The project: history and context

FREE was a multi-dimensional research project on Europe’s most prominent form of popular culture: football. Its aim was to study, in a collaborative and resolutely interdisciplinary approach, the socio-historical, cultural, political and anthropological dimensions of football in Europe.

Logo FREE (Football Research in an Enlarged Europe: Identity dynamics, perception patterns and cultural change in Europe’s most prominent form of popular culture.

FREE was designed in 2010-2011 by Albrecht Sonntag from the Centre for European Integration at ESSCA School of Management and submitted to the call ‘The Anthropology of European Integration’ of the 7th European Framework Programme (FP7) under the area ‘Diversities and Commonalities in the European Union’. It obtained an evaluation of 14.5 points of 15 and was selected for funding by the European Commission.

The project had an overall budget of 3 million Euro (including an EU grant of 2.4 million). It was officially launched in April 2012 and coordinated by Albrecht Sonntag and David Ranc on behalf of a consortium of nine European universities in eight European countries. It was concluded in March 2015 with a large dissemination event in Brussels.



Throughout its duration, the FREE project produced a regular newsletter, which provides a good overview on the different activities that were carried out. The nine issues of the newsletter published between spring 2012 and December 2015 can be downloaded below.

  1. « Kicking it off in Angers! » (Spring 2012)
    A detailed report on the kick-off conference in April 2012; a spotlight on the three PhD candidates of the FREE team; an outlook on the forthcoming historical conference. (6 pages)
  2. « Is Football Memory Policy-Relevant? » (December 2012)
    An editorial by Albrecht Sonntag on collective memory; a report on the conference « Origins and Birth of a Europe of Football » in Besançon; a presentation of Work Package 8 on « Governance »; miscellaneous news. (8 pages)
  3. « Football: Still a Men’s Game?«  (Spring 2013)
    An editorial by Gertrud Pfister about the feminisation of football; a detailed report on the conference on « European Football and Collective Memory » (Stuttgart, February 2013); news from the network. (8 pages)
  4. « Politics and Jerseys. Mobility and Emotions.«  (September 2013)
    An editorial by Alexandra Schwell and Nina Szogs about anthropological approaches; a detailed report about the conference « The feminisation of football » in Copenhagen; an interview with Sylvain Landa from Sport & Citizenship; news from the network. (8 pages)
  5. « Public spheres and apolitical spaces.«  (February 2014)
    An editorial by Albrecht Sonntag on the public sphere of football; a detailed report about the « Kick It! » conference in Vienna (October 2013); an interview with Raffaele Poli from the CIES Football Observatory; news from the network. (8 pages)
  6. « A Simple Truth and Some More Complex Issues«  (September 2014)
    An editorial by Borja Garcia on supporters as stakeholders; a detailed report on the conference on « Public Spheres and Public Spaces » (Ankara, April 2014); an interview with Paul Dietschy on dissemination through the media; a report on conference participation of FREE members in Latin America, and news from the network. (8 pages)
  7. « You haven’t seen the last of us yet«  (February 2015)
    An editorial by Albrecht Sonntag; a detailed report on the « Whose Game Is It? » conference (Loughborough, October 2014); an interview with Harriet Baker from Palgrave-Macmillan abot the planned book series; news from the network. (8 pages)
  8. « Motivation is Everything!«  (April 2015)
    An editorial on the purpose of research by Albrecht Sonntag; a detailed report on the concluding conference « We’re in the Finals! » (Brussels, March 2015); news about the publication of the first books and the first defense of a FREE PhD thesis; information about the FREE exhibition in the Berlaymont and the publication of the FREE policy briefs. (8 pages).
  9. « Despite the turmoil, work continues«  (December 2015)
    An editorial by Albrecht Sonntag; three interviews with the authors of the first three books published in the « Football in an Enlarged Europe » series (Palgrave-Macmillan); a special issue of Sport in History based on the Besançon conference; a report on the release of the UNESCO report on racism and discrimination co-authored by Albrecht Sonntag and David Ranc, news from the network. (8 pages).

Book series

While the project itself was successfully concluded, significant parts of the research live on in a book series published by Palgrave-Macmillan, coordinated by Albrecht Sonntag and David Ranc and named after the project « Football in an Enlarged Research book series« . Between 2015 and 2019, ten books have already been released!

Data from the surveys

The FREE project carried out two major surveys: an online survey among the attentive public of what could be named « the football community », and a representative CATI survey among the general public. The data from these surveys is publicly available:

The complete data set file in .sav format can be obtained on request to

Final report

Click here to download the final report

Find out more on the CORDIS website, the European Commission's source for results from EU-funded projects:

Project organisation

project coordinator

Albrecht Sonntag
Lecturer-researcher, ESSCA Angers
Member of the Scientific Committee of the Think Tank Sport and Citizenship

project MANAGER

David Ranc
Associate Dean for quality and accreditation

Project partners

The Consortium

ESSCA School of Management, Københavns Universitet (Denmark), Loughborough University (UK), Middle East Technical University, Ankara (Turkey), Universität Stuttgart (Germany), Universität Wien (Austria), Universitat de València (Spain), Université de Franche-Comté (France), Uniwersytet im. Adama Mickiewicza w Poznaniu (Poland)