Saturday, 9 February 2019

Readers of this blog might remember that in 2018 Soccer Mad Boffin Alex contributed to a book that was authored by ex-Seattle Sounders FC team captain Ade Webster.

Ade has been busy since then writing another book, with his friend and former team-mate Tony Chursky, the former goalkeeper of the Sounders as well as Canadian National Team.

It is a great book, well worth a read especially for anyone interested in the history of North American soccer and the NASL.

The authors will be donating proceeds from sales of the book to charities. 

The book is available to buy now as paperback or e-book:

More info: 

Tracing the arc of their 46-year friendship, Adrian Webster and Tony Chursky share the inspiring highs and the deflating lows of being professional soccer players in the early years of the Seattle Sounders in the North American Soccer League. Providing anecdotes and first-hand news accounts from the past, they demonstrate how their time together, both before and during the Sounders years, shaped the paths they chose after their careers came to a close. 

Sounders Together, Friends Forever is an uplifting book by Adrian Webster and Tony Chursky, two former Seattle Sounders. It traces the highs and lows of soccer, with a friendship lasting from the beginning of the professional game in North America, and follows two players with hopes and visions for their soccer careers, revealing all the hard work and sacrifices chasing their dream of playing against top players and elite teams of the early 1970’s. 

Dave Gillett - Original Seattle Sounder

Monday, 4 February 2019

Latest Paper Published in International Journal of the History of Sport

We are thrilled that our latest paper has been published by International Journal of the History of Sport.

Entitled 'Opportunities for all the Team: Entrepreneurship and the 1966 and 1994 Soccer World Cups', this paper does exactly what it says in the tin.

The International Journal of the History of Sport, yesterday

We apply swarm theory together with a framework of sports products to analyze the marketing and entrepreneurial 'products' associated with two financially successful FIFA World Cups in the second half of the 20th Century.

The 1966 edition of the tournament was famously hosted and won by England and spawned the trend for World Cup mascots, with 'World Cup Willie'. The 1994 tournament hosted by the USA took the commercialization of soccer to a new level. Both tournaments notably made use of existing stadia rather than the sorts of extensive new-build construction projects so often associated with sporting mega-events, and both also left observable legacies from a social and cultural perspective, as well as for sport.

We hope that you enjoy the paper, which is online now and will be part of a future Special Issue of the journal.

Monday, 19 November 2018

Appearance at York Researchers' Night

On Saturday 17th November we participated in the 'Yornight' York Researchers' Night hosted by University of York.

This was a completely free event, no booking neccessary, open to the public.

Here is a photo of us on our stall, which included info about our research, examples of archival materials and ephemera, and some fun activities for all of the family.

We received a great deal of interest in our work on the organisational and business management history of sport, and our research methods.

As well as the soccermadboffins there were many other exciting stalls, displays, demonstrations and public talks from across the university.

Thank you to all who attended.

A young sport fan has her photo taken with our display trophy

The key audience for Yornight is the general public with a particular focus on school students, and young people.

The main aims of YorNight are:
  • To encourage young people to consider research as a career, and particularly to inspire young girls and women
  • To demonstrate how research improves our daily lives in a range of ways, and provides economic and societal benefits
  • To show that research is varied and unexpected, and that being a researcher is interesting
  • To convey the message to the public that researchers are everywhere, not just in the most obvious places eg laboratories
More information from:

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Research Impact: Soccer Mad Boffin Contributes to Soccer Guide

Dr Alex Gillett has contributed to a new book by Adrian Webster (ex-Seattle Sounders FC and Colchester United FC).

Adrian wanted his coaching book to be different. This book shares his views and experiences of having been involved in the game as a player, coach and manager at youth, college and pro levels.

Adrian started to get involved in coaching when he first joined the Seattle Sounders in 1974, quickly discovering the importance of understanding the way that we learn, and that in coaching football is very much like teaching.

Alex contributed by providing advice on content and on the title of the book, to help with clarity of the text, which includes not just technical detail about playing and coaching, but also Adrian's personal reflections on his experiences as a player during the historically significant era of US soccer during the 1970s.  As an author with experience of writing published material on 20th century soccer history, Alex was well equipped to assist Ade in his 'goals' for this book!

A proportion of income from sales of the book will be donated to a childrens' cancer charity.

The book is available to buy now from amazon at a very accessible price:

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Reflections on the 2018 Soccer Mad Boffins Conference Tour

What a summer! Amazing weather, a fantastic World Cup, and a veritable plethora of Soccer Mad Boffins public talks and academic lectures to fill in the time we weren't watching England progress to the semi-finals.  Here is a recap and reflection as we remember it...

