My name is Connor Farmer and I am part of the class of 2021 at St. Lawrence. I am a Government major and Philosophy minor from the town of St. Regis Falls, New York. The generous donation from the Cabot Family allowed me to research commercialization in sport during my semester abroad in the Fall of 2019. I conducted my research primarily in London, England, but also made a trip to Manchester, England.
I learned a great deal from my research and activity about the commercialization of sport. First, I would like to give a brief description of the background of my research before delving into my actual work. Prior to the 2000s, the English Premier League (EPL) was not the internationally known and financial powerhouse that it currently is. Fans for each team were generally only local, player salaries were lower, and overall profits were much lower. Since the EPL has become commercialized and known internationally, fans from around the world support EPL teams, players are well paid, and some teams are amongst the richest in all sports. This has both pleased and angered fans. The goal of my research was to interact with fans of teams in the EPL and get their thoughts on how the game has changed over the last 30 years.
I conducted my research by talking to fans of various ages at pubs on matchdays and at the matches themselves. I attended Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, and Chelsea FC matches during my time abroad. I discovered some interesting dynamics amongst the fans, particularly between the older and younger fans. The younger fans seemed to have no issue with their team being a globally recognized name that made millions of British Sterling in profit each year. They enjoy both the publicity and skilled players from abroad that want to play for their club. They also enjoy the fact that they can stream and watch their favorite team play from virtually anywhere in the world. The older fans however, that is, generally the fans who witnessed the EPL before commercialization, have issues with how their beloved club has changed in the last 20 years. They see the international fans as not true fans because they did not grow up in the area even though they may have supported the club from a young age. They see the influx of international players as mercenaries who didn’t come up from the club’s youth academy and don’t know what it means to play for that team.
This enriched my experience at SLU as I was able to see firsthand what I had been taught in my sports philosophy class. Seeing the human impact of something I read about in a book made it much more meaningful. It remains to be seen if commercialization is good or bad for sport, but I am glad I was able to witness the impact that it has on local fans.