gillooly, Leah ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1320-2803 and Vasilica, Cristina (2023) Female fans and social media: micro-communities and the formation of social capital. European Sport Management Quarterly, 23 (2). pp. 370-390. ISSN 1618-4742

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    Research question : Using the theoretical lens of social capital, this study explores the challenges faced by female football fans in performing their fandom on social media, and how they respond to these challenges in the way they consume and express their fandom within these online spaces. In doing so, the study responds to calls for further, empirical research on both the experiences of female sports fans and the darker side of social media. Research methods : An exploratory, qualitative research design is adopted, comprising in-depth, semi-structured interviews with 15 female fans of European professional football clubs. Interview data is analysed using inductive thematic analysis. Results and findings : The study contributes novel evidence to the fields of social media, social capital and football fandom, revealing that the male hegemony of football fandom is reinforced through social media. This leads to modified online behaviour by female fans, whereby micro-communities are formed in which they discuss football. The splintering of the online fan community into these micro-communities represents a form of cyberbalkanization and has implications for female fans’ ability to build bridging social capital on social media. Implications : This study responds to calls for a more theoretically informed approach to social media research in sport, drawing on theories of social capital and performative sport fandom to understand the strategies employed by female fans in performing their fandom on social media. The findings raise questions of how professional sports clubs can engage female audiences and champion inclusive cultures of fandom.

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