Soccer Mad Boffins Score Academic Goals

News | Posted on Thursday 21 March 2024

We hear from Dr Alex Gillett and Dr Kevin Tennent, co-editors of the Soccer Mad Boffins blog, which celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2024. They cover their latest research, projects and partnerships, and their new free online course on the business history of the FIFA World Cup.

The Soccer Mad Boffins blog is our way of sharing our research into the business and management history of sport. 

History and the study of sport and projects is useful because it allows for empirical but also methodological and theoretical contributions to the field of business and management studies.

Our research includes work on club football, and global sport mega-events such as the FIFA World Cup and the Olympic Games.  Common themes are sport institutions, and governance and the use of public money in sport. We also publish research on the methodology and on teaching and learning using the context of our research to delve into the business and management history of sport.

Our publications include a book about the planning and delivery of the 1966 FIFA World Cup and articles in a broad range of journals including Public Management Review, Management Learning, Journal of Management History, Project Management Journal, International Journal of the History of Sport, Soccer and Society.  Since 2015 we have  authored nine book chapters for edited volumes, most recently a recent contribution to the Edward Elgar Handbook of Historical Methods for Management.

The book about the 1966 FIFA World Cup was funded by a scholarship from FIFA, which enabled us to undertake research of documents held in FIFA’s archives as well as those of the International Olympic Committee, the Football Association, the National Archives in London, the National Football Museum and several regional archives notably in Manchester, Middlesbrough and Sheffield.

We were then awarded a further injection of funding from the University of York ESRC Impact Accelerator Account to collaborate with the National Football Museum for a major exhibition to commemorate the 1966 FIFA World Cup, famously hosted and won by England. The display which filled an entire floor of the museum, and a slightly smaller version was shown at Wembley Stadium, the home of the English Football Association.

We have become a regular fixture at the University of York Festival of Ideas, where we have hosted talks by many notable sport authors and journalists as well as with , media executive, football administrator, journalist and broadcaster Greg Dyke (and former Chancellor of the University of York).

Our insights and opinions about the FIFA World Cup are occasionally sought by the media.  We have been quoted in magazines such as Money Week, newspapers and news websites such as TRT World and the BBC, and podcasts including the Africa Business of Sport podcast and the University of York’s ‘The Story of Things’.

Our research into the business history of the FIFA World Cup and its variants, such as the FIFA Womens World Cup, age category World Cups, and even indoor- and beach-soccer, has provided the basis for a new University of York MOOC which went live in January 2024.

Most recently we have been included in a team of academics from our department led by Professor Anne-Marie Greene to collaborate with Kick it Out, an organisation which tackles discrimination in football. The research team investigates equality, diversity and inclusion in football and in regulatory bodies, following the UK government’s call for an independent regulator for football.

We proudly co-edit a book series ‘Frontiers of Management History’ published by Emerald and we welcome submissions from academics who wish to publish on the book format.

This article has been republished from the Spring 2024 issue of Progress magazine.

Study the development of the FIFA World Cup as a business entity, and its cultural, political, economic and social contexts with this free online course