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Millwall Football Club And The Ongoing Battle With Its Past And Reputation

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Background

The problem I am researching is the ‘negative’ past and reputation (Woods, A, 2011) of Millwall Football Club and the ways in which Millwall are currently trying to promote a positive brand image. One reason this topic is important to explore is that Millwall’s brand image and reputation are still widely acknowledged as being negative (Dahlgreen, 2015), even though this may not be true. In addition, there is a lack of research in the area of sports and brand image, which this research project can aid with. This topic should be researched to help Millwall in the future and provide information to other football or sports clubs on how to overcome an undesirable reputation and brand image. Aims and Objectives The aim of this study will be to conduct an investigation into the ways Millwall FC and their fans are promoting a positive brand image and why this is necessary. This will be done through surveys, semi-structured interviews and critically reviewing literature. The objectives of my study will be:

  1. To critically review the literature concerning the reputation and brand image of Millwall FC
  2. To identify how Millwall are attempting to relinquish their associated past and reputation
  3. To discuss the implications of Millwall’s negative reputation on the club and make recommendations to the club and similar sports teams on how to overcome this.

Literature Review

The focal point of the in-depth literature review will be; to explore advances in research around the areas of brand image, the advantages a positive brand image brings and methods to achieve one, why a brand image can become tarnished and its effects, and the effect of brand image in the sports industry. I will conduct the literature review by gathering relevant articles and analysing them to answer objective 1. The research of Bauer, Stokburger-Sauer, and Exler (2008) is likely to be of particular importance in my project as they look into brand image and fan loyalty in sport (HH. B, NE. S-S, S. E, 2008). Articles like Munt, S (2000) may have significance as they explore Millwall FC’s internal culture which may then provide answers for the reputation externally. A preliminary survey of literature finds a small cluster of research in terms of sports teams and brand imagery, resolving negative events or views in the professional sports industry and Millwall’s current brand image, meaning my project will play a key role in filling this research gap by incorporating all three.

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Research Methods

As my research project looks predominantly into brand image and reputation, (both subjective concepts) quantitative methods may be inappropriate. Procedures such as closed questions (Chetty, 2016) create a rigid base which restricts interviewees from expanding on opinions and experiences. In contrast, qualitative methods are said to play a significant role in proposing causes and effects (McLeod, 2017) of particular situations and events, an aspect desirable for the type of project I wish to carry out. In addition to a literature review, I will use semi-structured interviews as they allow for diversions from the original conversation topic (RWJF, 2008). This is advantageous for my research as it enables participants to discuss their experiences freely (RWJF, 2008). The interviewees will be a sample of Millwall fans and employees who will be randomly selected from a list of people who have shown interest in participating. The interview questions will focus on answering objective 2, which highlights discovering Millwall’s attempts at moving on from their proposed ‘negative past’ (Woods, A, 2011). My interviews will be primary research due to the specific nature of the issue I am attempting to explore and the lack of data on similar issues currently. Secondary data will likely consist of outdated responses and as my research looks at the present state of Millwall’s brand image, this is inappropriate. The interview will be recorded using a phone so that the responses can be listened to at a later date and thematically analysed. This is advantageous as it reduces the risk of important information in replies being lost.

The phone used will be fully charged before every interview to eliminate the risk of it running out of charge and having no way to record the interview. Surveys will be used to gain an understanding of what the public opinion of Millwall is. The questions will be open to encourage detailed and accurate descriptions of opinions on the club. The surveys will focus on answering objective 3, by centring the questions around what the public believe the results of the club’s negative reputation is. To gain survey responses, I will use a sample of those that live in the surrounding area near Millwall’s stadium. Households will be picked randomly between the stadium and Surrey Quays. If a household does not want to participate, a new household will be randomly selected. Local residents will be used as they will probably know the projects put in place by Millwall to promote a positive brand image and have experiences with fans. Using just Millwall fans in the sample was considered, but this may produce an unrepresentative view of the club as they are most likely to paint Millwall in a positive light, even though that may not be the view of the general population. The survey sheet will be given to participants to fill out themselves and then the responses will be thematically analysed to pinpoint key themes within the answers (Clarke and Braun, 2013).

Ethical Considerations

From the research methods I am using, the main ethical issues that may arise are a lack of informed consent, anonymity and confidentiality (Fouka, Mantzorou, 2018). To overcome these issues, I will create a document which outlines the purpose and content of the interview/survey and what the responses will be used for. In addition, I will explain that when the responses are used, they will contain no identifiable information and link to the participant. I will explain to each person that participation is completely voluntary and that they can withdraw at any time and their responses will be destroyed.

Risks

There are potential risks that may affect my ability to stick to the deadlines set e. g. laptop failure. To overcome this risk, I will make sure all my documents are on a USB so any laptop can be used in case one fails. I have set a realistic timescale to collect the data so that if e. g. the weather on one day is restricting, there are still others day to collect it. The resources required will be a laptop, survey sheets, interview questions, and internet & library access.

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