'​Could Leicester City's success boost Asian support for the home-town club?'

Posted by ap507 at Mar 24, 2016 09:50 AM |
John Williams discusses how LCFC's success could increase BME support for the team
'​Could Leicester City's success boost Asian support for the home-town club?'

Source: Leicester Mercury website

Think: Leicester does not necessarily reflect the views of the University of Leicester - it expresses the independent views and opinions of the academic who has authored the piece. If you do not agree with the opinions expressed, and you are a doctoral student/academic at the University of Leicester, you may write a counter opinion for Think: Leicester and send to ap507@le.ac.uk

Last week, a journalist from the Financial Times rang me. He had (another) new angle on the Leicester City "dream season" story: He wanted to speak to some local Asian fans about their support for the club. What role, if any, he wondered, did supporting City play in Leicester's reputation as a successful multicultural location? I passed him on to some stalwart Asian Foxes season ticket holders.

His request set me thinking. A few years ago I did surveys of the crowds at the two major professional sports clubs in Leicester, City and Tigers. Some patterns seemed clear enough: Leicester City had a younger, less wealthy, more city-based supporter base. Tigers fans were older, more likely to be drawn from the county and from some more affluent south Leicester suburbs.

But the data on ethnic background were also instructive – Leicester City had around 7 per cent of their home crowd drawn from BME backgrounds, whereas the Tigers struggled to make it even close to 1 per cent. Impressionistically, City has probably increased its BME fan-base since, but Tigers still struggle. British Asians seem not to be natural rugby union fans.

But what is also striking is how few sporty Leicester-born Asian youngsters actually claim to be supporters of Leicester City. Any city classroom will tell you pretty much the same story: mainly-white schools tend to produce decent numbers of City fans, but young local Asian kids have typically opted for other, larger clubs.

The reasons for this are not too difficult to work out. Older local Asians have not usually been active City fans, initially because of a lack of a local connection or club welcome, and fears about racism. Times have changed, but they have not passed on active local football support to their kids. Also, their sporting interests may have been divided – including cricket, perhaps.

Many Leicester-born Asian kids today have quite complex sporting allegiances. After their parents, they still follow India or Pakistan in international cricket, but England in football.

This has meant that most Asian youngsters born in Leicester have made their own football club connections via TV coverage of the glossy Premier League. They often identify with distant corporate winners – Man United, Chelsea, Arsenal or Liverpool – rather than, through ties of place and family, locally with Leicester City.

But what is happening this season offers potential future intrigue: because Leicester are beginning to look a lot like winners. Which could mean more South Asian youngsters combining a craving for success with a new demand to attend safely at their local, Europe-bound football club.

Are the Foxes ready for this possibility? Could more local young South Asians now look to the Blue Army to celebrate their local ties in this successful multicultural sporting city? We can dream, can't we?

John Williams is senior lecturer in the department of Sociology at Leicester University

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