Football passion as a religion: the four dimensions of a sacred experience


  • Fulconis François
  • Paché Gilles


  • Fan experience
  • Professional football soccer
  • Mystical devotion
  • Religion
  • Sports industry

document type



* Purpose – Professional football (soccer) is a genuine societal phenomenon, both through the medias’ interest they cause and through the financial stakes that are related to it. It is common to read that football, through the passions it unleashes, for example in terms of tribal violence, has become a type of religion, with its believers (the fans) and its place of worship (the stadiums). The paper shows that football as a sacred experience is often raised but has never lead to an argued approach. * Design/methodology/approach – The authors reviewed the literature, research reports and electronic documents on professional football practices to understand the religious dimension of fan passion in Europe (ritualism, collective beliefs, using of totemic objects, etc.). * Findings – The paper suggests a reading grid of religions, founded on four interdependent dimensions (the Community, the Law, the Way and the Experience), and applies it to professional football by underlying its relevance in the singular context of sports show. * Originality/value – Beyond well-known economic stakes, the paper clarifies the football passion from a religious perspective and identifies the main pillars of the fan conversion process according to a heteronomous logic.

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