Sex Differences in Sport Fan Behavior and Reasons for Being a Sport Fan

By Dietz-Uhler, Beth; Harrick, Elizabeth A. et al. | Journal of Sport Behavior, September 2000 | Go to article overview

Sex Differences in Sport Fan Behavior and Reasons for Being a Sport Fan


Dietz-Uhler, Beth, Harrick, Elizabeth A., End, Christian, Jacquemotte, Lindy, Journal of Sport Behavior


The purpose of this study was to examine similarities and differences between male and female college students with regard to their sport fanship and sport fan behavior. Participants completed a questionnaire designed to assess whether they considered themselves to be sport fans, their sport fan behavior, and their reasons for considering themselves a sport fan. The results showed that an equal number of males and females considered themselves to be sport fans, although males identified more strongly with being a fan than females. Males also engaged in more sport fan behavior than females, with the exception of attending sporting events. Finally, females were more likely to report being a sport fan because they attended and watched sporting events with friends and family, while males were more likely to consider themselves to be fans because they played sports and wanted to acquire sports information.

In a national opinion survey conducted for the New York Times (1986), 71% of respondents considered themselves sport fans. Despite the large number of sport fans that exist, researchers know surprisingly little about them (Russell, 1993). For example, Wann and Hamlet (1995) found that only 4% of articles published in sport psychology and sport sociology journals between 1987 and 1991 examined sport fans. There has been even less research examining similarities and differences between male and female sport fans (notable exceptions include Gantz, 1981; Gantz & Wenner, 1991; Gantz & Wenner, 1995). Although research indicates that most people believe sport fans are predominantly male (End, Harrick, Jacquemotte, & Dietz-Uhler, 1997; Gantz & Wenner, 1995), recent reports suggest that females may be just as likely as males to report being a sport fan. For example, in 1990, females represented 33% of the NFL's fan base. In 1997, they represented 44% of NFL fans (USA Today, 1997). In 1994, Hofacre reported that women represent 50% of all major league soccer fans. As further evidence of an increasing female fan-base, coverage of the 1996 Olympics was geared more toward females than any other Olympics (Newsweek, 1996). It seems important to characterize the similarities and differences between male and female sport fans.

There has been a fair amount of research comparing the coverage of male and female athletes on television (e.g., Duncan, Messner, & Williams, 1991) and magazines (e.g., Lumpkin & Williams, 1991), but none of that research focuses on male and female sport fans. The purpose of the present investigation is to examine the number of males and females who consider themselves sport fans, the reasons they consider themselves to be fans, and to assess the behavior of male and female sport fans. It is hypothesized that an equal number of males and females will consider themselves to be sport fans (in light of figures reported recently), but their sport fan behaviors and reasons for being a sport fan will differ. Given the recent increase in the number of female fans (USA Today, 1996; Newsweek, 1996), as well as the number of female athletes, we believe that it is important to examine the similarities and differences between male and female sport fans.

Although there have been few investigations of the behavior of sport fans, some research has focused on sport fans' perceptions and attributions of a sporting event. Briefly, this research shows that sport fans tend to be fairly biased in their perceptions of a sporting event, typically in ways that support their favorite team (Hastorf & Cantril, 1954; Lalonde, 1992; Lalonde, Moghaddam, & Taylor, 1987; Mann, 1974; Peterson, 1980; Watkins, 1987). Other research has examined the perceptions and behavior of fans who identify strongly with being a sport fan or who identify strongly with a particular team. This research has found that those who identify strongly with their team attend more games and predict more future success for their team (Murrell & Dietz, 1992; Wann & Dolan 1994), tend not to waver in their commitment to their team over the course of a season (Dietz-Uhler & Murrell, 1998; Wann, 1996; Wann & Schrader, 1996), and have greater knowledge of the team's players and history (Wann & Branscombe, 1995) . …

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