Work, self and the transformation of identity : a sociological study of the careers of professional footballers
thesisposted on 15.12.2014, 10:41 by Martin Roderick
The traditional focus for sociologists studying occupations has been on manual workers in the main as their work is assumed to be laborious and unimaginative, yet footballers are almost never considered in this way despite the immensely physical nature of their work. Far from tedious, their job, by contrast, is thought of as a labour of love. This study is an interactionist analysis of the careers of male professional footballers in England, which provides sociological insights into the realities of their working lives. Professional football is a contingent and highly physical form of employment. Players' careers may be terminated involuntarily as a result of a severe injury. It is a short-term vocation in which ageing inevitably reduces physical capital. Professional football is characterised by an extremely competitive labour market, for there is an oversupply of aspirants 'chasing the big-time'. This qualitative study is based on data obtained via semi-structured interviews with forty-seven present and former professional footballers. The central theme of this thesis concerns an understanding of the ways in which the orientations of players to their work change over the course of their careers. The players were asked about turning points in their work histories, such as long-term injuries, transfers from one club to another, and other key moments in which they felt uncertain about what their futures may hold. In part, the focus of the interviews concerned the subjective meanings the players impute to their experiences. An examination of the drama of work is undertaken. The ways in which players deal with the workplace insecurities that are an inbuilt characteristic of their occupation are examined and an explanation of why they continue to pursue a career in the professional game, despite developing cynical attitudes towards their work and their employers, is attempted.