When Luke Cox submitted his final year dissertation as a BA (Hons) Football Business & Marketing student, Dr. Leo Watkins, his supervisor for the project, knew it was something special – so much so that he felt it could be published. After working alongside Luke to develop his work into an academic paper, it was finally published by the pair, together, two years on from the initial thesis.

The paper, entitled ‘The limits of loyalty to professional football teams and the attraction of non-league football: A case study of Worcester City FC’, was published by Soccer & Society, and explores the experiences of several fans who support both non-league side Worcester City and a Premier League or Championship team.

Here, Luke and Leo summarise this process, its fairytale ending and how it’s provided invaluable insight into this growing research field…

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Luke began: “I very much enjoyed conducting the research for my dissertation project. It looked to shine a light on why some people support a professional football club, then at some time later in their lives started supporting non-league club Worcester City too. Often supporters are painted with a broad brush as being the same. Through my research I spoke to twenty supporters, it gave me such an insight into the variety of motivations people have for identifying with a football club and their personal connection with the sport, proving supporters are anything but homogenous. The process of sitting down and talking with the participants for often an hour or more was a fascinating experience for me.”

Leo added: “I thought the data Luke collected provided some important insights that deserved a wider audience than just his dissertation supervisor! The paper is based on research Luke conducted for his final year dissertation and is situated really well within the fans against modern football context and recent growing interest in non-league football.”

Commenting on the final paper, he said: “Our work illustrates how fan relationships with elite football clubs can change and weaken over time and the reasons for this, whilst simultaneously highlighting some of the appeal of supporting a non-league football team.”

Luke finished: “It was truly humbling for me to know my research developed at undergraduate level had helped bridge the gap of knowledge in the field and I would potentially be cited alongside Dr. Leo Watkins as joint authors by future researchers. I now work in communications for the European football supporter’s organisation, Supporters Direct Europe. Conducting this research was without a doubt a significant brick in building my career path alongside my academic achievement. I’m very proud of the work!”

Click here to read the academic article in full.