The role of team structures in social integration in Swiss football clubs: A multilevel analysis

Sports clubs may be an ideal setting for social integration for people from different backgrounds. Using heuristic multilevel models, prior studies linked the individual characteristics of the members with social structures at the club context (e.g. club goals) to explain social integration. However, due the organization of sport activities in teams, another social context with distinct social structures (e.g. team culture) exists within clubs that is likely relevant for social integration as well. Based on data from 1515 members in 145 teams of 42 Swiss football clubs, this study analyses social integration in the dimension of identification in a three-level multilevel model that is the first to include the team context as a level of analysis. The results revealed that teams differ considerably in the social integration of their members. Besides individual factors (e.g. education level, membership duration), a team culture of social togetherness and especially a pronounced team sociability are relevant for identification. Cross-level interactions showed that these factors play a role for members independent of their migration background. Yet, additional positive effects exist for members new to the club. Based on these results, sport club researchers should consider including the team level in multilevel analyses.