New team identification : Sydney FC, a case study

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This thesis explores the team identification of fans of a new sport team, using social identity theory. As there is limited research on fans of new sport teams, this study sought to redress this situation by seeking to explain and measure new team identification. Through investigating new team identification, this study extends current applications of social identity theory and understanding of fans of a new sport team. Additionally, by measuring new team identification, this thesis contributes a valid and reliable measure of the construct, and discovery of key themes driving the formation and development of new team identification. A mixed-method research design was used to investigate the central thesis topic. A case study of members of a new sport team, Sydney FC, provided the sample population. The research design included two surveys, administered at the end of the new team’s first and second seasons, respectively, in addition to twenty-one interviews undertaken to deepen understanding of new team identification. The Sports Spectator Identity Scale (SSIS) was used to measure new team identification and test for differences in identity strength based on participant characteristics. Results indicated that three defining behaviours provided the basis for the formation of new team identification. These were termed: Football first, Origin and Occasion. Measurement of new team identification using the SSIS validated the model in a new team context; however, the value of victory and the identification of rival groupings did not relate strongly to the construct. Member identity strength was significantly influenced by age, salary, membership category and games attended. Five behaviours underpinned the development of new team identification; these were termed: Searching, Expression, Eagerness, Names and Faces, and Spruiking. Social identity theory provided a useful framework to explore the formation and extent of new team identification. The formation of new team identification was strongly influenced by support of football, in this case. The implementation of the SSIS to measure new team identification extended its previous applications. Participant characteristics exerted a clear influence on the strength of new team identification. Members engaged in additional teamrelated behaviours as their new team identification increased and they developed multi-faceted and socially important bonds. Stemming from the key thesis findings, the conceptual outcomes provided a significant contribution to current literature exploring members of new sport teams. Furthermore, the nuanced differences between identification with new and established teams provide a distinct agenda for future research into new sport teams.
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