‘And this is what we sing – what do we sing?’ Exploring the football fan songs of the Northern Irish ‘Green and White Army

John Bell, Paul Bell

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This paper draws upon digital recordings of Northern Ireland football fans singing in the stadium during all 10 qualifying matches for the 2016 UEFA European Football Championship. Supplemented by participant observation and interview data with 21 supporters themselves, the paper challenges assertions within the literature which focus upon the predominance of sectarian singing amongst a section of Northern Ireland football supporters. Although vocal manifestations of football fandom may initially appear to be randomly driven by irrational emotions, on the contrary, there is an underlying structure and sequence to fandom in the stadium in which certain factors promote collective singing at particular times. The paper identifies four key themes in particular: the timing in a match; whether or not a goal has been scored; if there is a lull or a break in play; and the use of musical instruments to encourage the wider collective to sing. We argue that it is important to understand the process by which collective singing occurs in the football stadium rather than fixating upon the alleged racist or sectarian psychopathology of the individuals involved. Such knowledge may assist in supporting those fan organisations that seek to challenge discriminatory behaviour in the stadium, particularly in the current context of the European (UEFA) and World football governing bodies (FIFA) punishing fans collectively, regardless of whether or not the majority in the stadium are opposed to what is being sung in their name.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Review for the Sociology of Sport
Early online date13 Dec 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13 Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/ or publication of this article: The research drawn upon in this paper is based upon the lead author’s doctoral work. Living expenses were funded by a PhD studentship from the Department for Employment and Learning in Northern Ireland (September 2013-September 2016). Flights and accomodation for the five away matches in the EURO 2016 campaign were paid for by Ulster University.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2020.

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Green and White Army
  • Northern Ireland
  • football fans
  • sectarianism
  • singing


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