June 1st 'England 1966, USA 1994 and the World Cup: Thoughts on populism, the popular and public indifference' 

Populism and the Leisure Spectacle: A BSA Leisure & Recreation Study Group Workshop 

Venue: University of Bath

This British Sociological Association workshop combined contemporary history with event management, cultural studies and theory with studies of national cases, the binding theme being the whys and wherefores of the populist profile of particular sport and leisure practices and cultural formations.

The event included presentations and panels discussion with experts also including Professor Alan Tomlinson, author/academic/broadcaster David Goldblatt, Michael Willams, and Brian Clift.

Soccer Mad Boffins' Alex Gillett opened the day with a consideration of the 1966 football World Cup finals tournament, hosted and won by England. Drawing upon his work with co-author Kevin Tennant he presented data on the almost serendipitous way in which the British government lent financial support to the event, the disappointment of those English regions beyond London for whom the anticipated tourist bonanza was a washout if not disaster, and the small scale of commercialisation of the product that nevertheless hinted at the later, media-generated and sponsor-based global commodity that the World Cup has become. The broader context was informed by Flyvbjerg’s four sublimes of the mega-project, to which Alex and Kevin’s research has brought an ethnographic and qualitative dimension as applied to the study of event history and business history. These themes and approaches stimulated lively discussion on just how we understand contemporary history and the lived meanings of iconic cultural moments in our past. He also looked at how the 1994 World Cup in the United States sought, through targeted marketing strategies aimed at both established and potential audiences, to popularize the game in the crowded US market dominated by the Big 4 (American Football, basketball, baseball and ice hockey).

June 12th 'The Business of World Cup Football'

co-presented with Greg Dyke (former Chairman of the Football Association)

Venue: York Festival of Ideas, The King's Manor, York

It was our great honour to co-present this event with Greg Dyke, which was attended by a large enthusiastic audience on a warm summer's evening.  We began by presenting from our research of the 1966 and 1994 FIFA World Cups contextualising it with information about more recent and future events, such as Brazil, Russia, Qatar and USA 2026.  Then followed a round table discussion chaired by Greg, who then reflected on his own experiences of being FA Chairman and Director General of the BBC.  The audience posed some excellent questions which we were delighted to answer and everyone enjoyed hearing Greg's views on football and its broader social impact as well as the business side. There were some predictions of England's likely performance in the World Cup which were superseded by Gareth Southgate and his team's performance in Russia!   Two days after the presentation, the 2018 World Cup kicked off. To tie-in with the event our podcast on the story of football was released and we hope to participate in the Festival of Ideas in 2019 - watch this space!  

June 20th 'Project Managing and Marketing the Soccer World Cup: 1966 and 1994'

Aston Organizational History Workshop

Venue: Aston Business School 

A few days after the World Cup kicked off we contributed to this workshop organized by Professor Stephanie Decker, Head of Research at Aston Business School.  This was a great venue because of its links to the 1966 World Cup and the event included several presentations covering a range of organizational history topics from manufacturing to finance.  We must add the catering was excellent - the samosas and cake were particularly enjoyable.  Over the course of one hour we presented findings from our paper accepted for the International Journal of the History of Sport as well as findings from our Project Management Journal paper and book Foundations of Managing Sporting EventsOur research was very well received and we look forward to returning to Aston at the BAM2019 Conference where we will further develop the theme of our Special Interest Group, Management and Business History.

June 22nd Poster Presentation: 'Using Archival Research in University Teaching'

Venue: University of York Teaching and Learning Conference 

We made our first ever poster presentation on home turf at the University of York Teaching and Learning Conference.  Our poster was about archival research in teaching and served as an excellent warm-up for our appearance at the BAM 2018 annual conference.  See below!

July 9th - 13th Critical Acclaim for Soccer Mad Boffins!

With the World Cup well under way we were able to compare our predictions to reality which created some fun on this blog with several articles which went viral and even caught the attention of Soccernomics author Stefan Szymanski who described it as 'a teachable moment'.

This blog was also considered worthy of archiving by the British Library in the  UK Web Archive, which preserves specially selected websites that represent different aspects of UK heritage on the web, as well as important global events.

July 12th - 13th Management History Research Group workshop 

Venue: Riddle's Court, 322 Lawnmarket in Edinburgh

Arriving in Edinburgh we had the pleasure of watching England crash out of the World Cup in the semi-final in a pub full of Scotland supporters! A traditional Scottish deep fried supper helped ease the pain. The MHRG was a major success and the venue was fantastic as this photo depicts.  Our paper developed the poster presentation about using archives and was well received by a prestigious panel of professors.

