Constructing Australian soccer : the media's influence on soccer's position with 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
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 preeminence
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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