Migration in Austrian Football after 1945
The history of immigration and football in Austria – of professional players and team managers who came to Austria to work as well as the so-called first- or second-generation immigrants who chose football as a leisure sport or started a career in a professional or semi-professional league – started about hundred years ago. This project represents the first systematic overview of migrant participation in Austrian professional football after 1945.
Researchers: Barbara Liegl, Georg Spitaler, Elisabeth Kotvojs
Duration of the project: December 2005 – June 2008
Funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF)
Comparing the special case of football to the general trends in Austrian immigration, this project focuses on the transnationality of football’s labour market, which exists despite political and sporting regulations limiting the access of foreign players.
For this project, statistical data was collected on more than 1,200 players and managers who worked in Austria’s top football league over the past 50 years – from refugees in the first decades after the war to the professionals of today’s football – and selected biographies are presented. The findings illustrate the interdependence of the seemingly autonomous field of football with broader social developments, including the regulations of the labour market, and general political conditions, such as Austria’s long-time role as a neutral state close to the “iron curtain”.
This project also stresses the importance of the former Yugoslavia and other Central and Eastern European countries for Austrian football: between 1945 and 2006, about one third of all foreign players in Austria’s top league came from Yugoslavia and its successor states.
Another part of this project analyses the historic and current media discourse on foreign football players in Austria in relation to the political debates on immigration. For the fans, the players are seen as representatives and role models, and successful foreign players became public idols. But at the same time, the “foreign legion” was often blamed for the crisis of Austrian football, especially in the post-Bosman era of deregulated players’ markets since the 1990s. This highlights football’s role in identity politics.
Apart from qualitative interviews with former players, managers and football officials, a survey of current professional players in Austria’s Bundesliga (2007-08 season) was conducted on issues of discrimination and integration. This project also examines the participation of second-generation immigrants in professional Austrian football and the national team.
The principal findings of this project are presented in the book Legionäre am Ball. Migration im österreichischen Fußball nach 1945.
Further information and contact:
Website: Mag.a Bettina Surtmann