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Mapping the global football field: a sociological model of transnational forces within the world game




This paper provides a sociological model of the key transnational political and economic forces that are shaping the ‘global football field’. The model draws upon, and significantly extends, the theory of the ‘global field’ developed previously by Robertson. The model features four quadrants, each of which contains a dominant operating principle, an ‘elemental reference point’, and an ‘elemental theme’. The quadrants contain, first, neo-liberalism, associated with the individual and elite football clubs; second, neo-mercantilism, associated with nation-states and national football systems; third, international relations, associated with international governing bodies; and fourth, global civil society, associated with diverse institutions that pursue human development and/or social justice. We examine some of the interactions and tensions between the major institutional and ideological forces across the four quadrants. We conclude by examining how the weakest quadrant, featuring global civil society, may gain greater prominence within football. In broad terms, we argue that our four-fold model may be utilized to map and to examine other substantive research fields with reference to globalization.