Journal of Accounting and Management Information Systems (JAMIS)

Neoliberal control devices and social discrimination: The case of Paris Saint-Germain football club fans

Vol. 19, No. 3/2020 ,   pp. 409-443

Charles H. Cho
Floriane Janin
Christine Cooper
Michael Rogerson

Keywords:   Foucault; control; neoliberal; discrimination; football; football fans; Paris Saint-Germain

Abstract:   Research Question: How is neoliberal control exercised over football fans? What is the effect of neoliberal control devices on football fans? Motivation: We draw upon Foucault’s work to explore the various disciplining control devices targeting Paris Saint-Germain Football Club (PSG) fans. At a time of increasing social strife in France, Yann Lorence was killed in a factional dispute between two PSG “ultra” fans groups in 2010. Following this, drastic measures were taken to tighten control over various PSG fan groups. After the acquisition of PSG by Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) in 2011, these control measures were reinforced to the point where they came under the scrutiny of the French commission protecting individual liberties (CNIL)—as one of them resulted in the exclusion of some fans directly from or around the stadium on reportedly “arbitrary” – but actually social – grounds. Idea: We explore the extent to which going one degree further into the market society and implementing a neoliberal rationality can impact social life. More specifically, we examine how social discrimination can be created and encouraged through neoliberal control devices. Data: We use both “netnographic” data and interviews with key actors and stakeholders in the football field. Tools: We examine and analyze the neoliberal control devices implemented by PSG management, in collaboration of the French government, in order to change the socio-demographics of its fan base and ultimately change its image and identity, to consider the operation of control systems from a Foucauldian perspective. Findings: The various methods of control exercised by and around the club significantly blurred the distinction between PSG as a private enterprise and the French state as a legislative/judicial entity. This resulted in fan self-exclusion and self-policing (“control of the self”), and also the enforced removal of a largely working-class portion of the club’s fans. Contribution: We contribute to the study of the articulation of “discipline” and “government” (the two major power techniques in Foucault’s work) and to the management control literature by showing how neoliberal control devices can discriminate against people on sociological grounds, thereby impeding the development of an equal and harmonious social life.