Researching Representational Tropes: Football, Fandom, and Irishness


In this case study, I reflect on a research project that involved the study and analysis of representations of Irish identity in online news. As readers are aware, “news” nowadays is not simply confined to broadcast television or newspapers, but has become a continuous, multiplatform offering, blending information and sometimes disinformation, facts as well as opinion, and content produced by professionals as well as non-professionals. Analyzing news therefore has become much more complex. In what follows, I reflect on the methodological approach used to gather and analyze online news about a particular international sporting event: namely, Euro 2016 in France. I describe how we as researchers went about identifying and disentangling the various strands of content that made up this news to generate a broad picture of how Irish fans at the event were being represented. This involved critically analyzing news reports as well as smartphone footage of fans uploaded to YouTube (which, in some cases, was incorporated into official news reports). Finally, we examined online comments. Our analysis suggests that, overall, the media-sport discourse surrounding Euro 2016 in France mobilized several long-standing representational tropes of Irishness, notably “smallness” and “happy-go-luckiness.”

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