Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management

Committee Chair/Advisor

Gregory Philip Ramshaw

Committee Member

Lauren Duffy

Committee Member

William Norman

Committee Member

William Terry


European football heritage-based attractions such as stadium tours and museums, often characterized by an uncritical, celebratory, and nostalgic approach to football pasts, have become highly visited attractions important to cultural and commercial interests of football clubs. As the heritage field in Western countries experiencing a period of reckoning after numerous social movements challenged the meanings and interpretations of difficult pasts, this study aimed to comprehend how and why football clubs interpret their difficult heritage linked with European authoritarian regimes of the twentieth century. Specifically, this dissertation sought to understand what role local cultural, political, and/or economic considerations played in the remembrance and/or marginalization of these pasts at stadium tours and museums. This investigation was conducted using the social constructionism epistemology and a comparative case study methodology looking at three different European football clubs of varying levels of global sporting, commercial, and touristic relevance that have experienced distinct authoritarian regimes in the twenty-century, namely: Real Madrid CF (Franco’s Regime), Sporting Clube de Portugal (Salazar’s Regime), and FC St. Pauli (Hitler’s Nazi Regime). Findings revealed that clubs approached their difficult heritage at varying levels, depending on their socio-cultural, political, and economic contexts. While Real Madrid CF and Sporting Clube de Portugal, due to significant reasons of political, cultural, and economic nature, intentionally suppressed, controlled, and marginalized their difficult pasts, FC St. Pauli demonstrated the influence of political, social, and cultural factors over commercial interests to openly promoted its Nazi past. These results led to considering the existence of a direct relationship between the social, cultural, political, and temporal structure changes experienced by societies in dealing with difficult heritage and how these European football clubs interpret their experiences under authoritarian regimes at their stadium tours and museums. Beyond offering management and interpretation strategies to deal with difficult heritages without harming the club’s brand and commercial and touristic projects, this study concludes that football clubs gain credibility and authenticity and is likely to increase their commercial and cultural popularity when promoting and acknowledging their difficult pasts.

Author ORCID Identifier




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