Constructing Australian soccer : the media's influence on soccer's position within the Australian culture

  • Joshua Whittington

    Student thesis: Master's Thesis


    Despite soccer being arguably the world’s most popular sport, Australia’s national soccer competition has consistently failed to attract the prolonged mainstream support that is given to the comparable rugby league, Australian Rules football and rugby union competitions. This is a puzzling situation considering Australia’s British lineage, soccer’s British origins and the game’s pre-eminent international status. Indeed, soccer’s lowly position in Australia is paradoxical given the sport’s historically dominant status in Britain and Australia’s traditional adoption of Anglocentric culture. Most research into the situation has pointed to the sport’s inability to shake-off the adverse effects of a lingering connection to post-World War II immigration and certain ethnic communities. Soccer has, in the eyes of many, been unable to access popular culture primarily because it has been viewed by the mainstream as ‘foreign’ or inherently un-Australian. The sport has clashed with traditional notions of national identity even though, historically, the Australian men’s national team has received relatively strong community support.
    Strangely though, there has been little attention paid to the role the mass media has played in establishing, maintaining and even altering soccer’s position in relation to mainstream Australian culture. While some researchers, such as Mosely and Hay, have criticised the media’s coverage of violence associated with soccer at the domestic level, there has been no textual analysis of the mass media’s role in soccer’s marginal position in Australian popular culture. Considering that the mass media is critical to the development, reinforcement and maintenance of culture and has been implicated in shaping entire professional sporting competitions to its own ends, this is an area of considerable scholarly neglect. By undertaking a textual analysis of the mainstream newspaper coverage given to two critical periods in the history of the Australian men’s soccer team it becomes clear that there is marked divergence between the media’s treatment of internationally-based soccer and domestically-based soccer. This divergence in coverage has contributed to the development of two distinct mediated ‘realities’ of soccer, which in turn has influenced the game’s ambivalent place in mainstream Australian culture. First, the media’s control over the news production process has given it the ability to send textual messages that elevate soccer from its traditional cultural exclusion- and establish the national team as part of the historically dominant Anglocentric mainstream culture in Australia. This process has been inextricably linked to the increasing ethnic diversity of Australia’s population and the dominant culture’s efforts to maintain, despite this emerging plurality, the pre-eminence of a traditional Australian ‘way of life’. Second, the media’s messages have helped to maintain the ascendancy of the dominant culture by establishing the characteristics of modern day corporatised sport as the ‘normal’ expectation for soccer’s development in Australia. As a result, soccer’s future in Australia is deemed to be limited until it is able to conform fully to the commercialised and professionalised mode of production that defines the sport overseas.
    Date of Award2001
    Original languageEnglish

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