British soccer team not happy at serving as the site for college field trip on gender

One British sociology class plans to visit Millwall FC to examine how gender is performed. The club is not happy:

Varndean College in Brighton is offering AS-level sociology students the chance to watch Brighton and Hove Albion take on the “notorious” Millwall Football Club at their home team’s American Express Community Stadium…

There will also be a chance to observe “issues around sexuality, race and ethnicity,” “women challenging gender norms” and to “even talk to football fans,” it promises.

A schedule of planned trips on the college’s website says the football excursion would help teach students about class, leisure and masculinity, and possible racism and homophobia as well.

But Millwall FC appeared less than happy with the idea of being studied as a sociological phenomenon.

“It does make me wonder why they chose Millwall for that,” a source at the club said.

One Varndean sociology student and Millwall fan said describing the club as notorious was “a bit outdated as we’re no longer in the 1980s.”

Sounds like an interesting exercise in seeing gender in action. I understand that few teams would want to explicitly be charged with racism or homophobia but such attitudes are certainly expressed at sporting events. Soccer has a particular history with racism (see a brief overview here) and even with explicit efforts and sanctions from professional associations, racist actions still occur. And professional sports tend to invoke commentary from some fans about masculinity, which in soccer can be associated with toughness, body times, and typical actions off the pitch (such as using their status to pursue women, drink, etc.).

I wonder if any teams would be willing to take part in such field trips because they had such confidence that students and observers wouldn’t see racism or homophobia. Imagine Millwall said, “Sure. Come observe and you won’t see anything like that” and then the observations backed that up. But, even inviting this sort of opportunity would probably be too risky in the eyes of most teams.

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