As you will have seen from previous posts I have been learning about different types of research methods. One such method that has been utilised across many disciplines within academic research is that of observation.

Therefore as part of my learning journey I undertook a series of observations at a place I regularly visit. The observations were undertaken at matches played at Old Trafford during December 2010. As expected there were activities observed that you could have potentially assumed would take place prior to this exercise. These included:

Singing / chanting – Focused on certain players mostly Rooney and ex-MUFC player Eric Cantona. As well as a lot being focused on the ‘enemy’ Manchester City FC, Leeds United and Liverpool FC – despite the fact none of these teams were being played during the period of observation.

Swearing – which was far more prevalent than would be expected in other environments.

Eating and drinking – both before and during the match many supporters were consuming food and drink (including alcoholic drinks) bought from the concessions within the stadium. However it was observed that some fans had brought with them packed lunches and flasks.

Supporters shouting abuse at opposition players and MUFC players alike. As well as the referee.

Supporters trying to provide advice to players and the manager from the stands.

Match analysis and running commentaries being given by fans to each other. Including reminiscing about matches played a number of years ago.

However the two most interesting observations surrounded the impact of the media and technology on the experience of attending a football match.

Firstly it was observed that when controversial or key moment of the match took place other supporters sat nearby turned their backs on the pitch to try to watch the incident being replayed on the televisions located in the hospitality boxes located behind their seats.

The second interesting observation was the volume of people using mobile telephones during halftime for making calls, texting and going online. I also logged onto Twitter during this period to see how many people were tweeting about the matches and many supporters both at the match or elsewhere were posting comments/messages.

From this it can be seen how the technique of observation allows the researcher to get a deep understanding of a particular behavior or activity. However researchers need to be aware of some the disadvantages which include the impact of researcher bias, the time consuming nature of this form of research and the reliability of the outputs (see Brown).

Main image c/o toksuede licensed under Creative Commons.