In the Academy, female fandom is often conceived of in ways which consciously exclude sport, and women are often marginalised by research on sports fandom. There is also little convincing qualitative research on the experience of mainstream female sports spectators, despite competing claims about the meaning and nature of today’s alleged ‘feminised’ sports crowds. Much of the qualitative work which does exist in this field focuses on younger male soccer fans and pathologises the experience of female spectators. Instead, in this paper we explore the experiences of mainstream female fans from a sport which is much under‐researched, English rugby union. Drawing on qualitative data from semi‐structured interviews with female rugby union fans from Leicester, we explore these women’s fan experiences in the context of claims about the recent ‘feminisation’ of the late‐modern sports crowd. We focus empirically on three key issues: the early sports encounters of female spectators and their possible links with fandom; changes in women’s access to leisure time and to spectator sport; and women’s shifting experiences of watching rugby union in the new ‘professional’ era of the game. We end with a call for more qualitative work on the changing experience of female sports fans and for more theoretical and empirical work on the supposed ‘feminised’ sporting cultures of late‐modernity.Peer reviewedPost prin
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