The "civilizing" of Gloucester Rugby Football Club : a historical sociology of the development and management of an elite English rugby union football club, 1873-1914
thesisposted on 15.12.2014, 10:44 by Andrew Robert. White
The research encompasses a sociological history of the development of Gloucester Rugby Football Club from its origins in 1873 to the conclusion of the 1913/14 season. The research design is based around a case study of a sports organisation that would become one of the elite Rugby Union Football Clubs. The methodology is qualitative and naturalistic, drawing upon extensive club archives, Rugby Football Union archives, reports of events and developments contained in local Gloucester newspapers, and publications relating to the club's history. Data analysis and interpretation utilises the "grounded theory" methods of open and axial coding recommended by Glaser and Strauss. Themes incorporated into this coding framework and those that emerged from its application are firstly components in the constructions of civic, collective (associated more narrowly with "the club") and masculine identities. With regard to the latter theme, the structuring and nature of a "gender order" and the nature of gender relations that are both implicated in its construction, and emerge from it, provide contributory sub-themes. Secondly, changing patterns of player violence and spectator disorder are explored. Finally the responses of the club's administrators to the managerial imperatives associated with, and contributing to, processes of commercialisation and professionalisation are investigated. These three themes are framed as a series of "transitions" in the club's development. The organising theoretical frameworks that guide the interpretation of data and against which research outcomes will be tested are the Gramscian notion of hegemony and a central component of figurational sociology, the Eliasian theory of a European "civilising process". The research concludes that the early development of the club, from a "team" of middle-class men to a fully-fledged gate-taking club effectively owning its own ground, was firmly in the hands of middle-class groups. The changing composition of the dominant middle class group, from a professional/merchant to a predominantly industrial/retail base, significantly affected the local development of rugby in Gloucester and of the club. Ideological control, in the face of growing diffusion and popularity of rugby amongst Gloucester1 working class communities and as members of these communities were recruited into the club, was maintained through an interlocking set of values and behaviours. These involved, primarily, "rule adherence" and financial probity as guiding principles alongside compromise to local demands for competitive structures and to "ways of playing and spectating" that had a high degree of cultural consonance amongst the local working class. The research uncovers the emergence of a matrix of interlocking components that constitute what has become a robust and enduring cultural paradigm that incorporated a sense of collective sporting identity expressed through Gloucester Rugby Football Club. It was this paradigm that lay at the heart of Gloucester RFC's difficulties, relative to other clubs, in adjusting to developments associated with the transition to the legitimation of professionalism in English Rugby Union football in 1995.