Manchester Metropolitan University's Research Repository

    Success interrupted: exploring how supporters interpret their team’s success in a postponed competition

    Lock, Daniel, Delia, Elizabeth, Inoue, Yuhei ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1983-6217 and Gillooly, Leah ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1320-2803 (2023) Success interrupted: exploring how supporters interpret their team’s success in a postponed competition. European Sport Management Quarterly. ISSN 1618-4742

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    Research purpose: This study has two aims: (1) to explore how supporters evaluate success when their team’s objective performance record does not change but subjective features of the context do change (e.g., competition format, potential league cancellation); and (2) to explore why winning a championship is important to evaluations of in-group status – in addition to a large points advantage. Research methods: We conducted a netnographic study of Liverpool Football Club supporters during the COVID-19 postponement of the English Premier League. In total, we analysed 15,193 forum posts added between March 11th – June 3rd, 2020, using a theoretical thematic analysis. Results and Findings: Three themes emerged from our interpretations of the data. First, winning the championship had value—in addition to the club’s 25-point advantage—because supporters felt it would immortalise their status as the best team in 2019-2020 permanently. Second, supporters’ perceptions of success reduced when it was perceived to occur in a structure that did not conform to shared expectations for league completion. Third, supporters perceived that winning the championship would enable a moment at which players, coaches, and supporters could experience complete solidarity as their shared goal became reality. Implications: Our analysis shed new light on the ways in which context relates to the evaluation of intergroup status in sport. Furthermore, we reveal why winning championships adds value beyond objective advantages.

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