2010: Who makes the tourism experience in the 21st century?  >  Pride and prejudice


The modern football fan - a 'sacred pilgrim'?

Written by: Maltitz, Sophie

University: Lincoln

Let's Praise the Football God!

Written by: Brieske, Victoria

University: Lincoln

Sophie's conference paper caught my eye as it examines the same area of football fans on tour as I did in my conference paper. This piece of work shows an excellent content, a logical organisation of facts and an interesting and entertaining presentation. The whole paper seems to be brought precisely to the point and the main issue is clearly highlighted in this summary.

As Blackwell (2007, cited in Raj and Morpeth) states there is an increasing number of pilgrims to non-sacred places, such as e.g. Nelson Mandela's prison on Robben Island; the example of football pilgrims suits perfectly in this context. I completely agree with the characteristics you have mentioned which can be referred to secular pilgrims as well as football pilgrims. If I would refer back to the topic I have examined, one could say that the religious symbol the modern football pilgrim is wearing could be either a football shirt or a flag, such as religious people are wearing their typical symbols of their particular religion, e.g. a rosary or a headscarf. One difference in the characteristics I would like to mention is the one that, to my mind the football pilgrim shows his "religion" - his or her favourite football club - more obvious and offensive than religious pilgrims do wear their symbols.

Something I would like to recommend at this stage is that a more detailed explanation of the distinction between nostalgia sports tourism and pilgrimage would have been helpful, as you, unfortunately, only mentioned it one time and it did not become completely clear for me. One aspect I would like to build up a little bit further is the fact which you stated about the meaning of the journey to the "sacred place". Football, such as any other team sports, connects and brings people together. Festinger (1989) calls this "Comparison Theory" and states that people tend to compare themselves with other people who are equal or slightly better. They join groups in order to identify themselves as a part of a crowd rather than as an individual.

Zillman et al (1980) are mentioning advantages that result out of this socialising behaviour such as self-esteem, solidarity, companionship as well as advanced social prestige. The objectives religious pilgrims are aiming at when taking part in a pilgrimage are closely connected to the aims of sports pilgrims. It is all about self-confidence and being a part of a group in society, the group being either a fan club or a religion.

Taking everything into consideration it can be concluded that this summary of the conference paper offers a very good overview about the topic of pilgrimage tourism as well as widening the focus of examination through linking this topic to the entertaining context of football travellers. The reader can feel that you, Sophie, have a special connection to this football club what makes it even better to read and understand. Even though this topic still allows room for further research and investigation in the direction of social aspects, it must be said that this is a successful summary which definitely intrigues the reader to read the full conference paper.


Festinger, L., Schachter, S., Gazzaniga, M.S. (1989). Extending Psychological Frontiers: Selected Works of Leon Festinger. London: SAGE Publications.

Raj, R., Morpeth, N.D. (2007) Religious Tourism and Pilgrimage Festivals Management: An International Perspective. Wallingford: CABI International.

Zillman, D., Bryant, J., Sapolsky, N. (1989) Enjoyment from Sports Spectatorship. Hillsdale: Laurence Earlbaum.