The BSA is sad to learn of the death of Professor Eric Dunning, a founder of the sociology of sport.
Professor Dunning wrote or edited 14 books, among them Barbarians, Gentlemen and Players (1979), a study with Ken Sheard of the development of rugby football, and three influential books on football hooliganism that are still a starting point for research in this area.
The two papers which he published on football in 1963 and 1964 were probably the first to examine sport from a properly sociological perspective. His book Sport Matters was awarded the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport prize as the best book published in the field in 1999.
He and colleagues at the University of Leicester observed football hooliganism at first hand, and served as advisors to Lord Justice Taylor in his report following the Hillsborough disaster. They were able to show that it was not a new problem but could be traced back many decades.
Professor Dunning was born in Hayes, Middlesex, to a school dinner lady and a bus driver, attending grammar school and what was then University College Leicester. He intended to study economics, but he switched to sociology after hearing Norbert Elias’s introductory lectures on sociology.
After completing postgraduate studies and a year in the US he returned to Britain in 1962 to work as an assistant lecturer at Leicester, and was appointed lecturer in 1963 and professor of sociology in 1998. He continued to write after his retirement in 2001, as professor emeritus.
He is remembered as a lover of wine and jazz, and a teller of jokes and shaggy dog stories, and as a kind and generous person.
He is survived by two children from his second marriage and by his grandchildren.
Eric Dunning, born 27 December 1936, died 10 February 2019.
Main Source: The Guardian