MSU sociologist receives $15,000 to study fandom in women’s soccer

Contact: Sarah Nicholas

Rachel Allison (Photo by Russ Houston)

STARKVILLE, Miss.–For her ground-breaking research on gender inequality in sports, Mississippi State Assistant Professor of Sociology Rachel Allison is receiving a $15,000 scholarship from the Fédération Internationale de Football Association to study the atmosphere and community of women’s soccer fans.

Traveling to France this summer, Allison said the FIFA scholarship provides a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to attend the Women’s World Cup and “experience fandom as it is expressed in this setting.”

Allison said the experience will enable her to connect with fans around the world, resulting in a comparative study of fandom that will “make a major contribution to our knowledge about fandom in women’s sport.”

“Dr. Allison has established herself as a leading international researcher on women’s participation in soccer,” said Adele Crudden, professor and interim head of MSU’s Department of Sociology. “This scholarship provides her an opportunity to extend her research into fan identities and communities associated with women’s soccer, particularly the Women’s World Cup.”

Crudden said the FIFA scholarship will allow Allison’s research to move “beyond traditional fan groups and recognize the important role of women as athletes and as fans.”

FIFA research scholarships are granted to university scientists to encourage academic research in football – known as “soccer” to Americans. Granted by the International Centre for Sports Studies (CIES) in Neuchâtel, a committee composed of academic specialists in their field manages the evaluation and presentation of scholarships.

An MSU faculty member since 2014, the Walcott, Iowa, native said this scholarship allows her to piggyback on a previous research project – her 2018 Rutgers University Press book, “Kicking Center: Gender and the Selling of Women’s Professional Soccer,” which explores how U.S. women’s pro soccer has been marketed, and to whom.

“The next questions for me are about how fandom of women’s soccer develops in multiple countries, how it is developed and expressed for a sport mega-event like the Women’s World Cup, and whether interest in the Women’s World Cup also translates into fandom of more local and regional women’s teams,” Allison said.  “I also am going to compare how fandom is expressed attending games versus in online and social media settings.”

Allison said a study like this is possible through outside support, and she is grateful to FIFA and the International Centre for Sports Studies for “recognizing the value of this project as this exciting event draws closer.”

Allison received her master’s and doctoral degrees in sociology from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2009 and 2014, respectively.  She received her bachelor’s degree in sociology and French in 2007 from Grinnell College in Iowa.

Her research focuses on gender and intersectionality across societal institutions characterized by women’s increased representation, including education, medicine and sports.

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