September 4th-6th 'Management and Business History Track' of the British Academy of Management Annual Conference

Venue: University of the West of England, Bristol

The start of September took us to the historic port town home of Triphop, Banksy and the British aircraft industry. We opened the conference with a dinner in the former Bristol Stock Exchange, now an Indian restaurant. The ornate surroundings complimented the excellent meal. On the first day of activities we delivered a Professional Development Workshop on publishing academic books, drawing on our experience and expertise as editors of the Emerald series Frontiers of Management History. We met many impressive and creative new authors and hope to work with at least some of them soon. On Day 2 we presented a full paper version of our work previously presented at the MHRG and University of York poster session (see above).  By now we had used the constructive feedback to craft a developed paper which we hoped to publish.  Our thanks to the esteemed audience for all their comments and suggestions.  In our roles as Special Interest Group committee members we were also involved in chairing sessions and mentoring early career academics and we thoroughly enjoy contributing to the development of our academic field.  The main conference dinner was held at Aerospace Bristol where we got to walk through Concorde and enjoy the Concorde museum then enjoy a selection of wines and food courses at a table situated underneath the aircraft, whilst listening to Jonathan Dimbleby perform an on-the-couch interview with Micheal Eavis the promoter of Glastonbury Festival.  We were pleased that BAM brought a bit of aeronautic and creative industry business histories to the heart of its conference!

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Paper published in Journal of Management History

Now that the World Cup is over and summer is coming to an end, we at Soccer Mad Boffins think it a good time to reflect on a few achievements from the past few months.

As usual, we shall publish a summary of all our summer speaking events and conferences soon, but before that we'd like to bring your attention to a paper published recently in the Journal of Management History, in which we look at the institutional logic of professional soccer clubs and how attempts to work with local government were frustrated by the particular character of professional sport, using the near-bankruptcy of Middlesbrough football club in the 1980s as a case study.

In the paper we propose two concepts: 'Shadow Hybridity' and 'Institutional Logic of Professional Sport' which extend existing theories about organizational hybridity and also institutional logic.  

The paper should be of interest to anyone studying these areas, as well as sports and public management more generally.

The paper can be found by clicking on this link although you or your institution will need a subscription to the journal in order to read it.

Here is the full abstract and citation details:

Alex G. Gillett, Kevin D. Tennent, (2018) "Shadow hybridity and the institutional logic of professional sport: Perpetuating a sporting business in times of rapid social and economic change", Journal of Management History, Vol. 24 Issue: 2, pp.228-259,

Monday, 23 July 2018

First Explorations into Business History: Forfar Athletic Year Book 1961-62

In the first of an occasional series of articles about Forfar Athletic, Kevin looks at one of his earliest publications...

The 2018 FIFA World Cup has ended and the Scottish League Cup Group Stages are the main game in town! The Scottish League 1 Club Forfar Athletic hit the headlines on Sunday after winning 4-5 on penalties against East Fife, in the group stages of the Scottish League Cup.  This gained attention south of the border as it fulfilled a famous tongue twister allegedly invented by Eric Morecambe to tease his friend James Alexander Gordon, who read out the football results on BBC Radio for many years.  The joys of Scottish lower league football are little known south of the border; most English fans have probably only heard of clubs such as Forfar, or their Angus rivals Brechin City, Arbroath and Montrose via the football results. Indeed, Jonathan Meades called a 2009 documentary on small-town Scotland The Football Pools Towns in reference to this phenomena.

But these clubs and indeed these lovely little towns do have an existence outside of the teleprinter and the classified football results.  I discovered this as a history undergraduate at the University of Dundee, when a friend with a car decided we should start going to some lower league matches. We went to Station Park, home of Forfar for a Tuesday night fixture against Queens Park which the Loons won 3-0, and I and another of my fellow students kept going back.  And back.

This new addiction led to me contributing a few times to a fanzine, The Loonatic, and here is one of my first attempts at business history - a review of the club's 1961-62 yearbook, published in the summer of 1961:
Click images to enlarge

Perhaps it is time for some more business history on the topic of the Loons, or at least Scottish football as a whole?

For all their summer optimism, the Loons' hopes that Mr Christie might help their young team get promoted came to nothing, as they finished the second division in 16th, the 'Bully Wee' winning the championship and 'Doonhammers' being runners-up. But at least Brechin were bottom and Angus bragging rights maintained!