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Rivalry and fan aggression: why acknowledging conflict reduces tension between rival fans and downplaying makes things worse

  • Research question: In order to reduce fan aggression surrounding rivalry games, team sport organizations often try to placate fans by downplaying the importance of the game (e.g. ‘the derby is not a war’). Drawing on the intergroup conflict literature, this research derives dual identity statements and examines their effectiveness in reducing fan aggressiveness compared to the managerial practice of downplaying rivalry. Research methods: Three field experimental studies (one face-to-face survey and two online surveys) tested the hypotheses. Established rivalries in the German soccer league Bundesliga served as the empirical setting of the studies. The data were analyzed using ANCOVA and linear regression analyses. Results and findings: Dual identity statements reduce fan aggressiveness compared to both downplay statements and a no-statement control condition, independent of team identification and trait aggression. Importantly, the managerial practice of downplaying rivalry appears to be counterproductive. It produces even higher levels of fan aggressiveness than making no statement, an effect caused by psychological reactance. Implications: Sport organizations should not alienate their fan base by attempting to play down the importance of rivalry, which is an integral part of fan identity. Instead, they should strengthen the supporters’ unique identity (as fans of a particular team) while at the same time facilitating identification with the rival at a superordinate level (e.g. as joint fans of a region).

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Author:Johannes BerendtORCiDGND, Sebastian UhrichORCiD
Parent Title (English):European Sport Management Quarterly
Publisher:Taylor & Francis
Document Type:Article
Year of Completion:2018
Publishing Institution:Hochschule Hannover
Release Date:2023/03/29
Tag:aggressive behavior; reactance; rivals; superordinate identity; violence
GND Keyword:Rivalität; Sportfan; Aggressivität; Gruppenidentität; Reaktanz <Psychologie>
First Page:517
Last Page:540
Link to catalogue:184850621X
Institutes:Fakultät III - Medien, Information und Design
DDC classes:360 Soziale Probleme, Sozialdienste, Versicherungen
796 Sport
Licence (German):License LogoCreative Commons - CC BY-NC-ND - Namensnennung - Nicht kommerziell - Keine Bearbeitungen 4.0 International