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Football, Ethnicity and Community

The Life of an African-Caribbean Football Club


Paul Ian Campbell

Winner of the British Sociological Association Philip Abrams Memorial Prize 2017

This book is a case study of an African-Caribbean-founded football club, Meadebrook Cavaliers, from the English East Midlands. Covering the years 1970 to 2010, it seeks to address the paucity of research on the British African-Caribbean male experience in leisure and sport as well as on the relationship between «race» and local-level football. The development of the club was intimately connected to wider changes in the social and sporting terrain. Based on a mix of archival and ethnographic research, the book examines the club’s growth over four decades, exploring the attitudes, social realities and identity politics of its African-Caribbean membership and the varying demands and expectations of the wider black community. In doing so, it shows how studies of minority ethnic and local football clubs can shed light on the changing social identities and cultural dynamics of the communities that constitute them.

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Chapter 8: ‘Real’ solutions for ‘real’ problems? Community development, cultural cohesion and local football


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‘Real’ solutions for ‘real’ problems? Community development, cultural cohesion and local football


Most of the existing work in this field focuses on the ways in which local football has enabled young men to circumvent the structural parameters which shape their wider social realities. Duncombe reminds us, however, that often these kinds of circumventions are ‘politically ambiguous’ and usually ‘locked in culture’.1 Or in the words of Hall and Jefferson, these spaces offer only imaginary solutions to ‘problems which at the concrete, material level remain unresolved’.2 These are in effect ‘imaginary solutions to real world problems’.3 Against this background, this chapter provides a historical and sociological case study which describes and demonstrates the Cavaliers club’s role as both an informal and formal platform for community development in Leicester from 1982 to 2010. Put another way, the intention is to show how this local sporting space provided sections of Leicester’s black community with what Duncombe, Hall and Jefferson might all describe as real solutions to real problems.

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