The Moral Economy of the English Football Crowd: The European Super League and the Contingency of Football Fan Activism

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On 18 April 2021, six of the most storied clubs in English football – Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur – announced they would be joining a new breakaway European Super League. These proposals triggered vehement opposition from football fans, which catalysed the intervention of the UK government in the form of a fan-led review of football governance. The reaction to the European Super League – which collapsed within 48 hours – demonstrates that the commodification and globalisation of football is contested. This article applies the lens of moral economy to analyse the contemporary mobilisations of football fans in England counter to these processes. The novel application of a moral economy framework provides a fresh perspective within the extant literature on football fan activism. This article represents the first systematic application of a moral economy approach to the political sociology of contemporary sport and its fandom. Employing an expanded understanding of moral economy, the article extends its application beyond the analysis of pre-modern food riots popularised by E.P. Thompson, incorporating the insights of Karl Polanyi and Andrew Sayer. Adopting this broader meaning, the concept of moral economy enables us to explore emergent and dynamic forms of fan activism, which seek to contest the commodification of football. The supporter mobilisations against the European Super League are examined to illuminate this perspective. Through an exploration of the contingency of the moral economy of football fandom, this article expands, in conceptual terms, the literature on football-based social movements, connecting it to the wider commodification and financialisation of football (as an important aspect of everyday life) and the internal contradictions and crisis of advanced capitalism.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCapital & Class
Early online date15 Feb 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 Feb 2024

Bibliographical note

Copyright © The Author(s) 2024. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (


  • English premier league
  • European super league
  • commodification
  • football
  • lay morality
  • moral economy
  • sport


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